There is no secret method.
I have to say that at the outset. I’ve followed productivity blogs and read productivity books for 30 years or more and there’s just no perfect system that’s going to be the magic bullet for life and time organization. The key to time/life management is to find a system that works and stick to it.
This is particularly important because a lot of people tinker with their systems and keep trying new things. As a result, important tasks don’t get done because too much attention has been given to the organizing tool.
I’m going to recommend a particular system that I think is workable and easy, but if you spend a little time researching what people say about it, you’ll find that people have spent hours drawing flowers and fairies in their planners to make them look cute. I mean, people are certainly free to do what they want. But spending hours decorating the tool you use to help you get things done seems a bit counterproductive. But, to use a cliche, “I digress.”
One of the decisions you need to make is whether you want your organizational system to be analogue (pen and paper) or digital (computer/phone). Some people use a hybrid system. Shawn Blanc, who writes for The Sweet Setup uses a hybrid system.
If you decide on a paper system, I would investigate the Bullet Journal system. You need a notebook. Nothing special or costly. If you want to read more than you’ll find on the website, author Ryder Carroll has written a book that you can get through Amazon.
The reason that I like the Bullet Journal system is that it makes sense, it is not complicated, and unless you find yourself wanting to draw pictures and fancy up your journal (please don’t!) you won’t spend hours setting it up before you use it.
There are other analogue tools, like the time-tested DayTimer system and the FranklinCovey planner. But I found the Bullet Journal to be workable and less expensive.
Digital tools are there in abundance, and I’ve tried several, but the most helpful and least expensive is Todoist. I’ve used it and recommend it. You can buy into a premium version, but the free version might be just fine.
If you want to go bare bones, you can keep a calendar and then a master list of tasks on paper of a document on your computer. Each night before you leave the office you can review both and write down the “musts” for the next day. Author Stephen Covey has a great illustration about planning the “big rocks” first. Here’s an article that explains it, but adds an important caveat.
You should also read about time/life management. Here’s where some discernment is needed. New books on time/life management are coming out all the time. Having a biblical perspective on time and life is important, and there are two recent books that have been very well-received. First, Tim Challies has written Do More Better and while I haven’t read it, Tim is a fine writer and understands a biblical perspective on life. Another book worth reading is Matt Perman’s What’s Next Best: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done.I’ve given links to Amazon, but you can check out the Westminster Seminary Bookstore as well.
I also want to put in a word for Evernote. If you do a lot of online reading, you probably find that there are articles or quotes that you want to save. Rather than having an eternal list of browser bookmarks, you can install the Evernote Clipper extension and, after you set up an account, copy what you want to save to Evernote. Evernote is available online, as a computer app, and as an app for both IOS and Android. Most of us probably don’t need anything more than the free version.
Have you been using a productivity tool to keep on top of your busy life? I’d be glad to hear what’s working for you. Click on the title of this blog post and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!