My Productivity System or How I Get Things Done

One could say: your productivity system can’t be that good because you haven’t written a blog post in ages. True, and here is why: I deliberately put some activities on hold the last 6 months. These ‘activities on hold’ happened to be the public ones: speaking, organizing meetups and blogging.

Why did I do that? Because I switched jobs AND I made a career switch. From an infrastructure architect, I decided to take the plunge and join a company that develops back-ends (API’s) and links and integrates them with all sort of systems. So I needed all my energy to be able to make this switch and in the same time add value to customers. Which is why all extra curricular activities where put on hold.

In the meantime I finally developed a GTD system which fits my needs and works for me. So let me to share that with you.

Why a productivity system?
Because in this day and age there is so much a person has to process and remember. At home there is taxes, bookkeeping, laundry, sports, shopping and so on. At work the customers, the team and the MT should be kept happy (and vice versa, obviously). On top of that I want to spend time with my SO as much as possible, to study and write code and blogs for fun.

With all this stuff going on one could easily become overwhelmed, lose control and end up having a burn-out. So I need to plan. I want to be able to concentrate to the tasks at hand and I want to improve my system over time. And obviously I need an app to help me remember and organise.

Turns out there is no single app that fits my needs do I have to combine three: Omnifocus, Harvest and Focus:

My personal system

So here it is. My personal system is like a funnel: I start collecting and organising all tasks, then I track time for a collection of tasks and I need to focus on a single task (‘deep work’).

This is how it works:

1. Note every single task item you can think of down.
2. Finish every task that will take only 2 minutes.
3. Put the remaining tasks into categories. E.g.: work, client x, sports, study.
4. Assign the tasks a start date or a due date..
5. Focus on your tasks for today and nothing else.
6. Track Time for these tasks
7. For the task at hand that requires deep thinking and concentration use the Pomodoro technique
8. Once a week: review the week and see when and where you were less efficient.

OmniFocus (only for Mac and IOS) fits well for this workflow. It helps you to focus only on the tasks you want (or can) do today, or place or when some condition is true.
This is a screenshot of the forecasting functionality of OmniFocus. For a given day you only get to see the tasks that you will be working on that day. And it has nice calendar integration a well.

OmniFocus does not a good job with time tracking, so in comes Harvest. Harvest is a very cool Time Tracking tool, which helps you see how productive you were on a day, a week and a month.

But Harvest does not let you focus. This is where I use the Pomodoro Technique. So in comes an app called Focus, which let me focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes.

The reason why I picked Focus is because of its integration with OmniFocus.

Mac only and Expensive?
Mac Only? Yes, unfortunately so (except for Harvest). I would love to OmniFocus going cross-platform, but it’s not going to happen.

Expensive? That depends. If you buy Asana or Todoist then you need to pay a monthly subscription to get at least similar functionality as OmniFocus. For the OmniFocus Pro version (and you are going to want that) you pay a whopping $79.99. So OmniFocus might be cheaper in the end. I use the free version of Harvest, and Focus costs around $7,99.

Take Aways
Developing a good productivity system that fits your needs can take months or even years. And in my case there was no single app that supported my needs. So I needed three. But I’m quite happy now. And I can see where I was less productive and why. And improve myself.

A big thank you for Asian Efficieny by the way. Their podcast is awesome and inspiring. Have a listen!