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6 Productivity Systems You Should Know

DJ Waldow 9 min read
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Search “productivity books” and you will get results like the below. These are actual article headlines.

30 Best Productivity Books You Should Read To Boost Your Productivity
The 10 Best Books on Productivity You Should Read in 2020
15 of the Best Time Management and Productivity Books of All Time

Let’s be honest: We all want to be more productive. When you’re focused and efficient, you get more done and have more clarity on what it is you’re working towards.

But productivity doesn’t just happen and it isn’t always as simple as “just getting to work.” Email. Text. Facebook. Instagram. Phone. TV. Gameboy. Oh, and work stuff.

So. Many. Distractions.

Our brains are easily distracted. That’s why we often require some structure and a systematic approach to help us ensure that best practices stick.

In this article, we’ll review 6 productivity systems you should know about … and how can help, of course.

But first, what ARE productive systems?

What are productivity systems and why are they necessary?

Productivity systems are practices, guidelines, or systematic methodologies that help people get things done in an efficient manner.

The best productivity systems are structured — but flexible — and are generally easy to adopt. There are many, many types of productivity systems out there, but the right one for you will depend on your personality, work style, motivators, and habits.

In 1956, cognitive psychologist George Miller hypothesized that our working memory can hold anywhere between 5 and 9 “chunks of information” at any given time. His studies inspired other researchers to look more closely at memory and how we store information. While we still don’t know definitively how much information we can stow away in our minds, psychologists and neuroscientists both agree that our working memory has a limited capacity.

And let’s not forget the aforementioned distractions.

I’d be willing to bet you’ve been distracted at least a few times since you started reading this article. If not, maybe you don’t need to keep reading. Wait. Please keep reading!

Speaking of distractions … data from the University of California show that once you’ve been sidetracked from a task, it takes a whopping 23 minutes on average to get back on task. Yikes.

This is why we need productively systems — they help keep our attention (squirrel!) focused so we can get more done. With attention spans shorter than ever (shorter than a goldfish!), this has never been more important.

While it sounds easy in theory, “I’m going to be more productive today!” isn’t a great strategy for following through on that goal. However, with a system in place, you’ve got a roadmap that will help you execute and stay on task so you get more done in less time.

Here are 6 productivity systems that can help.


Productivity System #1: Getting Things Done (GTD)

GTD. Getting Things Done.

Getting Things Done is a productivity system created by David Allen, author of the book by the same name. It helps with organizing tasks and priorities so you’re able to manage your day more easily.

“Getting Things Done is essential so you don’t get lost in a sea of tasks,” said Phil Janecic, Founder of The Mind of Steel.

The system is broken down into the following 5 steps:

  1. 1. Capture: Record everything you need to remember — ideas, assignments, projects, goals, appointments — all of it. Write ’em down on a sticky note, in a notebook, Word document, a task management app, or anywhere that is trackable. The goal: capture an external copy of the important information you have stored in your working memory.
  2. Clarify: How are you going to complete those tasks? Create measurable actions. For example, if “work on marketing plan” was something you captured in step #1, be more specific in this step. It could look like this: “solidify 3 new strategies for email marketing” or “make a list of 10 prospective micro-influencers.” The more specific, the better.
  3. Organize: Prioritize your tasks. Arrange your list into categories such as urgent, important, medium priority, and so on. You can also prioritize tasks by due dates or based on which assignments deliver the most value.
  4. Reflect: Think of this step as quality control. Review your list to see what adjustments can be made to improve your productivity system. Optimize your list! Note: Reflection is an ongoing process. Goals and priorities will change over time.
  5. Engage: Or said another way, DO … get things done. The goal of this step isn’t to start tasks, it’s to complete them. Knock items off your list one by one so you can devote 100% of your mental energy to completing one assignment before shifting your focus to the next task.

GTD is all about discipline and consistency … sticking to the program, capturing ideas, reflecting on your list, and so on.

Regardless of whether you’re leading a team or you’re just managing your personal responsibilities, the GTD approach can help you complete important tasks and tackle challenges more efficiently. It’s a great way to clear your mind of any distracting thoughts that chip away at your productivity, while also providing you with a system that allows you to track assignments and measure your progress over time.

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Productivity System #2: The Daily Trifecta

This productivity system focuses on creating a list of three key things you want to get done each day by writing them down the night before.

The theory behind this approach is that even if you only get those three things done, the day is a win. Or WIN-WIN-WIN. See what I did there?

“The Daily Trifecta helps me set clear intentions for each day and identifies the tasks to focus on in the morning, as well as the potential barriers to those tasks.” —Jason Keath, Founder of SocialFresh.

The Daily Trifecta helps to limit “to-do list overload,” helping you stay realistic about accomplishing not every task, but only those that are most essential.

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Productivity System #3: The Pomodoro Technique/Time Blocking

25 minutes on; 5 minutes off. Repeat 4x. Then take a 15-20 minute break.

That’s essentially The Pomodoro Technique. We tried it and then recorded our pros and cons.

An alternate, less rigid, version is time blocking. Instead of 25 on, 5 off, daily tasks are separated 30-90 minute blocks of time, allowing for more “single-tasking” (the opposite of multi-tasking).

Read more about time blocking in our step-by-step guide.

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Productivity System #4: Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling (called BuJo® for short) was developed by digital product designer Ryder Carroll. Carroll was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities as a young adult, so he had to find new ways to be productive–which is how bullet journaling was born.

Bullet journaling is a productivity system that serves as a form of mindfulness designed to help people organize their what while remaining mindful of their why. There’s a whole system and language (and website) dedicated to this approach.

The above 4-minute video is a pretty good explainer.

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Productivity System #5: Seinfeld Calendar System

Yeah. THAT Jerry Seinfeld, of Seinfeld fame.

Jerry Seinfeld’s ultra-simple calendar challenge is the ultimate productivity hack … err … system.

Way back in 2007, software developer Brad Isaac shared a story with Lifehacker about an encounter with Jerry Seinfeld where he asked the comedian for some “tips for a young comic.”

Seinfeld told him to “write every day.” In order to maintain motivation (and accountability), he shared his “unique calendar system he used to pressure himself to write.”

In Isaac’s words, “He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Don’t break the chain.

Productivity System #6: Eat That Frog

From wall calendars and chains to frogs.

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

The Eat That Frog productivity system is all about knocking out your biggest, most daunting task first thing in the morning so it’s done and out of the way.

Again, we tried Eat That Frog. Here is what we learned.

If your ambition, focus, and energy lags later in the day, this approach will help you capitalize on your morning momentum. Use it to get the big, scary stuff done and off your list first thing.

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How serves as a productivity system

Choosing the right productivity system can be a matter of trial and error.

Like we did with The Pomodoro Technique and Eat that Frog, you won’t know if it works for you until you’ve given it a real shot. is all about removing barriers and helping you and your team work without limits. Our Work OS empowers teams to create any workflow to manage anything they need. And we mean everything:

  • One of our latest features—monday workdocs—allows you to instantly collaborate, share, and jot down project ideas, plans, notes, and more.
  • Integrations allow you to connect the tools you already know and love with so all of your work is in one place.
  • Dashboards help you make smarter decisions with real-time data insights.
  • And much more!

Discover a new productivity approach that will help you stay on track.

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DJ is a freelance writer specializing in all things words. He's a father of 4 (including twins), husband to one, and an alum of the University of Michigan. DJ is a self-proclaimed giphy master and #HashtagAddict.
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