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Getting Things Done: Knowing the Right Productivity System for You

Tuesday May 1, 2018 comments

Everyone needs a method for getting things done. If you don’t have a system, it’s very difficult to be productive; (and, no, a mental to-do list doesn’t count!) A good productivity system will help you build, manage, and grow your business. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each of us has different ways of getting things done, so the key is figuring out what works for YOU.

Below are four of the most popular productivity systems and what you can expect from them.


The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the early 90s by an entrepreneur named Francesco Cirillo. The idea is simple: break large jobs down into smaller, more manageable tasks. By working for a pre-determined amount of time, and then giving yourself a small break, you train your brain to focus for short periods.

How it works:

  • Break tasks up into 25-minute segments, each followed by a 5-minute break
  • After 4 segments, you get a longer break
  • Create a timetable that matches your estimated workflow
  • Protect your work time from any distractions

Required equipment:

  • Just a timer!


Personal Kanban is a visual system designed to show you what you have on your plate, what your priorities are, and what you’ve already accomplished. Its two main rules are “visualize your work” and “limit your work in progress (WIP).” If you limit how much you take on at one time, you can easily visualize, prioritize, and complete projects (without stress).

How it works:

  • Use the tool of your choice (white board, day planner, web app, etc.) to visually keep track of tasks at hand
  • Organize jobs into “Doing,” “Backlog” (not yet started), and “Done” categories
  • Arrange items in the “Doing” and “Backlog” columns by order of priority (for instance, by date due)
  • Put a cap on the number of things you have in your “Doing” section at any one time, to avoid stress
  • Move items between columns as their statuses change

Required equipment:

Getting Things Done (GTD)

GTD is the system that really started the whole productivity craze. Like the others, it offers strategies for managing your to-do list, your priorities, and your schedule. It is largely considered an effective, but complicated, system.

How it works:

  • GTD operates on 5 basic pillars:
    • Capture – Write down your tasks, thoughts, goals, and everything else, wherever you want. There is no preferred method – do whatever works for you personally (notebook, computer file, app, etc.)
    • Clarify – Don’t write down vague tasks such as “networking.” Be specific and clear, and break it down into smaller tasks if necessary.
    • Organize – Sort your actionable items via category and priority.
    • Reflect – Take the time to sit down and think about the things on your to-do list from time-to-time. Is there anything you can break down into simpler tasks or remove all together?
    • Engage – Decide on your next action and get started.

Required equipment:

  • Nothing! Whatever works for you is fine.

Zen to Done (ZTD)

Zen to Done, as you might guess, is about simplicity and focus. System creator Leo Babauta says, “It’s about the habits and the doing, not the system or the tools.”

How it works:

  • Focus on changing one habit at a time for a slower, easier path towards success
  • Learn how to complete tasks in a simple, stress-free manner
  • Place emphasis on actually doing tasks rather than creating a system
  • Structure your day around MITs (Most Important Tasks) and your week around Big Rocks (large projects)

Required equipment:

  • One small notebook for writing down ideas as they pop up
  • One small notebook or index cards for organizing your tasks

Whether you choose to work with a productivity system like Pomodoro, Kanban, GTD, or ZTD, the most important thing to remember is this: the best productivity system is the one you can stick to.