When it comes to raising productivity levels it can be tempting to download as many apps as possible to help you get there.

This is a common trap many of us fall into, but it’s nearly always ultimately flawed because that abundance of apps does nothing to increase your productivity.

In fact, it might even fall.

It’s actually the systems, ability to build good habits and our daily routines that sit at the core of great productivity.

This doesn’t mean productivity apps aren’t worth it – far from it, actually – it just means your main focus should be on the systems you employ to become more productive.

Why focussing on the system is so important

For instance, if you spend time getting to know the Kanban principle and avoid all other potential productivity techniques, you can then find a Kanban-based app that will suit your needs.

Mindfulness is another example; it’s easy to just jump on the first app you find for that practice (check out Calm, for starters). And then try another. And another. You get the idea.

It’s far better to understand the concept behind the system firs and then implement it into your daily life however you see fit. The tools just help you get there.

So, where do you start with productivity systems?

If truth be told, there are more productivity approaches than any of us strictly need, but there’s a lot to be said for that – it means we can find the one that best suits and integrate that into our daily working lives.

Here are some of our favourite productivity systems and concepts which we think will help you immeasurably.

1. Time blocking

This is a form of work scheduling that is great for managing time.

Rather than working to a standard 9-5 clock, time blocking encourages you to focus on one task at a time and block out specific periods of time to tackle them.

You start by identifying your biggest priorities, then your day-to-day tasks and, finally non-work stuff. Then, you customise your day to ensure those big priorities can be completed.

The Pomodoro technique will help you here, but also check out Hour Stack to better track your time and schedule tasks.

2. Kanban

The Kanban principle was first introduced by car manufacturer Toyota in the late 1940s. Known back then as ‘just in time’ manufacturing, it refers to a pull system that ensures production is based on customer demand.

In today’s world, Kanban has retained that central purpose but exists as a productivity method and a brilliant way to keep teams on track. Apps like Trello have popularised the Kanban technique.

There’s lots of ways to use Kanban, but the simplest is a board that contains columns which indicate the stages a task passes through. Then, within each column, cards are placed for each task. This allows teams to see exactly how each task is progressing.

Check out this great guide to Kanban for more information.

3. Inbox Zero

Ugh – the dreaded email inbox. It’s both a blessing and a curse for most people.

Email remains a great way to communicate, but it is so often misused. Inbox Zero helps people reduce their reliance on email and stop it dominating their day by introducing routines that ensure all emails are dealt with in a timely fashion, thus leaving a clear inbox.

4. Morning routines

wake up at 5am, sleepy man with alarm clock

Your morning routine is more important than you might think. In fact, a bad morning routine will make you significantly unproductive and feel progressively worse as the day continues.

What you do in the morning is just as important as a good night’s sleep. Therefore, rising at the same time, eating a healthy breakfast and undertaking the little tasks that get your day started are all vitally important elements.

Keep your morning routine consistent, and your productivity levels should rise.

5. Setting goals

What do you want to achieve by the end of the year? More importantly, what do you want to achieve by the end of today?

Setting goals will help you focus on what’s important. It’ll ensure you start working on tasks that matter and remain on them until you’ve ticked every single box and achieved whatever it is you need to achieve.

Goals and be long-term or short term – just make sure you set them and make them realistic.

6. The bullet journal

Pen and paper aren’t dead! The rise of the bullet journal neatly illustrates this.

You can think of bullet journaling as a diary system that encapsulates your notes, daily to-do lists and everything else that matters to your working life.

There are indeed apps that will help you bullet journal, but the vast majority of people will use traditional pen and paper. Regardless, just find a system that works for you, and stick with it!

7. Getting things done (GTD)

GTD encapsulates pretty much everything we’ve talked about today, and it should sit at the heart of your working day.

Popularised by best-selling author, David Allen, GTD encourages you to capture everything in your head, clarify the actions within, and organise those actions.

It also asks that you regularly reflect and engage with changes to your GTD system. By regularly reviewing how productive you are (or aren’t!), GTD helps you more easily identify areas where you can improve.

Omnifocus is a brilliant example of a GTD app, but there are lots more to check out on your App Store.

You might find that just one of the systems above works for you, or that a combination there if suits your style of work better. That’s cool – just make sure you stick with the system you choose and avoid having your head turned by something that might ultimately result in lower levels of productivity (it takes time to integrate these systems, after all).

Wrapping up

If you’ve been struggling with productivity in your work and home lives, we hope the above gives you the tools you need to focus on what matters.

Remember today’s takeaway: it’s all about the systems you implement, first and foremost. The apps and tools you use can come later and facilitate those systems.