Task, Information Management and Productivity Systems

plannerOver the past two days, I’ve focused on to-do lists, including tips for increasing productivity and a set of online tools to consider. Today, I’m going to take a step back and cover a vital element of successfully using to-do lists (and managing tasks and information on a broader basis) – the system.

As you can see from many of the comments my previous posts have received, there are many, many ways you can organize your information and create your own lists. I think most people just start with a list because they have certain things they need to do and don’t want to forget about them. Then, over time the process for their lists begins to take shape and become a system that functions well for them.

But if you need a new starting point, want to revamp your current system, or are just looking for new ideas on managing tasks, time and information in a more productive way, there are a few established and popular systems out there. You can use these philosophies for simple to-do lists or even on a greater scale as information (and life) management systems.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Getting Things Done is an information and time management system outlined in the book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. The goal of the system is to eliminate feelings of overwhelm and create an environment of stress-free productivity. As a very well-known system, GTD has quite a following, and there have been a number of apps and tools developed to support this approach.

It’s based on a common sense approach and helps structure how people tend to view and define information, projects and tasks. While the system provides this structure, it also allows for flexibility and customization based on your own needs.

For more information on GTD, visit:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This productivity system is based on the book of the same name by Stephen Covey. As a more life-encompassing approach, it may be too much for the simplest of applications (i.e. a daily to-do list), but there’s no denying that this system focuses on applying timeless principles that can yield greater productivity across the board.

For more information and to see how others are applying the 7 Habits to their daily tasks and life management, visit:

Zen to Done (ZTD)

ZTD is a system created by Leo Babauta that is based on a combination of GTD and 7 Habits; it’s a more simplified and potentially less intimidating version of the same overall principles. The system addresses some of the most common problems people have applying GTD and provides solutions, focusing on becoming goal-oriented for one habit at a time.

The underlying theme is simplicity, so this can be an attractive option for many who may be overwhelmed by the more robust systems.

For more information, visit:

Still Want Paper?

If you prefer the physical use of pen and paper, you can still use the approaches listed above. In fact, many people are already successfully using a paper-based system (Moleskine notebooks are very popular for this, but you can use a regular notebook, index cards, loose paper, etc.) to incorporate some of these principles. The point is that there are no restrictions because you start with a blank slate and the system is exactly what you make of it. You can move in and out of formalized approaches as necessary.

For more information on paper-based approaches:

The systems covered today are approaches that I’ve explored over the years; they can apply to a number of different personalities and preferences. What’s your favorite? Or have you created your own system to keep track of important tasks and information?

Related posts:
To-Do Lists: 10 Tips for Increasing Productivity
To-Do Lists: 12 Online Tools for Organizing Your Tasks

Image credit: Hilde Vanstraelen

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