Balance Your System for Sanity

To stay effective and sane, balance the complexity of your personal effectiveness system. If it is too complex, you won’t use it. If it is not complex enough, it won’t be useful.

Try the Barebone System if you would like to start a new system. Over time, you can add features that make sense and make the system really useful.

If you already have a system and it is too complex (i.e. you are not using it), simplify it. Experiment with taking away features until your system becomes manageable again. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Reduce categories: Lots of categories and categories-within-categories of tasks and reference materials make the system hard to use; it takes extra time and mental energy to know where to place and find things. Instead, put everything into a list with far fewer categories. The same way GMail uses its search tools to find archived emails without a plague of archive folders, you can use your intelligent mind (and your computer) to scan and search for any items you might need.
  2. Limit your hoppers: One way to slow down your system is to have too many hoppers, i.e. places to record potential tasks as you seek to keep them out of your head. If you have more than a single email inbox and a notebook, you may have too many hoppers. (If you are still jotting things down on random stickies or slips of paper, you may have too few hoppers.)
  3. Avoid organization orthodoxy: Your effectiveness system is yours. If any aspect of your system isn’t working, toss it. If I suggest or anyone else (including the developers of the organization software you might be using) suggests a feature or an approach, keep it only if it works.


In your corner,


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