Here’s the short, short version of three books on productivity: Getting Things Done, Scrum and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
When I try to hold a long list of obligations in my head, I feel very stressed. Each time something comes up that needs my attention, I log it in a central, trusted location called a “bucket.” For my bucket, I use “remember the milk” which as an app and a website. They sync up so I always have access to the same list through my phone or my PC. I have built a very reliable habit of always putting every “to do” item in RTM. For the most part, that means I don’t have that “wasn’t I supposed to reply to someone about something?” feeling. That’s very important to my sanity.
At least once a week, I purge the to-do list in RTM. I take the tasks in my list and sort them by 2 distinctions: Urgent/Not Urgent and Important/Not Important. Urgency is obvious. If a to-do item has a deadline or feels pressing, it’s urgent. Importance is relative to my goals. I ask “is this necessary to move me closer to my goals?” and if it is, it’s important. Things that are not important get deleted. This is critical and it’s the hardest for me. I want to do it all, but I can’t, so I have to choose.
If items are urgent and important (“Quadrant I”) I do them immediately or (if they will take too long) I break them down into sub-tasks. Anything that has a deadline goes into Google Calendar. Anything that just requires an email (or the equivalent), I do immediately. If items are not urgent, but are important (“Quadrant II”) they are ones that require special focus. These are the things that will never happen unless I make them happen. These go on the Scrum Board.
The Scrum Board has 3 categories: Backlog, Doing and Done. It’s a simplified system relative to real scrum methodology. It’s just for me and not for my whole team. I use different colors of sticky notes to represent different “sprints.” So, I’ll be working on orange sticky notes (current sprint) while accumulating green sticky notes (next sprint) in the backlog. I work on one color until they are done. Then I discard everything in the “Done” column. That helps me balance my priorities and projects.
I also have a daily routine that doesn’t go on the board or the bucket. Those are things like meditation, working out, and blogging. If I do it every day, I don’t keep it in the queue. It’s distracting.