How I Stay Organised And Productive

I read this book a few years ago called Getting Things Done by David Allen and while there were a bunch of very elaborate techniques in there, the thing that changed everything for me was WRITING THINGS DOWN. He basically gets you started sitting down with a blank piece of paper and has you write down everything on your mind: All those little errands you have to run, projects that are coming up, ideas that you have for possible future projects, wishes, goals, vacations you'd like to go on, things you'd like to buy, EVERYTHING.

If you've never taken stock of the massive amount of to-dos that are running through your head at any given time, you might be surprised about how much there actually are. I think I filled 3 A4 sheets within 15 minutes. And I added more things that popped into my head in the coming hours and days. Nice! But then what?

Here's what I did with all the stuff: I made a system in which I could "file" all my to-dos to make sure that I would eventually get to them. I'm using Todoist, a programme that lets me group things into categories and make daily lists based on the due dates & times I assign. The ones I created for myself are:

Work (all the things I have to do to get art done & run my business)
Illustration Ideas (a collection of vague ideas & things I'd eventually like to paint)
Art Blog (notes & things I want to write about)
Errands (housework, doctor's appointments, grocery shopping & all other fun stuff)
Getaways (trips & other leisure activities)
Goals & Wishes (long-term things to keep track of)
Buy (things I want and/or need)
Books, Films, Music (if I hear or read an interesting title, it goes here)
Birthdays (I'm lost without writing them down)

Of course, yours will look different if you decide to give this a try. Besides these categories, Todoist also has an inbox function where you can just input ideas and things you need to take care of quickly (like that sheet of paper in the beginning). It's perfect get them out of your head. They're in a safe place now and you'll take care of them later. And at the end of the day, you can go through your inbox, assign due dates and put everything in the right category.

That brings me to the second thing that David Allen tought me: BREAKING BIG TASKS INTO SMALLER STEPS. The reason why things can seem so overwhelming at times, is because a lot of people are really bad at writing to-do-lists. They write down things like "make artbook", which is a HUGE task. You take a look at your list and immediately get discouraged because 1.) it's nothing that can get done in a day 2.) it doesn't even tell you where to start.

So let's break it down into small, ACTIONABLE chunks. What's the first thing you need to do to get the process going? I would research other people's artbooks, preferrably the ones by my favourite artists. See what kind of design and layout they're using, how many pages, at what price they're selling etc. - find out what I need to prepare for my own book. I can easily do that within a day. First task DONE. And the next one I would base on my research. Here are some examples: Research graphic designers. Research logos and fonts. Scan pencil drawings from my first sketchbook. Sketch a basic layout. Research printers.

Make it as concrete as you can. Make it actionable and INCLUDE VERBS. Plan it in a way that you can check that sucker off at the end of the day. That is so rewarding!

Let's come back to Todoist: Let's say I get this crazy idea of making a short film. The moment I think of it, I write it down in my inbox. At the end of the day, I transfer it to "Work". I'm not assigning a date yet because it's nothing I want to act on immediately. I'll just have the idea sitting there for a few days, weeks or months. Just so that I can come back to it later. And if I do and still like it, I'll start scheduling concrete steps (like I talked about in the art book example) and delete the original entry "make short film". Not that thing is in motion and I'm coming up with smaller steps to make sure it gets done. I regularly browse all my categories to see if there's any big task I want to tackle or delete (if I'm not crazy about the idea anymore). Or let's say I added "watercolours" to my Buy category a while ago and I'm ready to make the purchase now, I put in an actionable task for the next day: "order Schmicke watercolours from Amazon" so that I'll actually do it. That's basically how I deal with all the shit I need and want to get done.

Whenever I notice I'm feeling extremely anxious, it's usually because stuff has been piling up in my head. That's the point where I vomit it all into my inbox so that I don't have to think about it for the time being. Writing things down has been the most important tool in managing my anxiety and being present in the moment. There's just no way that I can focus on my task at hand when I'm thinking about the groceries I have to buy later and that payments I have to make. Getting it out on digital paper gives me so much peace of mind and I encourage everyone to give it a try!

I'm checking off "Write blog post about productivity & organisation" now!

Btw, I'm not being sponsored by Todoist. I've just come to like it. It does take a while to get used to though.

Djamila KnopfComment