3 Personal Productivity Methods Comparison: Pros and Cons

If you find yourself:

  • Forgetting important information or missing meetings and deadlines
  • Spending a lot of time searching through lists or emails to find information or identify tasks
  • Struggling to complete work at the same pace as coworkers or competitors
  • Causing tension or frustration as team members have to wait for you or remind you to respond or contribute
  • Feeling overwhelmed with your workload and the number of distractions you deal with

… then it’s probably time for you to consider adopting personal productivity methods. Personal productivity methods help people get organized and stay organized, so that they are productive, responsive, and on time.

Personal productivity systems can be used in the workplace or in your personal life, or on any kind of projects; anywhere that you want to bring more clarity, organization, and productivity.

There are a number of different systems to choose from, and there is no perfect system for everyone.

Some are better for different kinds of projects or workplaces, some are better for different personality types, and some are better for different goals and objectives. Today we will look at a few of the most popular personal productivity methods.

1) Getting Things Done (GTD)

Overview

GTD is followed by millions of people who have found that it creates mental clarity and enables them to focus on achieving their goals. It’s the personal productivity method of many industry leaders and experts.

The core principles of GTD involve:

  • Breaking large projects and goals down into small, specific incremental tasks
  • Capturing all tasks into a single system, excluding vague tasks or inactionable items
  • Doing fast, simple, easy tasks immediately
  • Prioritizing larger tasks and working on them one at a time
GTD Flowchart

Picture credit: http://riversidebusinesscoach.com

GTD is good for

Organizing a large number of incremental steps toward big projects and big goals. GTD is perfect for clearing the mind so you can focus on the task at hand. It’s a powerful way to approach work and life.

Drawbacks of GTD

GTD requires a lot of mental discipline to follow the principles rigorously. Because it was designed to organize to-do lists and schedules, not emails, messages, or distractions, and requires you to exert a lot of control over your time, it may be less suited to workplaces that require a great deal of frequent, high-touch communication or where priorities change often, because your ability to exert that control is limited.

Setup time investment

GTD can be time-consuming to set up and implement

2) Kanban as a Personal Productivity Methods

Overview

Kanban boards are used by everyone from software companies to small businesses to private individuals who want to organize themselves. For large teams, Kanban is great for quickly visualizing the status of a project without having to produce reports. It’s also useful for people who tend to start lots of projects and struggle to finish them.

The basic Kanban system

  • Capture all tasks to be completed on an individual “card” (this can be a digital card in Kanban software like Flow-e, or something like a sticky note in a physical Kanban system)
  • Cards can be color-coded by category, project, etc.
  • Arrange cards on a board (again, this can be virtual or physical), and boards can be devoted to particular projects or categories

The board will have a column for cards/tasks that aren’t yet ready to be worked on, tasks that are ready to be worked on, tasks that are in progress, and tasks that are completed. Tasks can be prioritized within their column, with urgent ones at the top. Cards/tasks move across the board as they go through the workflow.

The core principles of personal Kanban are to visualize everything that needs to be done and limit the amount of work being done at once. Kanban recommends only one or two tasks be in progress at any one time.

personal productivity method personal kanban

Kanban is good for

Effectively communicating with a large group or team; everyone can look at the Kanban board and quickly identify areas of progress or backlogs. It’s also perfect for visual thinkers, and a physical Kanban is ideal for tactile people who enjoy writing things down and moving them around.

Drawbacks of Kanban

Physical Kanban boards require people to write down tasks that they receive digitally, involving some duplication of effort.

Setup time investment

Physical and virtual Kanban systems are fast and easy to set up and implement.

3) Inbox Zero

Overview

Inbox Zero is a personal productivity method specifically designed to organize and manage email. People who handle large volumes of email swear by Merlin Mann’s system of managing email communications.

The core system of Inbox Zero

  • Don’t leave your email client open. Silence notifications and only interact with email at scheduled times
  • Eliminate as many new items as possible by deleting or archiving them
  • Forward emails that can be delegated
  • Respond immediately to emails that can be answered in two minutes or less
  • Messages that require more lengthy responses get moved to a “requires response” folder
  • Set aside a scheduled time every day to review and answer the “requires response” emails until that folder is empty

personal productivity method GTD

Inbox Zero is good for

People who manage large volumes of email, find it a distraction from work, and struggle to respond in a timely fashion. It allows you to control your inbox, removing the volume of unread messages and responding only when necessary.

Drawbacks of Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero is a great way to manage an email box, but isn’t a comprehensive personal productivity system, and doesn’t address completion of tasks or managing a schedule.

If a workplace involves a lot of communication, or if tasks involve a lot of exchange of information, it may not be possible to log out of email for extended periods of time.

Setup time investment

Inbox Zero can be extremely time-consuming to implement and maintain, depending on the number of emails currently in your inbox and the amount of email volume you receive.

Most people who are successful with this system use a lot of filters, rules, and separate inboxes to sort, manage, and categorize emails, and those can be time-consuming to set up.

Conclusion

These are only some of the most popular personal productivity methods out there, but they are the most popular and widely adopted.

Many experts recommend trying a few different ones to find the one that works best for you, but some systems are time-consuming to set up, so trying different ones may be daunting.

However, using an app like Flow-e reduces the initial setup time of many personal productivity systems, and gives you more freedom to experiment. Most people find the greatest success with personalized or hybrid methods, so feel free to adopt what best works for you.

Pictures credit: Andreas Klassen on Unsplash