I like to keep things simple when it comes to productivity. You can spend so much time trying to "figure out what works best for you" when it comes to productivity and time management, you don't reserve any time to actually do the work! It's a trap lots of folks fall into - just look at r/productivity. A lot of conversations on that subreddit go something like this:
User A: What productivity system is the best?
User B:Anything works! The important part is that you find a tool that works for you, since you'll be using it the most. We can't make that decision for you - everything works for somebody.
User A: I totally get what you're saying. Anyway, should I try Asana or Things 3?
I don't know about you, but I'd rather focus on getting the work done than making sure I'm using the right software to do so. That's why I keep my productivity stack as simple as possible. I use Tiago Forte's methodology of getting things done like a boss (a non-affiliate link to the course I use), which has taught me to capture all of my open loops (incoming emails, calls, mail, verbally assigned tasks, things I need to follow-up on), into a to-do list manager. From there, I spend a few minutes before I dive into deep work assigning due dates, priorities, and the specific project that each task resides in. Then, I focus on the work.
For my task manager, I use Todoist. Before people jump on me for not using Basecamp's To-dos - we use Basecamp a lot! We have a different license for every single one of our portfolio companies - we're super big fans of their software and their philosophy. But changing between all of the different Basecamp instances that we have for each portfolio company, and our head office, is ineffective and inefficient. I'm much better keeping track of my assorted tasks in a separate program that allows me to look at all of my commitments at once.
Speaking of which, here's what that looks like:
My explanations will be complemented by the handy red labels with numbers on them on the above image.
#1 - My Todoist workflow starts with my Today tab, because that's what's most important - what I'm working on today. Nothing else really matters until I complete everything on this list. The specific project or commitment that it's tied to is on the right - be it private equity work, my film festival, personal development, etc.
#2 - As things pop up during the day (emails, phone calls, etc.), I'm adding them into Todoist using the handy key command "control ^ + spacebar". I write a quick note to myself describing the task, and I leave it be. When I'm finished with EVERYTHING in my Today tab, I start to sort through everything that's piled up in the To Be Sorted filter on the left hand of my screen. It contains tasks that are in the inbox, don't have a project assigned to them, or don't have a date assigned to them. I clear that out, and put everything in its right place. At that point, if there are any additional tasks that need to be completed today, I take this time to do that.
#3 - If I wrap up early and I'm feeling good about my workload, I might venture ahead and start completing tasks that were meant to be completed tomorrow. I do so by querying all tasks due today + tomorrow in a filter, and calling it Working Ahead. It's below the To Be Sorted filter on the left hand side of the screen. Looking at this filter also gives me a great view into what my workload is tomorrow, should I decide to leave the tasks alone.
#4 - Sometimes, I need to see what my commitments are across a project. This is where I'm able to view everything that I need to do in one specific vertical, say, for our portfolio companies. It places the restriction on type of task, rather than due date. I wouldn't overthink this. It's easy to make like 50 projects to sort every tiny detail in your life, and then not use most of them. I started with three projects - Personal, Work, and Academics. I'd recommend you do the same, and slowly branch out when you feel the need to add more projects to your workflow.
#5 - Finally, my workflow ends with priority tags. If I NEED to get something done today, and there's a hard deadline, it gets a red flag (you can see those in the picture). I don't use other flags on a regular basis (Todoist offers orange and blue flags) because I haven't figured out how they'll integrate into my workflow quite yet. I'm sure as I get more advanced into the Todoist world, we'll start to see that happen.
Alright - blatant sales pitch time. Use my link to sign up for Todoist, and we both get two months of free Todoist Premium. It's normally $36/yr, so it's only a little bit of cash, but it adds up. Remember though. Todoist might not be the app for you. That's okay! Use the app that helps you do your best work.