In my last post I mentioned my productivity system. I thought I'd talk a little more about it since I rave about it to anyone who will listen. I started using this a couple of years ago when I noticed I was getting completely stressed out when I was away from my email for more than 30 minutes and felt like I had zero grasp on everything that I wanted or needed to do. The co-worker that told me about it was a little sheepish, saying he felt like a 'Scientologist' because he was so convinced of the approach, and could go on and on about how it would change one's life.
The system is (I think) based on GTD (Getting Things Done) and it's embodied in a book called Take Back Your Life with Microsoft Outlook by a woman named Sally McGhee (her name always cracks me up, it sounds made-up.) I'm still working out how to make the system work with Entourage since I (finally) started working on a Mac again.
In short, you determine what you're major objectives are, break them down into projects and then break those projects into more granular, dependency-free tasks. You then block out time on your calendar for these tasks and projects. You also block time on your calendar for baseline items (like exercising, going through 'collection points', etc.) and you only check email at a specific point in the day. Basically it's prioritizing your goals and budgeting your time to align to those priorities. It has really helped me see what I realistically can and can't do, and learn how to say 'No' to some things, so I can say 'Yes' to others. I've adapted the system to work in a way that is comfortable for me (I rarely break things down into the most granular tasks) and I use color coding for different projects. When something is completed I convert it to the color to white, this act produces the same jolt of intense pleasure as crossing out an item on a to-do list.
Once a week you go through a review of goals and projects and plan for the week to make sure you are tracking to meet your objectives. As I mentioned before, now that I'm on a leave from my job, I'm experimenting with playing a little more 'fast and lose' with my schedule, and if the mood strikes me to, say, work on some Valentine designs rather than migrate content over to the new store platform we're building, then I'll do it. I had to be much more strict when I had to balance all of this with a job.
It was this system that helped me do the following last year: Plan a wedding in 2 countries, get promoted at my day job, attend several weddings, be a maid of honor in 2, launch several new e.m.papers printables, open my Etsy store, spend time with my friends, launch this blog, work with my husband to slowly build the new e.m.papers store (coming soon!) learn how to ski, lose 4 kilos (3 of which I put back on!) start marketing and social media for e.m.papers which has led to about a 10 fold increase of traffic and profits, all while maintiang my sanity.
I still feel like I never have enough time to accomplish all of the things I want to do, and make family and friends a priority (my hat really goes off to all the mom bloggers/small business owners, I seriously do not know how they do it.) This system, however, keeps me relatively calm and gives me a sense that I'm 'steering the ship' rather than freaking out in a swirl of chaos.