Creating My Productivity Workflow One Building Block At A Time

Creating My Productivity Workflow One Building Block At A Time

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In my previous post, [Developing Good Productivity Habits Will Improve Your Task Manager’s Capabilities], I pondered about what I could do to improve my task manager. Using Leo Babauta’s Zen-To-Done philosophy of adopting one habit at a time, I wanted to look for basic building blocks to create my own productivity system.


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The first habit we learn is to capture everything in our head and into a storage vessel such as a notebook or task manager. In this busy world, we don’t have the capacity to remember more than a handful of ideas and tasks. We’re bombarded by requests every day. Select one location to capture your promises, requests, desires, and responsibilities. A notebook or a task manager is a great place to start. You’ll always be able to find anything that caught your attention because you put everything into one location.

Keep the task manager or notebook easily accessible. I carry my notebook and my iPhone everywhere. Ideas come out the strangest time and I want to capture it. This makes the habit of capturing easy. I never worry about losing ideas or forgetting a promise I made to someone. If I didn’t capture it, I already lost it. Making my capture device easily accessible increases my chances of not losing anything I promised to do.

Using Checklists keep track of recurring tasks

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Keeping track of my recurring maintenance tasks can be a nightmare. I have bills to pay, plants to water, weekly sales reports, and other tasks that I need to do to maintain a certain quality of life. Checklists can be used to remember all the repeating actions that must be taken care of. Get a printout of your checklists and check each task off as you complete them. Or create a repeating checklist that refreshes itself when you finish action items.

I create my checklists inside my task manager. I also have a checklist printed out and placed on my clipboard for reference.

Sometimes I get lazy and start skipping steps. A checklist is a great way to never miss a step. Many oversights occur because I missed one simple step. For more thoughts about checklists, this book is a great introduction to the idea of using checklists in your life.

Learning how to use my calendar

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Tasks don’t schedule themselves. The task manager is a master task list grouped into projects or checklists. I refer to it when I need to do something. I learned how to time block curtain tasks and projects by monitoring my energy levels.

I recorded my energy levels and moods during an entire 4 week period. I marked down how I felt during specific times of the day. You can try a two to four week timespan to get a better idea of your energy levels throughout the day. Here’s a sample of my typical day.

I have greater focus to do Deep Work or Big Rock projects early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I usually have a mid-day crash and I need to do braindead maintenance work or a physical activity to get me going.

Track your energy levels throughout the day to determine the kind of work you can do at specific hours. This measuring stick will help you plan different types of work throughout the day to take advantage of your energy levels.

Creating a shutdown routine to prepare for tomorrow

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Routines create a sense of comfort when we know what we will be doing during certain parts of the day. My shutdown routines end my workday. I wrap up the day by going through my OmniFocus end-of-day routine.

Having a shutdown routine prepares me for the next day. I review anything that happened today, check the status of a current task or project, peek into tomorrow’s schedule, and make the game plan for the next day. When I start the next day, I already have my game plan set and start with all cylinders running.

I haven’t quite gotten to a startup routine in the morning because I’ve already figured out what I wanted to do the day before. I do see some bloggers talk about having a startup routine which includes a glass of lemon water, hot tea, a moment for meditation, and a workout. I’ll be monitoring this area that I haven’t explored yet. But it has peaked my interest. If you have a startup routine, please share what you do and why.

Be like water. Be flexible

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Building blocks of a productivity system will come and go. We add a block when we need to deal with the current situation. When it is no longer needed, we can put it away and use it for the future. Some blocks will stay and become a solid part of your foundation.

There are building blocks you can be build for the five stages of GTD:

  1. Capture
  2. Clarify
  3. Organize
  4. Reflect
  5. Engage

Adopt your building blocks one at a time. It is difficult to create a complete productivity workflow overnight. A bit more about developing your blocks can be found here:

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What building blocks do you have in your productivity system? What building blocks would you like to add? Create a schedule and search for solutions over time. Learn how to use a different part of your workflow one tool at a time. Ask your fellow Guild members how they solved a particular problem. It’s always free to ask!

Good hunting!


I’m always amazed at what I’ve been able to add to my productivity foundation over time.

The next building block I want to work on next is the idea of hyper scheduling. I can’t say I’ve bought into this idea yet. But I think I can ease into something new by working on it slowly. More about this in an upcoming post.

Has anyone else had trouble building up their productivity blocks?

This is awesome @wilsonng, thanks for sharing!

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How do you define, and measure, success?

That would be a personal measure for every one of us.

I measure my own building block one at a time. Does it solve a current problem that I have? If it doesn’t, I delete it or put it away for the future.

Building blocks will come and go. When a certain situation comes up, I take out the tools or building blocks that are needed. I put them away when I’m done.

I have a lot of custom perspectives that i try out in OmniFocus. I have some custom perspectives that stay with me. Then I have other perspectives that I no longer use.

I"ve used many parts of David Allen’s GTD. Many of it stuck. Some of it didn’t. I also used different parts of J.D. Meier’s Agile Results. I’ll use them when I need to.

What building blocks did you try that stuck with you? What building blocks didn’t work for you? There is no passing grade for me. It either sticks or it doesn’t stick. I might save a building block for later. Or I’ll use the heck out of it on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.