Start With a Brain Dump

There are a lot of personal productivity systems out there, and that’s a fantastic thing.  It means there are several different flavors of figuring out how to get something taken care of.  However, they all have pretty much one thing in common, and this is the basis of pretty much all personal productivity methods.  I’m going to use it as the definition of what personal productivity means: Personal Productivity is any method that gets what you need to do in front of you, so that you can see it, process it, and finish it.

One thing I know for sure, is that you cannot keep it all in your head.  It simply doesn’t work, because your brain doesn’t work that way.  At least, mine doesn’t.  Mine has a hard enough time trying to remember where I left my keys.   For me, I have to have it outside my brain and in a place where I know I’m going to see it.

App developers know that there’s one thing you always carry with you these days, so there’s no dearth of To Do list apps and calendar apps, and Reminder Apps and so forth.  However, if you work a job where you’re not allowed to so much as look at your phone or get on any non work related site, well, that pretty much sinks having technology as a primary method.

What I’m going to lay out for you over the course of time is my method of personal productivity, and try to keep the learning curve to a minimum.  Ask any fundamentally lazy person and they will tell you:  More steps means it isn’t getting done, and that’s the reason most people abandon personal productivity systems.  No one wants to jump through a bajillion self-imposed hoops to keep track of what they are doing, and even less so on those days when they’re not feeling well, or the kids are crazy, or the Universe handed them a bad hand that day.

So then, how do we start?  We start with the most difficult part first.  We start like most systems do, by getting it all out of you.  Grab a notebook and a pen or pencil, and let’s start.

  • The first thing I want you to do is write down all the stuff you do at your day job.  What are you responsible for?  What tasks are you required to perform.  Are there any projects you’re working on.  What calls do you need to make, what emails do you need to send, what things are you taking on right now?  Write down everything.
  • Next, what do you need to do at home?  Chores, DIY, repair, laundry, lawn…everything.
  • The next section is all the things related to Family.  Freshman Orientation with the child, visiting relatives, lending the battery charger to your cousin, if it’s related to family and you need to do it, write it down.
  • Next, write down all the stuff related to Wellness.  Doctor’s appointments, Gym time, prescription pickups, research, anything related to Health and Fitness.
  • Write down all the bills you need to pay (with due dates), and all the things you need to buy or might like to have in the future.  Be realistic here.  This is not a vision board, so unless you can go out and buy that candy apple red BMW 6 Series Convertible, don’t put it down.
  • Anything you want to do with friends or co-workers?  Restaurant you’ve been meaning to try?  Get all the things related to your social life down here in the next section.
  • Any books, articles, Webinars, seminars, or courses you’re wanting to take?  If you are in a class right now, any supplies you need to remember to get or bring?
  • Any concerts, movies, shows, parties you’re wanting to go to in the near future?  Any thing on TV you want to make sure you don’t miss?  Any meet ups related to an interest or passion of yours?
  • Finally, take a second to write down anything that doesn’t fit in any of the above, and call it Miscellaneous.
  • …and that’s it.  Almost.

I want you to think about how long that took you, and look at how many items are on that list.  Understand that this is all the stuff that’s been clogging up your internal RAM.  It’s also why you think you’re on the verge of a panic attack a lot of the time.  This is all the crap you’ve been stressing about.

Now that it is out of your brain and on paper, you can now use that grey matter previously reserved for holding on to this stuff in a more effective way.

Like, for example, doing it.

That sheet of paper you just finished is the foundation for every personal productivity method, pretty much ever.  Congratulations, you just got all your shit together in one place.   So, now that we got it, what do we do with it?

Next time, we’ll talk about The List.

Kris Roley