I am really excited to present the first-ever guest post on simplicitybliss.com. In a new, infrequent series I'd like to explore aspects of real-life productivity workflows and tools that are leveraged to achieve the excepted or desired. Not without some geekery I am inviting some of my respected internet buddies to share how they get stuff done. It's a special honour to have Michael Schechter starting this series with his post about his Morning Process.

The Morning Process

Overcoming disorganization often comes by adding in routines, by determining the best ways to systemize what doesn't come naturally. The GTD devout capture our ideas, categorize our tasks (giving them context, projects, start dates, due dates), process our inboxes and keep our calendar up to date. While this does wonders to let us know what we need to do and helps us determine when to do it, it still isn't always enough to properly attack your day, especially if you fall on the more disorganized end of the spectrum.

Any given day requires several resources including your calendar, your task list as well as various digital and paper accoutrements to complete everything on your agenda. So while things like processing my inboxes (both digital and physical), choosing essential tasks for the day, and regular reviews help me, taking the time to organize this all into a full day's work is what has been making all of the difference when it comes to my personal productivity.

Given the choice, I've always tended to take a digital tool over an analog one, especially for task management. Something like OmniFocus make it easier to capture and organize tasks than paper counterparts. It also has the added benefit of helping me create links to the various apps and resources I'll need through tools like the Quick Clipper, but when it comes to fully structuring a day, I find that paper reigns supreme. I've grown specifically fond of David Seah's Emergent Task Planner (ETP) which helps you to:

  1. Identify the key things you need to accomplish that day
  2. Schedule your day to accommodate tasks, appointments and breaks
  3. Capture the little things that come up throughout the day

It may seem redundant, but taking everything I have digitally and organizing it into a scheduled day on paper has provided me with some sanity and has given a serious boost to my productivity. This brief ritual helps me be realistic about what I can accomplish and keeps me on task more than any combination of calendar app and task manager alone. It also ensues that I spend less time thinking about what I should be doing and more time actually doing it.

Before the ETP, I would attack my day, primarily using OmniFocus as my guide. Unless I had an early appointment, I'd start the day by processing my email inbox to ensure there weren't any wrecking balls coming my way, creating tasks out of anything that would require more time using the Quick Clipper in OmniFocus. I'd refer to my calendar to get a feeling for where I needed to be and when and then I would assess my tasks in OmniFocus, completing them one at a time, continually referring to OmniFocus throughout the day to see what was next. While I'd flag the items that needed doing, I needed to continually check OmniFocus and decide what was next. This had the tendency to slow me down and created far too many opportunities for distraction.

While much of my routine has stayed the same, I've added in the extra step of threading everything together with the ETP. I still process my inbox, still review my calendar (this time copying them onto the ETP and accounting for any travel time), I still choose my core tasks for the day, adding them to the list and then find logical spots in the days schedule for them. As little things come up, I also capture them on the ETP and if they are not completed by the end of the day, into OmniFocus they go.

This morning process adds a few minutes to every day and saves me countless moments of confusion and frustration as to what to do next. Rather than continually jumping into OmniFocus, I only ever jump in to find reference materials that I've captured in the notes field of a task. When I go into my computer, it's now with the intent of doing something rather than deciding what it is I'd like or need to do. For some, this much structure will be too much and a blank piece of paper will suffice (or no paper at all), for others who may want to create their own structure, there's always something like Aaron Mahnke's Frictionless tools. But for me, the lightweight, easy-to-organize ETP (specifically the smaller 4x6 sticky-note version) has made it easier to take all of the possible actions in my world and get the right ones done in any given day.

What does your morning process look like?

Michael_Schechter_Headshot_reasonably_smallMichael Schechter (follow him on Twitter) shares his thoughts and wisdom on his blog A Better Mess and is one Mike at the Mikes On Mics podcast. The other Mike is Mike Vardy and it is entertaining listening to them!