Whatever the method, you will need to adapt it

There are always long discussions on the merits of one method versus the other when it comes to personal productivity. I think this is a bit too narrow of a discussion and one need to take a step back there.

What’s interesting to me is that, in the end, we all have different personalities, issues (e.g. some are procrastinator, other ADD-ish, etc), strengths and, maybe the most important one, job requirements.

For instance job-related variables like those will have an impact on how you should organize your time:

  • Are you an individual contributor or a manager (or a manager of managers)?
  • At any given point, how many projects to you need to manage (that is spend at least several hours a week on them)? 1 to 3? 5 to 10? More ?
  • Are your projects always long-term ones (say 6-months horizons), short-term or a mixed bag?
  • How many interruptions do you get (also linked with the first bullet: I’ve seen directs’’ walk-ins “can I talk to you 2 min” ending up in full 1/2h or more meetings and as a  manager supporting my team is always a top priority so I’m not going to say no if this is important)
  • How good are you at planning the time a task will actually need? Can you get a good picture beforehand of how long it will take to complete a given task?
  • How dependent are you from other’s input (e.g. if I need all my team to provide me data on their local market, if even one is late, I can’t get started)
  • Etc.

What’s key I believe is to understand the high-level concepts that methods like Getting things done, Take Back Your Life or Getting Results bring and to adopt them as you see fit. More importantly, it is also about keeping an open mind about reviewing your system.


Some key high-level concepts I believe are valid across methods are:

  • Start with high level goals (“hot spots” with Getting Results method, etc.)
  • Block time daily for “work time” and “email”
  • Identify your key projects and align your planning around this
  • Review all (goals, projects, follow up….) regularly (weekly ideally)
  • Be focused, any given day, on your top goals for the day (and probably week, month, quarter and year)
  • Don’t let your inbox own you: Turn off pop-ups, treat emails once as much as possible, and be brutal with them: delete, delegate, file, act now (if less than 2 min) or postpone (task, S+) as soon as you’re done treating them.

Then it’s for everyone to figure out what works best for him or her.

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