After you’ve been systemising, routinizing or ritualising some of the routine parts of your daily life and adding productive habits such as planning each day the night before, you will have implemented a number of systems. This post is about taking stock of your productivity systems, ensuring that they support your goals and making changes to boost the effectiveness of these systems.

What is a productivity system?

A productivity system consists of Inputs, Process and Output. These parts work together to achieve a specific purpose or create a specific output. For example for my Email Cleanse system (that is, processing emails)

Inputs are:

  • 30mins free time
  • Distraction free environment

Process:

  • Cycle through Inbox and with each email; action it, or move it to another folder, or delete it
  • Cycle through Reply folder and with each email; action it, or move it to reference folder, or delete it

Output is:

  • Nothing left in email inbox, Reduced number of emails in Reply folder

Step 1: Identify your productivity systems

Your productivity systems audit starts with you making a list of your productivity systems. For example your list may include:

  1. Email cleanse
  2. Paper cleanse (if you hoard printouts in your drawer, you need a system to get rid of them!)
  3. Process actions log
  4. Task management system
  5. Morning ritual
  6. Evening ritual

Step 2: Draw an IPO diagram for each system

Drawing a simple IPO diagram for each system will help you clarify what’s going on in each system so that you can analyse the inputs and the steps of the process to look for improvements. First list the things that you need to have in place before starting the process. These are the inputs and include your environment, mood and energy levels.

Next list the output(s) of the system. This helps you clarify the purpose of each of your productivity systems. Your productivity systems must work to achieve a specific purpose.

For the process, list all the steps you go through to transform the input into the output.

IPOStep 3: Confirm that you have the right systems

Once you have the IPO diagrams you can take a step back and ensure that these systems support your goals. E.g. the output of the Email cleanse and Paper cleanse systems above is a reduced number emails and papers, supporting your goal of living the Minimalist Luxury Lifestyle! If a system doesn’t support your goals, you may not need it anymore, in which case you should remove it from your daily work.

Also think about whether there are areas you want to be more productive that are not addressed by your current systems and could benefit from you developing a new system.

Step 4: Analyse the process

Review the steps you have in the process section for your systems. Do they all add value or can any of them be removed? Is there a more efficient way to achieve the output? Can you use technology or new tools to replace some of the steps?

By reviewing the steps, you’ll come up with improvements that will increase the effectiveness of your systems.

Step 5: Analyse the inputs

Review what you’ve listed in the inputs section for your systems. Are there any areas where you can set up your environment for success? I.e. set up the environment to be conducive to getting things done efficiently. For example for your morning ritual system would include getting dressed. You can create the right environment to enable this system to run most effectively by laying out your clothes the night before.

Reviewing the inputs in this way will yield another batch of improvements that you could implement to increase the effectiveness of your systems.

Step 6: Make small changes

Now you can start making small incremental changes to improve each of your productivity systems. Take one of the improvements you came up with after analysing the process and inputs for each of your systems. If you’re wondering which one to select, select one that’s relatively easy to implement and that you think will provide a relatively large gain. Implement this change.

Step 7: Check the impact and feed into the next productivity systems audit

Now that you’ve made a small change, you need to check that the system is working better as expected. Continue implementing small changes to your systems to generate continuous improvement and ensure that your systems are working for you as effectively as possible.

Finishing notes

It’s important to do the full systems audit once in a while because you need to take stock of your productivity systems to ensure that they are the right systems to have. That is, they contribute to your objectives. However you only need to do this one or two times a year, and spend the rest of your systems improvement time on making incremental changes. You don’t want to spend too much time constantly redoing all your productivity systems, or you’ll never get anything done! Aim to find a balance.

Also while this is another great productivity idea on its own, make sure it fits in with your overall productivity goals and objectives. If you introduce too many different systems and these end up conflicting with each other, this will impact your productivity as well. Each of your systems needs to work together to support your overall productivity goals and objectives.

How do you ensure your productivity systems keep working for you as effectively as possible?

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