Organization and Productivity

I’ve changed the tools and systems I use to keep myself organized more times than I can count. I did try to count on a previous blog post. But I’ve learned some things about organization and task management along the way:

1) Find a system that works and stick with it

2) Periodically evaluate your system to see what is working and what’s not working.

This keeps me from jumping from one tool or system back to another etc… So now I’ve started saying I’m going to work this system for “x” months and then I’ll reevaluate. I find that I’ve settled on a “system” I’m now just tweaking the tools I use.

I use a modified GTD (Getting Things Done) system to help me stay organized. I have projects that I need to keep track of and I have daily todo lists. Since July I have used a combination of OmniFocus (both on my iPhone and on my Mac) and a Moleskin pocket notebook.

But I’m making some changes. I’m dropping OmniFocus in favor of Things. OmniFocus was the first on the block in my book with it’s iPhone app. But I always felt like OmniFocus gets in my way. It has a ton of features and tools that I never used. I felt like it wanted me to use the other 90% of the application that I didn’t use.

Things from the time I opened it felt like it was made just for me. I can keep my tasks and projects in the same place. I can assign what I’m doing today, next and then someday. I have a place to brain dump. And I can assign the tags I like to use: home, errand, creative, technical, grunt, people and phone. These tags refer to locations and energy levels in how I work.

I will admit that some of it is the eye candy Things has. It feels geared towards graphic designers where OmniFocus seems geared towards your power users. Omni focus has way more features and power than Things. But I found I didn’t use those features. I wanted something simpler.

I’ve also changed how I’m using my Moleskin notebook. Because I like the small form factor of the pocket size I use a mechanical pencil to write with so I can erase and save valuable space.

I mark off the bottom 3 lines of each right side page. Here I number the page and write a one line summary or headline. Like Staff Meeting, Church Tech Camp, GFX or Video Ideas for a topic. In the back of the notebook I started an index for key information so I can easily find my notes later on.

On the left page I write out my thoughts to reflect on. Questions I have. And any actions I need to take.

So that’s what I’m doing/ using to keep myself more organized. Hopefully on task more often. And eventually more productive. This isn’t the only way by no means but it works for me. I like hearing how others keep themselves organized and focus, that’s why I shared.

How do you keep your self organized and productive? What tools are you using?


January 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , , . Personal Growth.


  1. Troy Malone replied:

    Bravo! Finding what works and sticking with it is the absolute key to finding a system that will work for the long haul. I have learned this the hard way as well. I also like your recommendation of periodic reviews as to the efficacy of your system. Being honest with yourself is a big key as well. Are you not getting things done because of your system or is it because of your habits??

    Thanks for a great article.


  2. Raj Virdi replied:

    I like this article and i agree with the above post. If you find something stick to it and master it. I have used outlook to organize my life and I think now i know a bazillion tips.


  3. lukemadden replied:

    I’ve been using OmniFocus on the Mac & iPhone since both were released. I actually beta tested the Mac app and have gradually improved its implementation over time.
    I was pretty successful with OmniFocus for a while, but its usefulness was enhanced recently by ScreenCastsOnline’s OmniFocus shows. Don McAllister does an excellent job with his shows – and his OmniFocus tutorials are first rate. They’re available on his website here:
    “Things” looks really nice, but I’m just too invested in the OmniFocus world to worry about unplugging, retraining, and assimilating back into Things on the Mac and iPhone,
    I use a Moleskine reporter notebook for ubiquitous capture. I use a large notebook for brainstorming.
    Hope that helps!


  4. Dave replied:

    I’ve found the system helps establish the habits. But I know my mind works best when I’m organized. I need to have a system that I know my tasks/ projects/ ideas are stored so I can find them later. If not I can’t focus my mind and creativity on the task at hand, I’m thinking about the other dozens things I could be getting done. For me and only me I think I’ve found the right system which helps to form the right habits so hopefully I can work more effectively.

  5. Dave replied:

    Thanks for sharing! I think OmniFocus is a great tool. It is very flexible. I like the way it syncs between the iPhone and desktop better than things. I even recommended it to several friends.

    Things works the way I was using OmniFocus but without the clutter of the advance features. I probably could have been fine without Things. And a lot of the appeal of Things to me is just the graphics and UI. I can admit that.

    I think they are both great tools, it’s good to find the one that suits you the best.

  6. Dave replied:

    I forgot to add that I use Evernote. Both the desktop app and iPhone client to store inspiration ideas, how to’s and information I’ll need later on. Like “recipes” for visual design looks. Notes to templates etc..

  7. Troy Malone replied:

    Oh, nice to hear you use Evernote. If you work on projects and need to collaborate with numerous people, you could use Pelotonics and Evernote together. Check out this use cases:

    It is essentially marrying up your Personal Productivity tool to a Group Productivity tool.

    Fun times we live in!


  8. Organizing For Creativity « Creative Church Media replied:

    […] I’ve written previously about how I organize myself for creative productivity here and here. […]

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