My name is Travis Cook and I’m the CEO of Appgio the company behind Todo, a very popular productivity app. I’ve been a productivity guru for most of my life and have built a personal productivity process that has served me well. In fact I even bought this productivity app company Appigo because I’m so passionate about productivity and real world way of actually getting things done.
For the last 5 years since I bought Appigo and Todo, I surprisingly have found that not many people have a productivity system that is working for them. And I don’t mean just an app— because an app can’t solve your productivity, goal, and efficiency problems. It would be like saying a spreadsheet can solve your financial problems and get you to your goals. But Todo is a very useful tool that can assist you to get there. The most important thing is to have a working, definable, useful system that works for you.
Everyone is different. Some people like to write things down on paper. Others keep tasks in notes. Ultimately it doesn’t matter that much as long as you are consistently using, adapting and perfecting a system that works for you. But if you’re like me, there is just too much going on any given day or week to keep it in your head or just wing it.
I’ve interviewed 1000s of people about their productivity habits over the years and you’d be surprised at how few people have an effective and reliable system. Or they have a system, but they’re just not consistent with it. Most people are inconsistent with using an app to track their todos. Many people might write things down on paper or in a note, but then not go back to it later. Many people are just keeping their nose above water and doing what is the most urgent but NOT the most important thing. This explains why many people are probably not where they want to be.
I first started developing my own productivity system in college when I was taking a full class load, working part time, launching my software consulting business, and starting my family. I was busy! There is no way I could survive all of that without an effective system. Since then I’ve used this system for over 20 years to reach my goals. This system has helped me be organized and efficient enough to:
- Start and scale a 125 person software consulting company called SolutionStream
- Start and run a car dealership
- Buy and run this company Appigo, maker of Todo
- Maintain a broad list of investments, property, and ventures
- Travel the world and spend amazing amounts of time with my family and friends
- Become financially independent and pay it forward to my kids and other entrepreneurs through charity and mentoring. I’ve mentored aspiring entrepreneurs around the world including Peru, Mexico and Europe.
With the start of a new year, I would highly recommend adopting and running a productivity system that helps you to achieve your goals and find fulfillment in work and life. Although Todo is a center feature of my productivity system, you’ll see that there are several other important aspects. You might need an effective productivity system if you:
- Are too stressed about how much you need to get done
- Have trouble keeping your goals and commitments in life
- Frequently forget about important tasks, events and details that keep your life from chaos
- Are overwhelmed with so many tools, systems, and productivity options
My personal system seems basic and natural to me and works easily into my daily life. It consists of these 4 components:
1. Goal Oriented
Unless you like being busy for the sake of looking busy, you should definitely make sure all your tasks are pointing you to your long term goals. Every year and every few months, I review my long term goals and I even put them in a special List in Todo called Big Picture. I keep that simple and only have 5-10 major life goals in there. Then every week or so, I review all my tasks and make sure that they’re all getting me there. A todo list will be minimally useful if its just keeping track of non-important tasks. In fact, you’ll probably come to dislike it. But when you connect the dots and feel like all these tasks are literally getting you to your long term goals, then you look forward to planning and doing. You should break your long term goals into 3 groups— long term, medium term and short term.
We tend to keep commitments with other people more easily than we do with ourselves. Personally, I do a once-per-week planning session that has my medium-range goals for the week or month in it. I will write this down in a note and then build tasks off of my notes. But the big thing here is accountability— I can write my goals and tasks down and I’m usually pretty good about keeping them and doing them. But some people need an external accountability checkup and you can get a spouse or friend involved and tell them what your goal is. Let them hold you accountable. But if you’re constantly pushing off your goals and tasks every week, then you probably need some outside accountability help.
A good productivity system should be very adaptable to the variety and changing nature of life and its chaos. It can’t be too rigid. For me, I’m flexible but CONSISTENT about how often I check my tasks and get into “task mode”. Some weeks I’m in Todo multiple times a day and really checking things off. Other weeks, its just once or twice. But I don’t ever let a week go by without checking in and making a plan for the week. And also, avoid perfectionism when you’re making plans or doing tasks. It will stop you cold.
4. Use Inbox zero mentality for messages and tasks
I have been an inbox zero guy for most of my life and it works very well. It is always shocking to me when I see a friend’s phone with unread 5,987 emails on the app. It is very manageable if you get to inbox zero every day. An email easily falls into 5 groups:
- Done- you complete the item or request immediately and delete the email
- Later- you bump it to later/reminder using Google’s snooze feature or the Todo browser plug-in to create tasks right from my emails and browser.
- Followup- you have to forward or assign the task to someone else and are waiting on them. I don’t like these because I can’t check them off until someone else is done. But it stays on my list and bugs me until they do. I use the Task and List sharing feature of Todo to help with this.
- Save— its just information you need for later and can archive it into a long-term folder where you save things.
- Delete- Not important enough.
And I actually use this process for all my messages. These days we all get blasted with messages from all sides— texts, Slack and other IM, emails, voicemails and more. I use this same process with all of it. So all my incoming tasks/messages are all inbox zero. If you’re one of those people with thousands of unread emails, just start by deleting them all now. Start with zero. It’s a bold move but you won’t have the excuse anymore.
I sincerely hope that these suggestions and this system will inspire you to figure out and implement a system that really works for you. Good luck with this coming year and getting to your goals!