How to use productivity tools effectively

You know the four main classes of tools for self organizing and increasing productivity. And you probably can’t live without them: Calenders, Tickler Files, To-Do-Lists and Boards.

While each of them has their merits, they all become disfunctional if used for the wrong purpose. Here is my quick take on how to use the tools most effectively.

Calendar

The calender is best for date-based appointments. It has a rigid, exclusively time-based structure. I use it exclusively for fixed appointments like meetings, conferences, telcos etc. You can also use it for time blocking, i.e. reservation of time slots for important personal goals and projects.

Best for Drawbacks
Time and date-based appointments.
Blocking out time for personal goals.
Coordination of dates with other people.
Very rigid structure.
Cannot handle large numbers of individual tasks.
Tends to provoce overplanning.

Examples

  • Google calendar
  • Outlook calendar

Tickler File

A tickler files (most commonly organized as a 43 folders system) is supposed to “tickle” your mind when you need it. Tasks or working materials are losely scheduled for the coming 31 days and stored for review for the coming 12 months.

Best for Drawbacks
Getting daily tasks into the flow.
Fast and secure defering of tasks without need for detailed planning.
Reminders for important events in the future.
Breaking down long to-do-lists in manageable portions.
Regular usage needed for best results.

Examples

  • fortythree.me
  • Paper-based-systems

To-Do-List

To do lists or task lists are probably one of the simplest self management tools. You just collect everything in a long list, where topics can be checked off after completion.

Best for Drawbacks
Remembering small numbers of tasks.
Quickly writing down reminders of tasks in a flexible way.
Busy people easily end up with hundreds of items or way too many unstructured lists.
Pure lists don’t provide overview or any form of planning functionality.

Examples

  • Things
  • Wunderlist

Kanban board, srcum board

These project board usualy work with three colums: Backlog, in progress and done. Tasks are moved from colum to colum as work is done on them.

Best forDrawbacks
Coordinating tasks among team members.
Showing, what is currently worked on and what tasks are idle.
Produce unneccessary overhead for individual use.
Limited planning capabilities.

Examples

  • Jira
  • Zoho Sprints

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