Productivity has been a puzzle for me for years. Having kids, working from home, and being alive all seem to conspire to make every system fall apart at some point.

As much as I'm a gadget geek, I'm also very much a pen-and-paper gal. Maybe it's that crossing things off, with a pen, is more fulfilling. Maybe it's that I hate always staring at a screen. Maybe it's just that I'm old-fashioned.

In the last year, my productivity puzzle has really clicked. It involves three main pieces that I'll share today.

The First Piece of My Productivity Puzzle: My Bullet Journal


I thank Lisa Hendey for the clicking of my puzzle, because, as it turns out, the missing piece was the Bullet Journal, which meets my pen-and-paper need without being too time-intensive.

Bullet Journaling is pretty straightforward, and I've modified the system to suit me. I use composition notebooks, which I have in bulk thanks to school supply shopping.

I don't have success with making monthly lists: they only work for me for about the first week of the month, and then I'm in over my head and off and, while I'll brainstorm at the beginning of each month, I don't use my Bullet Journal to keep track of events the way the website suggests.

I also use a new page for each day, with Saturdays and Sundays being combined. This helps me in a few ways. First, I can jot and make notes to the side--there's plenty of room. Second, I can list EVERYTHING  that needs done (and that means I can cross off more! Yippee!). I also use categories, so instead of just a random list, I have things grouped by main project (i.e., has a section) and then I have a Miscellaneous section and a Home section.

The indexing in the front is very helpful, and it means that I can find the notes I've jotted from phone calls.

I tried to use Evernote as my bullet journal, but, even though I have a smartphone now, I still find the notebook experience to be best for me.

That said, I do live in Evernote in a number of ways. I have a "To-Do" notebook, and it's here that I stash things that need done and even do quite a bit of writing. But for the day-to-day keeping track of things, my Bullet Journal is my win.

It also gives my kids a chance to leave me little notes, which never fail to make me smile (and treasure the fact that I'm still using paper).

The Second Piece of My Productivity Puzzle: Toodledo

toodledo logo

The other piece of my to-do system is Toodledo. I discovered this a couple of years ago, and I've tried to change to other, similar (and supposedly better) systems (like Nozbe), but I keep coming back to Toodledo. It clicks with me.

I use it primarily on my computer, because most of my work is staring at my laptop screen.

Toodledo is based off the GTD (Getting Things Done) system, and they have a whole how-to about this. I'm sort of eye-rolly about it, but I have to admit this: it's helpful.

Each of my main work projects has a folder. There are also contexts, which I use to indicate the mindset I need to be in (i.e., writing, calls, errands, editorial, volunteer, school, parish). There are tons of ways to use Toodledo beyond what I'm currently using...and maybe I should look into that. Right now, it's my homebase task list with the ability to check on my phone as needed (yes, there are apps!).

You can set up reminders, delegate to other people, set things up as recurring items, use project planning, and much more.

The Third Piece of My Productivity Puzzle: Weekend Prep

Managing My To-Do -

The third piece of my productivity puzzle is really the clincher. It involves my action...and without it, I'm a mess. On Saturday or Sunday, I sit down with the week ahead. I fill out my Bullet Journal for the week ahead. (This is slightly different from what's recommended, but it's what works for me.) I cross-reference my calendar for what we have planned during the week, make sure my lists are realistic (or less-than-insane, at the very least), and breathe some prayers over all of it.

Incidentally, this is also when I do my meal planning. Often, my husband is sitting across the room from me, and I'll get his input. Honestly, dinners have never been better since he's had a chance to vote. :)

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Copyright 2014 Sarah Reinhard