2 Ways To Get Your Schedule Under Control Again

Over the last 2 years, I’ve talked to 100+ people about how they manage their time. Many employ an ad-hoc smorgasbord of techniques — paper, sticky notes, mobile apps, websites, and alarms. Others dutifully follow productivity systems like Getting Things Done (GTD), Bullet Journal, Pomodoro Technique, Building A Second Brain, or Morning Pages.

But no matter where one falls on that spectrum, one thing is constant — it all changes when life becomes harder. Loss, grief, and uncertainty make us re-evaluate. An old rule about journaling every morning suddenly feels less important after losing a loved one. Assigning each task with a priority level doesn’t feel as meaningful when we aren’t sure about paying next month’s mortgage. And getting to Inbox Zero isn’t as rewarding after losing a dream job.

As life becomes more stable, we search for how we can get things under control again. Two conflicting desires come up at this point — a yearning for restoring structure and a fear of not living up to it again. Getting organized feels good, but seeing how our old system fell short when we needed it makes it hard to trust it again.

When considering which things to change during this stage, I have two suggestions:

  1. Start by only adding elements that comfort you. If an activity (eg. journaling) comforts you, you’ll do it during times of joy and pain. If that same activity sparks a sense of obligation, you’ll drop it again when things get hard.
  2. Pick a Principal Tool, the CEO of your productivity organization. Your productivity stack might include paper, a note-taking app, a calendar app, email, and two desktop apps. But only one can be your Principle Tool. This is your source of truth, where all actions and next steps flow from. Doing this makes your organization more resilient because it allows you to narrow your focus during tough times. In sticking with the first point, pick the tool that you enjoy using the most.

Endless efficiency is not a virtue. You don’t get any extra points for maintaining the same productivity system forever. But if you’re coming out of a difficult time and ready to try something again, I hope these suggestions help.


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