Photo: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

My personal productivity system

A few weeks ago, when asked about my favorite productivity system, I would have said “time boxing”. Then I read Oliver Burkeman’s newsletter and created my first custom day planner template.

Daniel Florian
4 min readApr 1, 2022

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The (updated) templates for 2023 can be downloaded for free here.

It’s only been a few weeks since I shared my “Five tips for mobile working”, including my preference for the time-boxing method. The sixth tip I mentioned was the willingness to constantly challenge yourself — and so it’s maybe not surprising that today I cautiously question the benefits of time-boxing.

What triggered me was a text by Oliver Burkeman. The time-boxing method has two disadvantages, Burkeman writes: Either things go differently than planned, so that you have to constantly reorganize your calendar, or they go exactly as planned, with the result that you put yourself under quite a lot of pressure.

The 3/3/3 method

Instead, Burkeman prefers the 3/3/3 method: for each workday, you set aside:

  • Three hours per day to work on an important current project;
  • three urgent but less time-consuming things (including meetings); and
  • three “maintenance” tasks” (for example e-mails, but also micro-learning, etc.).

The method immediately made sense to me, but it didn’t fit into my planner (I currently use the mindfulness planner “Ein guter Plan”).

And since I just bought the Remarkable eInk tablet, I spontaneously designed a template for the tablet — my first own template for a daily planner which incorporates elements from 3/3/3, “Ein guter Plan”, the BestSelf Journal and Cal Newport’s Time Block Planner.

My productivity system

Here are the individual elements of the daily planner in detail:

My day planner template on Remarkable2

DATE Pretty self-explanatory.

WEEK I always find it helpful to keep track of the current calendar week as well.

3×3 IMPORTANT Here, I list my main task of the day which is usually part of a strategic project or simply complex and therefore time-consuming and usually needs a block for concentrated work. It’s not always three hours, but it’s definitely more than one hour.

3×3 URGENT Here, I list three tasks that are urgent and take between 30 minutes and two hours. This includes most meetings, but also text reviews, feedback and so on. I prioritize tasks that need my input so others can get on with their work.

3×3 MAINTENANCE Here I list three things that are essential to keep things running. This always includesanswering emails and also things like journaling, running or networking that are important for my personal wellbeing.

NOTES SUCCESSES LEARNINGS This is space for free text such as meeting notes but also short observations when something did not go well or when something went particularly well.

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY Here is space for a short reflection at the end of the workday. This can be a word, a sentence or just an emoji.

HABITS I’ve already mentioned that I’m a fan of micro-habits in my “Five tips for mobile working”. Here, I cross out the Habits I have practiced that day. Not all of my Habits are repeated every day; for example, I have pledged to exercise only three times a week.

WATER GLASS For every glass of water I drink during the day, I cross out one glass.

CARROT The carrot is crossed out when I have not eaten meat in a day.

What’s next?

So much for my new system for personal productivity. Currently, my template consists of only one page, but I could imagine to expand the template in the future with more elements, such as a quarterly and an annual planner. These could also include recording my habits in writing which currently only have a number in my template due to lack of space.

For quarterly and annual planning, systems such as the “Eisenhower Matrix” are of course relevant and could also be incorporated into the template.

And finally, I still use the time-blocking method, but I now prefer the 3/3/3 method described here for structuring my daily priorities. Only then do I block time in my calendar.

What are the elements in your daily planner that are still missing in my template? Or do you want to try my system yourself? Send me a message and I’ll send you my template as a PDF!

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This post was first published in German on danielflorian.de

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Daniel Florian
The Remote Work Experiment

Thinking about the future of work and the intersection of technology and society. http://www.danielflorian.de