Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
There is no one-size-fits-all productivity solution. Different people have different ways to get things done. As much as you love technology, it might not be how you plan your day. But it can still help in giving you the right non-tech tools to manage your day.
What’s The Benefit Of Paper To-Do Lists And Planners?
There are plenty of fantastic to-do list apps. In fact, we recently wrote about the best apps to manage lists on Android and still couldn’t choose between nine worthy contenders. However, there is something to be said for good old pen and paper. Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, tells The New York Times:
The act of writing down and checking off a task can serve to “emblazon” it in your mind and offer positive reinforcement that is both visual and tactile.
The simple act of manually ticking the box, or drawing a line across a task, is therapeutic — thrilling, even. If paper is your calling, the Internet has some helpful single-page productivity sheets you can print out for your daily planning:
1-Page Productivity Planner [PDF] [No Longer Available]
Brendon Burchard of the High Performance Academy made a sheet that you fill out at the start of the day to arrange your priorities. Burchard assumes you are a working executive and arranges your day into three broad sections: Projects, People, and Priorities. So you have three large projects, each with five sub-tasks. You then list the people you need to contact today, and the people who you are waiting to get in touch with you about some task. Finally, you add one must-do item every day which is your top priority. Just like that, you’ll start winnowing down your task list.
Author and public speaker Donald Miller believes writer’s block and procrastination are a byproduct of not scheduling your day correctly. He shared his productivity system, which is geared towards managing your mental energy. So first, before you think about your work, you ask yourself, “If I could live today all over again, what would I do?” and fill that in.
This mental exercise gets you thinking about your priorities. Next, you fill in all the things you’re going to enjoy doing today — it’s an optimistic and hopeful start to your day, which makes the “work” parts seem like a small hindrance before enjoying life. Then you note your daily appointments, keeping them to seven — if you have more than seven lined up, reschedule the rest. Finally, fill out your to-do list of up to 12 tasks and no more. You also need to write a life theme, which keeps your mind clear about your goal. Finally, add three projects, along with the rest or reward for accomplishing each.
A lot of this actually follows the commandments of the right to-do list, such as keeping it simple, focusing on your dreams, and so on. You can read about the system in more detail in the printable PDF.
We live by the clock. You allocate X minutes to a task, and you repeat that to fill up your day’s schedule. But how often are you right? If you think there aren’t enough hours in the day, you’re probably not good with time management, whose roots are in an inability to estimate time properly. You can use time-tracking tools, but the 3×5 do-too system is a handy sheet that shows your estimates and reality.
Each A4 printable page can be cut into four sheets. Write down your tasks (segregated as before noon and after noon) and the time it will take in the “ET” or “Estimated Time” column in the left. Once the task is done, cross it off and note the “Actual Time” or “AT” it took you in the right column. Keep doing this and you’ll slowly realise the gap between your estimations and reality.
“I’m very good at knowing what is coming up on what day, but I want to be able to accomplish more than just the appointments in my planner each day.”
If this sounds like you, the One Good Thing By Jillee blog empathizes. She made this sheet to make more out of each day. This daily planner acknowledges the daily decisions you have to make, but also ensures you don’t take on too much by not giving you enough room. So there’s room for five to-do items; five appointments (with a time and details); breakfast, lunch and dinner planning; and notes for general thoughts. That’s it. Now carpe diem!
David Seah, the maker of the Emergent Task Planner (ETP), says getting anything done in a day can be difficult if you’re in a job where interruptions and new events keep popping up. The ETP is meant to get at least three things done even in such rapidly-changing environments.
Seah has detailed instructions on how to use his schedule, which plans your work hours, your breaks, and tracks the time you spent on each project. Along with that, you also get to maintain the interruptions in your life. Yup, that’s important too, because some daily distractions can improve your productivity.
The Productivity Jumpstarter [PDF] [No Longer Available]
You know your goals. But you don’t seem to make much progress on them. Why? Charles Gilkey of Productivity Flourishing reckons it’s because our to-do list doesn’t focus on action, and we tend to give in to our mind’s desire to multi-task. The Productivity Jumpstarter makes things simple. You have a list of “action words”. List a goal, and use one of the action words to write a task using that action. Finish that task. No, you don’t get to fill in the list of goals beyond that first one before you finish the task. One thing at a time.
It’s like Kaizen, one of the time management tips that can make you a leader, which says consistent small improvements lead to big accomplishments.
Productivity blogger Andrea Dekker’s daily planner factors in a daily routine with your ever-changing tasks. This list is ideal for work-from-home professionals, but anyone can customize it to their needs. For example, doing the laundry is part of daily routine, but you still need it in your to-do list as it’s a task that needs to be done. Use Dekker’s planner to first write down a set of routines for early morning, mid-morning, afternoon and evening. You’ll need a good PDF editor, or you can use Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer.
Every day, you will be logging your meals, your exercise, and even the number of glasses of water you ate. Along with that, you also have five must-do items, other tasks, appointments, notes and a “to buy” list. This could easily be dubbed “the daily work-life balance planner”.
Paper Or Digital?
These printable sheets are great, but if you still want to stick to a digital solution, you can use Excel and Google Tasks to create a great goal management system.
Do you prefer paper or digital for your productivity sheets and to-do lists? Let’s hear it from the loyalists on either side in the comments below!
Image Credit: inspirexpressmiami