“What are your go-to strategies for managing workflow while also maintaining flexibility?” This is a question I hear often when I’m speaking to a group of female creatives.
I would like to answer it for you today. I know how hard it is to juggle everything. As a creative entrepreneur, a mother, a friend, all the roles we must play and pour into ourselves, our businesses, and our personal responsibilities are a lot to manage. In the past week alone, I have:
Today, I want to share with you my simple productivity system that keeps me organized and focused. Having a system in place is crucial to catch all the balls we juggle daily, and to have the confidence to navigate through life. A good productivity system should help keep track of everything that needs to be done, and it's essential to set it up correctly.
There is no one solution that works for everyone, and what works for me might not work for you. However, I often get asked how I manage to handle multiple tasks while remaining flexible, so I want to share my system with you. It might work for you, or it might not, and that's okay.
So, let's dive into my simple productivity system.
The first step in any productivity system is to capture our ideas effectively. As productivity ninja David Allen famously said, "Our brains are for having ideas, not holding them." To accomplish this, I use a two-part capture system: one for when I'm on the go and another for when I'm at my desk.
When I'm out and about, I use Siri on my Apple phone to quickly capture any thoughts or
tasks that come to mind. For example, I might say, "Hey Siri, remind me to call the dentist this afternoon" or "Hey Siri, remind me to make an appointment with the Lexus dealership." This way, I don't have to worry about forgetting important tasks or ideas when I'm away from my desk.
When I'm at my desk, I use the Full Focus Planner, which is always in front of me. If a thought or idea pops up while I'm working, I jot it down in my planner and put a little star next to it. This way, I can keep track of my ideas and tasks without getting distracted from my work.
If you're interested in learning more about my Full Focus Planner system, check out this post. Capturing our ideas effectively is a crucial step in any productivity system, and with these two methods, I feel confident that I won't let any important ideas slip through the cracks.
And then, at the end of each week during my weekly review, I go through all of the ideas and tasks that I captured and move them into my task manager. This brings us to step two, which is organizing everything into a Trello board for my workflow. Trello is my go-to for master task lists. Inside of Trello, you can create boards to organize your creative projects and keep track of all your ideas. Instead of keeping everything in your brain, you can use Trello as a second brain to keep track of all your ideas and tasks.
So, how does Trello work? Well, it operates through a board system that utilizes the Japanese method known as Kanban, which involves using cards to organize tasks. Trello provides a board where you can keep track of information, especially for larger projects, teams, or workflows. Whether you're planning to launch a new website, track sales, or organize your next office party, Trello is an excellent tool for this. But for now, let's focus on how I use it as a workflow.
Within my workflow board, I have several lists. This is the next layer of organization within Trello. Lists are used to keep cards or specific tasks and pieces of information organized at various stages, and cards can be moved across different lists as they progress from start to finish. There's no limit to the number of lists you can create on any board, and they can be arranged and titled however you like.
In my Trello workflow board, I have four lists: To Do, Doing, Done, and Someday/Maybe for tasks or ideas that I want to keep track of but don't have the bandwidth to work on at the moment. I also have a list for my soon-to-be intern, as I'm currently hiring for that role, and a Pending list for items waiting on someone else or a piece of information or email I'm waiting to receive.
So, a card is the smallest unit of organization within Trello, but it can hold a lot of details. You can use a card to represent a task or an idea and even add additional information on the back of the card. There is no limit to the number of cards you can create, and if a task is actually a larger project, you can create a separate board to track its progress while still keeping a card for that project in your workflow system.
The next step in managing a simple productivity system is to prioritize the items on your list. During my weekly review, I go through the cards on my to-do or doing list and sort them by importance. I look at the big projects I'm working on and also prioritize tasks that can be completed in two minutes or less, so I can quickly remove them from my list and free up some space in my brain and workflow system. Trello offers a useful feature to prioritize tasks through labels. I use red, yellow, and green labels to indicate task priority. Red labels indicate tasks that need immediate attention, while green labels indicate tasks that can wait. I try to limit my top priorities to no more than three tasks at a time to avoid becoming too busy and remaining productive. The goal is to keep you living a fulfilling life beyond just being busy.
One of the sweetest benefits of this system is that you'll always know what's on your plate. No more wondering if you forgot something important or feeling like your tasks are multiplying like rabbits. If things start to feel like they're getting out of control, just bust out the someday/maybe list and let those tasks chill until you're ready to tackle them.
And let's not forget about the joy of deleting or delegating tasks. It's like a mini victory dance every time you get to remove something from your to-do list.
So what are you waiting for? Let's rock this productivity game and make every day a great day!
You don't have to chose between your personal and professional life. Here's my secret weapon for getting the family chaos to calm.