Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Iterating Towards Everyday Productivity

Being highly productive in your free time is incredibly overwhelming. I even find myself losing hours to reading about how to better track and utilize my time. Despite the number of “proven methods”, finding out how to be productive is incredibly personal. Fortunately, the recipe for finding what works is not. You can develop your own effective system of productivity with 3 ingredients:

  • Make Everything Visible
  • Constantly Evolve Your Process
  • Never Settle

Make Everything Visible

Everything should be tracked, and everything should be easy to track

The number of tracking and productivity tools available is endless, and I suggest using multiple, but oftentimes simpler solutions work better for higher level tracking. Regardless of tools used, everything should be tracked, and everything should be easy to track.

To get yourself started I recommend picking up a copy of Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis. This handbook goes over many strategies for exposing where time and effort go within a professional setting, but the strategies and techniques used can be readily applied to your personal life. Many of these techniques have also served as inspiration for me to invent my own.

Being able to see where you time is going is enlightening, and the guilt of wasted time inspires shifts in habits and behaviors. For my own tracking, I use a modified Bullet Journal approach to track large items, and then Google Keep for backlogs and TODOs on personal projects (which I find easier to manage when working alone than software designed for teams such as Jira/Trello).

Sample Backlog of TODO items for one of my current side projects, a TIC-80 game with the working title Lavender Woods

Constantly Evolve Your Process

Trying different systems for 2 weeks each and revising and reflecting at the end is incredibly effective.

Despite the number of productivity tools available, none are more effective than iteration. Freely abandon, migrate, change or evolve processes and tools as often as you see fit to better suite what works for you. The level of detail items are tracked at matters in different ways which is why I use a combination of tooling to track what I do.

Personally I find scheduling/event level items (birthdays, travel, release dates, anniversaries/etc), as well as tracking repetitive daily goals (which Aytekin Tank just wrote a great post about) is easier with pen and paper.

Being able to work outside the constraints of software gives extreme flexibility for reworking how you track things on a daily basis. I will often find myself revising my entire tracking system for high level items at least once a month.

The evolution of how you work can either be ad-hoc or conform to one of the many Agile processes. Trying different systems for 2 weeks each and revising and reflecting at the end is incredibly effective. I’ve even gone through periods where I make it a daily goal to change how I track and achieve daily goals.

The last factor in iterating on your process of tracking and getting things done is to ensure you are happy with it and to achieve that you must never settle.

Never Settle

NEVER feel guilty about throwing away old notes or styles of tracking work in favor of new ones, the added productivity will more than pay for itself.

The more you enjoy how quickly and easily you are able to see your achievements, failure and what you still need to do the more motivated you will be to keep up with it and improve.

The number one rule of Never Settling with yourself or your process is to always be moving forward. Adopting a mindset that you can always become a better version of yourself is the best way to achieve this. As long as you can track everything that needs to be done, what has been done becomes less important, just focus on what you need to do.

NEVER feel guilty about throwing away old notes or styles of tracking work in favor of new ones, the added productivity will more than pay for itself.