We’re always looking for a new morning routine, the ideal office environment, or the latest time-saving trick to maximize our daily productivity.
With the flurry of resources and information out there, it can be difficult to know where to start and what will actually work.
We decided to ask David Allen, the productivity expert and author of the best-seller, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” to share his top three tips.
Here’s what Allen says will put you on a path towards a more organized and stress-free life:
1. Have something to write with at all times.
Whether it is a legal pad and pen or a smartphone app, it is crucial to have a place to record thoughts. “Never keep anything in your head. Your head is not designed for holding ideas. It’s designed for having ideas,” says Allen. “If you want to maximize productivity, you have to make sure you’re not trying to use your head as your office. It’s a crappy office.”
Allen prefers a pen and paper — but there are also a handful of great to-do list apps, including: Todoist (free or $29/year) categorizes your tasks, sets dues dates, and allows you to share tasks with anyone; Any.Do (free) is a quick and simple app with a playful interface that helps you get your day off to a productive start; and Carrot ($2.99) is a to-do list with a personality, and turns everything into a game to help those who have a hard time meeting deadlines get things done.
2. Use an ‘in-basket.’
Allen uses the term “in-basket” to refer to the place where you can throw all of the things you haven’t yet decided what to do about — notes, mail, flashlights that have dead batteries, etc. — so that you don’t have to think about them in the moment.
“You should have one at home and at work,” says Allen. “It needs to be a very specific, clean, clear bucket to throw that stuff into.”
3. Pay attention to what has your attention.
“This is the most subtle hack. Start noticing what is pulling at your head, because that’s a sign that there are decisions you haven’t made or organization you haven’t done,” explains Allen. “Decide exactly what the very next action is that you have to take about it. Getting a clear head is how you get there.”
Start with focus — it’s half the battle, says Allen.