My personal productivity system

I promised earlier this week that I would detail how I have built my personal productivity system. The short course will be here, a longer more detailed version will be available if you click the “more” link below.

The Short Course

I have become a disciple of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, it literally revolutionized my life almost two years ago.

David Allen’s system is a simple one with many complex iterations and sub sections. Essentially it is broken down into the following steps:

  • Collect
  • Process
  • Organize
  • Review
  • Do

I don’t want to infringe on David Allen’s product or process, if you are interested, I would highly recommend spending the money to read it. Check it out at Amazon.

My first line of defense (or collection) is the nigh famous hipster PDA. A college professor used to joke about his PDA, literally ink on his palm, mine is slightly more refined, stack of index cards and a binder clip are the easiest way for me to capture every fleeting thought that I have. And that is the front end of my productivity system. Writing everything down.

I won’t lie. I scribble notes on lots of paper, but I always consolidate it to an index card as soon as possible.

I use iCal both at work and at home to manage my appointments. I have tried for years unsuccessfully to use a paper calendar, something about mucking up the pages when appointments are shifted. I share my calendars with each other via icalx.com, allowing me to see both home and work and the other location.

Unfortunately, I have not mastered David Allen’s recommended tickler file. I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.

I have worked in the last 6 months to stop living in my inbox. Having read Merlin Mann’s wonderful series entitled Inbox Zero, I have first of all realized all of the different inboxes I have and secondly worked to keep them at zero.

List of inboxes

  • Email
  • Personal
  • Work
  • Physical Inboxes
  • Work (semi personal)
  • Work (office mandated)
  • Personal at home
  • Mailbox
  • Digital inboxes
  • RSS feeds from google reader
  • Twitter messages
  • New Podcasts

A whole lot of inputs! I work to winnow down the total inputs and organize them into projects (contained on index cards) with support materials being added into manila folders.

I keep my address book electronically on my macbook and at work, occasionally syncing them (although my contacts are almost mutually exclusive).


This post is a living document. As I update my process, through kaizen, I will update this post, noting the changes below.