Have you established organising and productivity systems in your life, but you are still struggling to stay organised and productive?

The truth is systems alone won’t keep you organised and productive. Yes, systems play a critical role, but the secret to living an organised and productive life lies in routines. Routines have helped me to stay organised and get things done.

So lets breakdown the role that systems and routines play in staying organised and productive.

What Is an Organising or Productivity System?

Organising and productivity systems are methods that are designed to help you become organised and manage your time more effectively.

Here are some examples:

  • You could have a paperwork system that involves filing, various types of paperwork into categories such as medical, financial, bills etc.
  • You might use OneNote to capture and manage your notes.
  • You may utilise a productivity app like ASANA to manage your projects and tools.

These systems are designed to tell you how something is going to be done, for example:

  • If you got a medical report from your doctor, this report would be filed in the medical file.
  • If you wanted to take some notes on a presentation you are attending, you would document them in OneNote.
  • If you have a new project, you would log it in ASANA.

These are just some examples of systems that could be implemented to manage paperwork, notes and projects. Ultimately the systems set out the principles of how things in your life are going to be organised.

Here are some tips for establishing sound systems.

1. You need to understand how your systems work.

If your system is going to work for you, then you need to understand how it works. Avoid implementing a system that you are not comfortable with or not comfortable with learning. For example, if you are not confident with technology, then creating a system for managing your notes with OneNote may not be for you. Instead, you may need to establish a more traditional pen and paper system for your notes.

2. Your systems need to be easy.

A complex system doesn’t equal a better one, ensure you establish an easy to use system. For example, an effective paperwork system would involve only keeping the essential paperwork and filing it into broad categories such as health, banking etc.

3. Let go of perfection.

When it comes to establishing an organising and productivity system, it doesn’t need to be perfect from the start. Ensure that you install a system that is useable from the get-go but know that you can change it over time. If you are working towards creating a perfect system, then the chances are that you won’t get started, and nothing will get done. Aim for progress, not perfection.

But systems are only part of the story!

Regardless of what systems you establish or how good it is, it’s not going to guarantee that you will stay organised and be productive. From my experience, the key to staying organised and productive lies in setting up routines.

What Are Organising or Productivity Routines?

A routine is a sequence of actions that are regularly followed, for example:

  • A paperwork routine could be to spend an hour each Friday to review, declutter and file all incoming paperwork for the week.
  • Spending 30 minutes at the end of each day to check your to-do list and plan for the next day.

If you don’t establish and undertake your routines, disorganisation will likely reappear. One of my favourites sayings is organising is a process, not an event.

I know what you must be thinking.

Do I need to always work on staying organised?

Yes, but it doesn’t need to be hard. If you focus your life on the essentials and have established easy to use systems, undertaking your routines should be effortless.

Here are some tips on how to establish and maintain your routines.

1. Have a sound system.

If your organising and productivity system is too hard or doesn’t meet your needs, then chances are you’re not going to maintain it. So make sure you create an organising and productivity system that you understand and is easy to use.

2. Make an appointment with yourself.

We are very good at sticking with appointments we make with others such as doctors, hairdressers etc. So start to schedule in some time with yourself to perform some of your routines. For example, I schedule in one hour each Friday to review my to-do list and plan for the week ahead. Establishing this routine ensures I’m making time to work on the things that are important to me and also keeping my to-do list in order.

3. Get support.

If you are finding it challenging to get started with routines, then consider getting support from family or friends. For example, you can schedule in a video call each week with a friend where you both can work on reviewing and organising your incoming paperwork.

4. Follow your natural energy cycles.

Following your natural energy cycles involves performing specific tasks and routines based on your energy levels at a given time. Let me explain this with an example. I’m a morning person, and my mental performance is best in the morning. So I’ve made it a routine to perform tasks that require mental energy in the morning such as writing and learning. In contrast, jobs that require little mental activity are done in the evening, such as exercise and cleaning. Ultimately, I perform specific tasks and routines to align with where my energy levels are at.

Let’s Look at Systems and Routines from Another Perspective.

If you are someone that wants to get fit and healthy, you may engage with a personal trainer to establish an exercise program. You may also work with a dietician to create a meal plan based on your health needs. With the help of a personal trainer and dietician, you have a system for getting fit and healthy.

However, the exercise program and meal plan alone won’t guarantee that you will get fit and healthy. What will determine your health success will be whether you take the time to exercise and prepare/ eat healthy meals (the routine). Sticking to the routine will determine if you live a healthy lifestyle.

If you have eliminated the clutter and distractions and created simple and easy to use organising and productivity systems, then completing routines should start to run like clockwork. Ultimately it’s the combination of sound systems and solid routines that will keep you organised and productive. More importantly, systems and routines will keep you focused on achieving the things you want in life.

Tell me what are some of your favourite routines? Or what routines do you think you need to establish?