The FocusDone productivity system

A simple way to get the most important things done

Whether you want to build your career, grow a business, help others or just lead a fulfilling life; the ability to get stuff done has never being so important.

More importantly though is the ability to focus time and energy on getting the right things done. It’s easy to be busy, but not as easy to be effective.

FocusDone is a simple productivity methodology that helps you decide where to invest your time and energy for maximum impact.

It’s designed for managing the daily stream of things to do; but also helps you to refine your important long-term goals, allowing you to break them down into actionable steps, so you can make solid progress every day.

How it works

Here is a simple overview of FocusDone:

FocusDone methodology

Highlighted in blue are five key habits:

  • Collect – gathering new tasks into one place and categorising them
  • Sort – Prioritising, refining and ordering your tasks
  • Shortlist – pulling out high-priority tasks to create actionable day plans
  • Refresh – tidying, updating and re-prioritising your backlog of tasks
  • Formulate – thinking about long-term goals, which are then broken down into smaller, actionable tasks that can be prioritised alongside urgent work

I’ll explain more about the five habits in a second, but first a quick look at how to start setting up your productivity system.

Getting started

To get started, you just need to decide on the central place you’ll be collecting all your tasks.

I recommend using Trello; because it is free, easy to use and you can forward emails to it to be captured as tasks; but you can use any app or analogue product you like, just keep it simple!

This central place will become your ‘backlog’ – a term borrowed from the agile community.

Once you’ve gathered your tasks into one place, it helps to categorise them into groupings such as:

  • Home
  • Work
  • Side project
  • Bucket list of experiences
  • Clubs or social groups

That’s pretty much it!

The next step is to build the regular habits of Collecting, Sorting, Shortlisting, Refreshing and Formulating.

Collect

Collect

The first habit is pretty easy, all you need to do is remember to add the things you need to do and the things you want to do to your backlog.

Just received an invoice – then forward it to your backlog, need to pick up your dry cleaning – just add it to your backlog, had a great idea – then add it to your backlog.

Capturing all these tasks into one place makes it easier to manage them and importantly gets them out of your head, so you can focus on more interesting things.

Sort

Sort

The next habit is to go through your backlog daily and sort new tasks into the appropriate categories and priority order. As you go through the sorting process, try to order both your urgent, high priority and your non-urgent, high priority tasks above lower priority items

Urgent, high priority tasks tend to be day-to-day activities that are critical to complete within a short time frame, whilst non-urgent high priority tasks are things that help you achieve long-term goals (part of Formulate) and often get pushed back or sidelined for more urgent stuff.

It is just as important that the non-urgent tasks get prioritised and worked on.

Shortlist

Shortlist

This is the daily habit of planning your day, so that you are able to focus on the tasks that deliver the most value.

Each morning (or the night before) spend five to ten minutes reviewing your backlog to decide on the most important tasks that you’ll focus on during the day.

Once you’ve selected your tasks, write them down into a notebook or on a post-it note or schedule them into your diary – anywhere you’ll be able to keep them firmly in mind.

Aim to limit the number of tasks you select each day to three or four maximum (you can always add more from your backlog if you get these done) and try to have at least one urgent, non-important task in your list, so that each day you are making progress towards a long-term goal.

Most people will also have meetings and other general distractions taking place throughout their day, but by finding a way to focus solely on each task you start until it is done and not chopping and changing between lots of different tasks, you’ll get things finished and feel much more productive.

Refresh

RefreshYou know that feeling of satisfaction you get when you spend a day de-cluttering your home or even from just tidying up your desk? Clutter is a great inducer of stress, but once you have de-cluttered you immediately start to feel re-energised, clear headed and able to focus again.

Well, the refresh process is intended to have that same effect.

Over time your backlog will become busy and cluttered as more tasks are added, so it is important to regularly go through it to ensure the tasks are categorised and ordered correctly and to delete any tasks that are no longer relevant or are now complete.

This general housekeeping of the backlog goes hand-in-hand with the Sorting habit and it makes sense to do both of these activities together once everything is bedded in.

Formulate

Formulate

Formulate is very different to the others. In a way the first four all concern the process of keeping things running smoothly each day. Formulate on the other hand is taking time out of the daily grind to dream, ideate and design the future you want.

Needless to say it is my favourite habit of the five!

The important thing about formulating is actually turning your future dreams into reality and to do this you need to think about the tangible steps you can begin making towards them.

I’ve found ‘goal themes’ to be a good starting point for doing this. The themes are essentially categories (such as family, career, health and wealth) that contain big annual goals.

By choosing one goal per theme to focus on at a time, I can then break it down into smaller projects, habits and activities to add to my backlog, enabling me to work on them each day.

To find out more about the formulate habit, take a look at this guide: How to formulate your long-term vision and goals.

Other useful guides for long-term thinking:

Focus to get the job done

The overriding principle of FocusDone is to limit your work-in-progress so you can devote your time and energy towards finishing important work.

On a day-to-day basis, this means selecting just one or two key tasks to work on for the day and doing whatever it takes to complete them; only moving onto something else when your original tasks are done.

At a strategic level, this means picking just three or four goals to work towards and ignoring all your other ambitions until one of the goals is met.

It’s tempting to try and do more, but trying to do too many things at once leads to stress, burn-out and actually impedes your productivity.

For this productivity methodology to work for you, you’ll need to be constantly looking for ways to minimise the number of things you work on at one time.

Remember to Focus, get the job Done – and then move on to your next challenge!

Some useful guides for maintaining laser-like focus:

Using and adapting the methodology

I don’t think there will ever be a perfect, one-size-fits-all productivity system. We all have different needs and approaches, so the aim of FocusDone is to provide a framework which you can adapt to suit your own needs.

In reality I’ve adapted other tried and tested productivity techniques to create this methodolgy (I’ve just boiled them down to a simpler level). Simplicity packs a powerful punch and allows you to focus your energy on important things instead.

But don’t just take my word for it. The best way to start using FocusDone is to simply start using it! Don’t try to design the perfect system, instead start using the basic processes and build these into solid daily habits that you can improve on as you go.

Good luck 🙂

Further reading on productivity and focus

Am I productive?

Why do you want to be more productive?

Why problem-focused thinking results in better solutions

Goal systems: Why you need outcome goals, performance goals and process goals to be successful

How to catapult your career forward by creating time to focus

The difference between mission, vision, goals, objectives and strategy