Everyone has a system

My new favorite pastime is discussing personal productivity systems, and thinking about thier implmentation. This is obviously spurred on by my recent reading of Getting Things Done, but further feuled by discussions with my new friend Evan (via college buddy Nate) who thinks more about this stuff than I do.

I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has some sort of system that they use to keep track of thier day to day tasks. Pain and frustration comes when this system doesn’t really work. Theres also a big range of how conscious people are of their systems. If you’re very aware that what you’re doing is keeping track of important personal data instead of just jotting a note or downloading a file or putting an item in your calendar. Giving recoginition to the act of ‘organization’ makes a profound difference in the way we remember and later track this action. In this way being cognizant of your system is the first step to making it more powerful.

The most important part about ‘systems’ is that there is no one true path or implementation. GTD is great but it’s not for everyone.

I sat down for lunch a couple of weeks ago with Eric Smith, one of my best freinds from High School, and instead of doing the general catch up, we spent most of our time discussing our personal systems. His was almost completely homegrown, and I found many of the aspects of it extremely interesting. I’m not going to go into details (Eric asked me not to), but it involved a system of rewards and keeping track of time in the past tense. This is a great example of how your personal system should aim most to solving your own personal frustrations. For Eric, a lot of frustrations stemmed from not using his time effectivley, procrastinating, and loosing track of how much money he spends on a daily basis. As it should, the system he created is an attempt to solve those problems.

My frustrations mainly stem out of a large number of different priorities and projects and the inability to keep track of all of the things I need to do (my next actions) at once. Moreover, I get very overwhelmed when looking at all my items at once – feeling like there is just too much to do. I’m attempting to solve these things first, by organizing all my items by multiple classifications (Projects, Context, Tags) and then having a way to view only a section (a Project, a Context) at once. So far its helping out a lot.

What are your frustrations? Does your system solve them (or at least help)?

photo credit: http://flickr.com/photos/stawarz/230259023/

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