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Productivity via Post-it

Ok folks, let’s talk productivity. Those in the business world are constantly looking for ways to improve their productivity. There are entire methodologies and schools of thought focused on this very subject. How do I reduce costs? How do I run a more efficient team? How do I eliminate waste? How do I get more done?

Then, some others find themselves in my situation. As an individual freelancer with only my own client base to balance, how can I make sure things get accomplished? It's just as easy to sit in my pajamas all day, catching up on my favorite shows or doing laundry. I don’t know the golden rule for getting more done. But, I can tell you my approach. I shoot for productivity via post-it.

I’m not great with calendars. I don’t do well with plugging tasks into those little square boxes. Honestly, I just feel overwhelmed when I attempt to manage my calendars and I don’t have a sense of immediacy about any of the tasks at hand. They always seem like “tasks that my future self needs to deal with" (any How I Met Your Mother fans out there? That’s a problem for my future self.). So instead, I need my tasks staring me in the face.

That’s why I do productivity via post-it.

Let me say a couple of things about this approach:

  • If you crave order and structure, this isn’t for you.

  • I am not telling you this will work for you, I am telling you it works for me.

  • I encourage you to do whatever works for you. There is not single panacea for procrastination.

I use small post-its for my approach (the little 2 x 2 version), simply because they don’t take up a lot of space and I only use them to write quick notes on. This approach is similar to the bullet journal—if it takes too long, it doesn’t work. I don’t write detailed descriptions or overall goals. My ongoing post-it list isn’t for self-improvement or reminding me to exercise. It is simply a list of tasks that need completed.

Here’s my “system” (it can really only loosely be called a system).

I use my phone calendar for tasks that don’t require urgency. You know, things I need to plan for, but don’t need to be done by the end of the day. For example, I log the following into my technological task-keeper:

  • Appointments: Of the doctor and dentist variety.

  • Conference calls: Any virtual meetings that require my participation.

  • Lunches: Either with friends or colleagues.

  • Meetings: Also, of the work or friend variety.

I also put several alerts on these things, reminding me of their existence a week in advance, then a day in advance, then two hours in advance. Because these tasks lack that sense of urgency, I will not remember them until they are staring me in the face.

My post-its are reserved for daily and weekly tasks. At the beginning of the week, I take a look at what has to be done by Friday. I write down each task on its own post-it. If I don’t complete it, I simply move it to my running task list for the next day. On Friday, I evaluate any remaining task and decide where to put them for the following week.

Ideally, my daily tasks are firm things that must be accomplished by end of day. As a writer, I frequently balance deadlines against other obligations and limited time constraints. I need the most important tasks where they are visible—right next to my computer screen.

For each day, I prioritize what needs to be accomplished. I move around my post-its and order them from most important to least important. Little tip: I always leave myself some breathing room. Unexpected things always come up, despite my best intentions. I would rather work ahead on things than feel like I’m falling behind. Opting for a cushion is always a good idea.

Some may argue that this method encourages stress. For some, that may be true. But, you know what stresses me out more than constant reminders of tasks? Realizing that I forgot to do something that I promised to do.

Ultimately, I’m not a fan of stress either, so I avoid THAT at all costs. This is actually a way for me to reduce my stress by having a firmer hold on what needs to be done, when it needs to be done...and I let the rest go. Cheers to your increased productivity, friends!

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