Being Productive

By sethmsparks

I’m a regular listener of the new(ish) podcast The Work Talk Show, hosted by Nick Westergaard and DJ Waldow. If you haven’t checked it out, go back and listen to a couple (iOS link). Nick and DJ approach their podcast from a different angle than most marketing professionals, by interviewing “wicked smart” guests like Seth Godin (I shouldn’t have to link that for you people) about how they work, not about how they market. It leads to discussion of and around marketing, but it’s framed differently and thus more enjoyable than the 600 other marketing podcasts.

The most recent interview (episode #23) at the time of this writing is with Julien Smith. I believe Julien to be one of the most productive individuals on the planet (just spend some time looking him up and you’ll think so too).

During the discussion, Julien lays out his workflow for managing his productivity. I was amazed that his take on GTD, which i don’t recall if he said is purely modeled around GTD or not, is very similar to my productivity system at home AND work. I decided to put my workflow into Visio so that you can see it in action. There are similarities between Julien’s and my perception of how to prioritize work each day.


Simply, there are three levels of priority:

1) Planned events on the calendar. These can be recurring daily activities, one time meetings, dedicated work time for a specific task, and everything in-between.

2) Tasks due today. These are the things that will label you as a failure if you don’t complete them today. They can be deliverables for clients, paying bills, or tasks in a project that future items on dependent upon.

3) Tasks due later (with a due date or not). There are the project tasks that aren’t due until later, longer term goals or tasks like “plan remodel of the bathroom”.

As I’ve tuned my productivity method, I’ve managed my buckets like Julien does too… with multiple apps. An app for my calendar (Sunrise), an app for my immediate tasks (Astrid), and an app for long-term tasks (Evernote). I have a different system at work using Lotus Notes (yuck), but it isn’t portable and can only be accessed via VPN (yuck again).

Something that is fundamental of the application ecosystem however, is consolidation. So when I hear someone say they use three apps to manage their workflow, I see BIG opportunity. I’ve actually doodled a recurring idea a couple times the last few months about a consolidated GTD app that’s built around my framework.

I know Mailbox right now is dubbed at the GTD/Inbox Zero champion, but I ditched it after a few days. It didn’t fit MY system, so the pretty overlay for Gmail only had to go. I know Astrid has a lot of the task functionality that I need, but it’s missing the input components from a variety of email providers (even though it does great with its Google Chrome integration). The last piece of the puzzle is document storage. Again, Astrid does this in the paid version, but I need it integrated into my existing doc cloud. Since most of my tasks have doodles and mind maps associated with them, along with multiple email strings, photos, and other items. Until a single app can handle the entire flow of my productivity system, I’ll likely stick with what’s working. Although it does look like Dropbox might be making moves in the space with its acquisition of Mailbox.

A quick doodle of my dream app (if designed by a well to-do middle schooler [because that’s my skill level with app development]) would look something like this:

Note: There would be actions for each email allowing for deletion, archiving for search, add to calendar (new or append to existing), add to task list (new or append to existing). Tasks would have a complete, view archive, and add to calendar button. The calendar would list scheduled items, and reference back to task lists during free time.

Emails from Mom and Wife feed the urgent task to confirm the trip, which leads to the new task connecting with old buddies. The other email feeds a long term task for a client project, which will eventually end up in the calendar with links to the email string and any pertinent docs, It’s not the most well thought out app I’ve ever concepted, but hopefully it makes sense.

I don’t have the coding chops to make any of this happen, but maybe there’s a dev out there that will see this post and try to beat one of the current leaders in the space to the punch… or maybe there’s someone who will build it just for me. What say you Tim Hibbard (creator of EnGraph Software)?