I’m a big fan of David Allen’s GTD, and apply much of the GTD approach to maximizing productivity, time management, and organization. I highly suggest reading both Getting Things Done and Making It All Work.
This post would make more sense if you are familiar with the ideas in these books. (I’m also a big fan of Merlin Mann’s ‘Inbox Zero‘, which is highly related to GTD).
I use Lotus Notes and a Blackberry for work, so I fit the system to those. Works pretty well.
My To Do Categories
The system is set up to categorize To Do lists in context, not by priority. That way, when I’m in the office, I can look at the list of things I have to do while in the office; when I’m at home, I can see the things I can only do at home. The system also gives me the freedom to do things when time and energy are appropriate; it eliminates the stress caused when the next most important task is something I don’t have the energy or am not in the right place to complete.
I’ve recently added additional categories based on an estimated time to complete. I have 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 minutes, then 2, 4, and 8 hours. That way, I can quickly find things that match up with the amount of time I may have, or the amount of energy and focus I have.
At 4pm on a Friday, I’m probably busting out a couple of 15 minute phone calls, not a 4 hour analysis.
It’s working great, and coupled with keeping my inboxes empty, I’m even more productive.