The beginning of it all

Years ago I worked in logistics as an IT manager. As it was an SMB I also handled the development, help desk and various other issues that weren’t IT but were somehow IT related. This means I had a lot of different tasks to do that other people’s work depended on.

I ran to a wall. Literally. I constantly forgot to do things. I couldn’t really sleep at night because my head was constantly working on what had I forgot this time. But then I got a hold of myself and decided that I’m just doing something wrong and decided to find out what it was.

The most important decision I made was this: from now on I will write stuff down. I got a notebook, opened a new page every day and marked it with date and time. I scribbled the page full and most of the time there were several pages for one day. It already made things a lot easier for me. I could reference the things I had done and things I still had to do. It wasn’t easy, sure, but it was something.

Then I started having different marking styles for to do items and notes to those pages. After it was done I would note that I completed this task on that day. Obviously I was in trouble when a task wasn’t actually a task but a project (in GTD, project is something that consists of several to dos that make up a bigger body or item).

The struggle with how

At that point I had a decent system going on, I wrote stuff down in a lot of places but consolidated them already in that one notebook to reference. Most of the time my email inbox was my real inbox (and inbox in GTD is the place all the items are put – it can be a tray of papers, a file where you scribble notes or an application on your smartphone, more here).

As you might imagine, my next problem was my email inbox. Absolutely full of all kinds of information. At that time I used Outlook as that was what the corporate environment was all about. I marked my emails as tasks and it was a mess. I really couldn’t make sense of it but I tried.

I read loads of Outlook tasks related blogs and how to documents but they just didn’t seem to make it for me. Somewhat things were still not fully integrated. Even though I’m far from a perfectionist I like my working methods to be a safe zone. This way I know I can focus on the work and let the system do the organizing.

Outside help

Finally I came across one little thing called inbox zero (processing email inbox contents so that there’s nothing left) by Merlin Mann. This was the first thing that actually made a lot of sense. In about one hour of reading and one day of organizing my inbox I could implement it. The main message is, don’t work from your email inbox. Email is for communication and task lists are for tasks to be executed next.

I had now unleashed the beast inside me. I started to cram all sorts of productivity system tomes such as David Allen’s GTD and Michael Linenberger’s MYN. I read all the blogs there were about productivity, time management, time planning and life hacking. This literally filled my free time. I enjoyed it so much.

The enlightenment

Something was still missing. I implemented many of these systems and none seemed to quite make it for me. As everybody’s work and personal life are so different from other people how can they? So now I found myself constantly trying to improve the system.

I tried to add a lot of features to it. I studied psychological approach to time planning and productivity. I tried to see how the geniuses had worked before us to steal their workflow. I tried to make it impenetrable to outside forces and make it complete. But this is where I went wrong.

I had so many contexts (again, a term from GTD, a context describes the tool, location or person that is required to be able to complete an action) that I could print it on a toilet paper roll and it wouldn’t be enough. I had so many projects that they couldn’t fit on my computer screen. I had so many inboxes for different uses that I couldn’t keep track. I overworked the system. Don’t get me wrong. It really worked! I never missed a deadline and never lost a note. However, the system was so overwhelming that I felt that the system was running me, not the other way around.

Then it hit me.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Less is more” – Mies Van Der Rohe

“It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. – Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The results

I started to simplify things. I came up with a system for my email, social media and other communication channels, tasks at work, business ideas and startups, tasks in personal life, my big dreams and ultimate goals. I captured the core idea that life is an entity not separate from everything else. It’s a big continuation and should be treated as such.

This blog is the first result of these experiments. I try and help people like me find their system. The system that you can run, not the other way around. And I want to keep it simple.

The future: my very own productivity book

Inspired by the positive feedback I’ve gotten over the years on my tips and tricks on productivity I’ve decided to write a guide to a complete productivity system. I’m going to make it available as an eBook and charge a nominal fee for it.

It’s going to be ready late 2014. That’s right. Want to stay up to date? Just follow me on Twitter or Facebook and you’ll be the first one to know.