Saturday, April 10, 2010

Personal Productivity: What do you want and how do you get there?

Photographers, like most small business owners, have a lot on their plate. Staying on top of all the things you have to do, and even figuring what those things are, can be major task all by itself.

Fortunately, there are some great tools and systems out there to make getting a handle on your projects and tasks less painful. The two best systems, from what I have seen, are David Allen’s “Getting Things Done®” and the Franklin-Covey Time Management system.

The general idea behind both of these systems is to figure out what the big, important goals are in your life, seeing what projects need to be completed in order for you to achieve those goals and then breaking the projects down into specific tasks that can be recorded and tracked. Each system has it’s merits: Franklin-Covey’s, based on Stephen R. Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, is very good at assessing the big-picture issues and goals of your life while David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system is excellent at task tracking (although it too stresses the importance of high-altitude views.) GTD takes a somewhat more bottom-up approach, with the idea being that if you don’t get a lot of the little stuff out of your head and into some kind of system your mind won’t be clear enough to deal with the high-level issues.

Both systems have a wide variety of options in terms of how much you want to spend learning them, how fast you want to learn them, and to what level of detailed information or coaching you will need to implement them. The least expensive way is to start with their books, which are each under $20 in paperback (On Amazon: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “First Things First”)

Both systems can be implemented with as little as a paper organizer or notebook or you can get software solutions for personal computers and smart phones that will help you keep track of your projects and tasks. I use OmniFocus, which has a desktop Mac application and an iPhone version that synchronize with each other. Pocket Informant is another good application and is available for the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone platforms. If you work on Windows and use MS Outlook for you email and calendar, look into how to use the task management tools that are built into it; it’s a too-often overlooked feature and it may very well do most of what you need.

Another great resource on the Web for productivity techniques is Merlin Mann’s 43folders blog . He also has an excellent podcast that you can subscribe to there – and I would highly recommend listening to the “Inbox Zero” speech he gave at the Google campus – it’s a great strategy for getting your email under control.

In the end the process isn’t as important as the action you take – and making sure that you really take some action rather than just talking about it. It’s all about making things happen and working toward your life goals.

Onward and Upward!


GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. All other trademarks are held by their respective owners.