The busier my life gets, the more that productivity stands out as one of the most valuable skills someone can possess. Our time is one of two incredibly valuable resources that most people don’t appreciate as much as they should (the other is our health). Once time is wasted, it can never be recovered, which makes it immensely valuable. But enough of me running off on a tangent; today’s topic is about the MOST important rule for top notch productivity. If one does not follow this rule 100% of the time, there will always be flaws in one’s productivity system. On top of that, those who do not follow this rule can never make the switch from basic productivity to holistic productivity.
Without further delay, the rule I am talking about is: Every idea, thought, task, appointment, whim, and bit of inspiration MUST be easily captured and integrated into your productivity system without excessive effort.
Most people set up their system to only capture and integrate tasks and appointments. This is what I like to call basic productivity. In its own right, there is nothing wrong with this system. These people will get things done and will be on time for appointments because it’s all down on to-do lists and a calendar. However, if someone who practices basic productivity suddenly has a great idea for a trip he’d like to take in the future on his way to work, but neglects to write it down and allocate it to the right place for future reference, his mind is now burdened with remembering it until that time. One of the basic principles of productivity is that you work best when your mind is free from the clutter and worry that results from having to remember ideas and times. Back to our example, if that idea becomes forgotten as he gets caught up with work and appointments, it’s likely that his idea for a trip may never materialize.
A holistic approach to productivity goes very far beyond the simple accomplishing of tasks on a to-do list. True productivity should allow you the time to explore and try new ideas, pursue your dreams, and find time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do in life. This is how productivity shifts from simply getting things done to noticeably improving your life in the process of getting things done. And this all starts with capturing your ideas, dreams, and moments of inspiration before they become lost. To do this is quite easy. Simply create a to-do list called “Someday / Maybe” and create a folder on your computer (or label a manila folder in your filing cabinet) for dreams, ideas, and inspiration. Whenever you have an idea on the road or away from your computer, simply find a way to get the idea into the system, and then allocate it to the right spot when you have a chance. I have two methods of capture. I’ll either write it down on a piece of paper and then hold onto the paper in my pocket (we all clear out our pockets at the end of the day, right?) or I’ll e-mail the idea to myself if I have my iPod Touch with me. Once I get home, I’ll file away the idea to the appropriate place–actionable items go on the “Someday / Maybe” list and plans or general ideas go into the folder.
From there, use your ever-improving productivity skills to create time blocks where you can pursue these ideas. If it weren’t for my ability to do this, this blog would not exist. This blog was an idea that popped into my head roughly 2 years ago during a conversation with one of my closest friends. A year later I finally made it happen. Thankfully, the idea sat in my “Someday / Maybe” list, which I reviewed once every 1-2 weeks, so I never forgot about it. Good thing I didn’t let the idea slip past me, eh?
You may have your own system in place and your method may be different. But no matter your system, always make sure to be prepared to capture any idea at any point in time and allocate it to the appropriate place.