A “productivity system” or “productivity framework” is the name of the process and any tools you use to make sure you do the things you want and need to do. The best known among these is probably GTD or Getting Things Done, the most recent is bullet journaling, then there’s zero inbox, Autofocus, Stephen Covey quadrant and many others.
It might also be a name for something someone might sell you, all in the name of “doing more in less time”, but it is certainly not necessary to buy into a single “system”. The point is, always, to find something that works for you. That something might be a specific kind of notebook (Moleskine, Leuchtturm, …) or a specific set of rules to deal with stuff that life throws at us.
Use whatever helps you, but don’t waste too much time researching and setting up “systems”. Choose a few rules, try them out for a week or two, see if they work. If they turn out to be useful, great, you can use them and build on them. If not, forget them and try something else. Don’t make things so complex that they add to the stress of actually doing things!
If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed and trying to get a grip on it all, try out the simplest productivity system:
1. Do a brain dump – write down everything you need to do, all the projects you’re thinking of maybe doing, all the unfinished business you want to wrap up, everything that’s going through your head and making you feel anxious. The simple act of transferring things from your head to a piece of paper relieves us from the stress of trying to remember it all.
2. After writing down everything, look at it and find things you absolutely must or want to do (and soon). These make your to-do list.
3. Deal with the things on your to-do list. Write down and add to your brain dump anything that comes up in the meantime. If it’s important, add it directly to your to-do list. Otherwise, finish your to-do list and then look at your big list/brain dump to get more tasks.
4. If there are really big projects on your list, break them down into smaller pieces which you can do one at a time.
5. Do a weekly or monthly review – go through your big list/brain dump occasionally and review goals, projects and tasks listed there. Are they’re still relevant? Are the tasks you’re actually doing bringing you closer to your goals? Adjust accordingly.
This is the basic productivity system which will help you get a grip on your life.
If you’re not sure where to start and what to do, start with step number 1 right now!