PayPal went through five different business models before finding one that works. Many of us work in areas that require solving complex problems under changing conditions. Traditional system of organizing get in the way of flow, If they take more time to maintain and adapt than needed. So on my way to simplifying the many good time and energy management techniques out there, I asked myself:
How can I organize myself in a simple way that enables fast and easy adaptation to change?
Is it possible to organize both for overview AND fluidity?


Working in more countries per week, I had to find out a way to stay sane and clear, and have my priorities at hand. So I built a system I can use and trust from everywhere, anytime. The whole system works both on paper, paperless or hybrid. I like to travel lightly, so I installed a free trello board on my phone, which I always have with me, see picture. Trying to keep things simple, I have just five columns in five colors.


personal productivity cockpit


If you find parts of it applicable to your context, I’d love to hear how your experiences are in implementing it!

I write down in a few sentences:
What is the PURPOSE of what I do?
With which STRATEGY will I get there?
Which TACTICS will help the strategy unfold?
This is the part where I force myself to write down the outcomes of my services and products, as tangible as possible. What does someone -really - buy, when she decides for my offer? Sometimes I try to explain it to my little son, which helps getting real.
Then I formulate what the world around me currently needs, the main assets I have that can contribute to some solutions and my current assumptions and beliefs about them.

I use it every time I have to take a decision on what to do next. For example: A new client or colleague offers me to work on a project, which at first sounds great (for some people, like me, every new project sounds great at first). I say thank you and ask for one day to double-check my current commitments. Then I read my current priorities, which I call 12 favorite problems. Only after that I decide and answer. Before this method, I would decide purely based on capacity or financials. This easily bring you in trouble, if you end up having many activities that may bring money but do not move your main priorities forward.
In addition, every friday I read the left side during my weekly review and every last friday of the month I review the whole productivity cockpit.

I write all my current commitments and tasks in Todoist as Projects (have a duration) or Areas (are ongoing). I will be glad to write another essay on that if needed, let me know. Now how do I decide every day which of the many tasks to prioritize?

For bigger decisions, like if to say yes or no to a new project or opportunity, I find helpful to review my 12 favorite problems. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman invented this way of slow-cooking big problems. I link it to Evernote, and even share it publicly in my signature. This makes it much easier and politer to say no to many requests. According to Peter Drucker saying no to invitations, speaking opportunities etc is the ultimate productivity tool…




How can I help corporations do strategy executionin a way that improves organisational creativity, playfulness, ease,drive, caring, growth, joy,curiosity and appreciation?  How can I contribute, or no...

Sometimes, when I feel frustrated, I sketch my ideal week to remind me of the flow I’d like to create. If I had tousand dollars for every week I actually designed that way, I would count a sum of zero. My life doesn’t work that way. I still do it, to re-check the time I should wake up, but that’s for another post…

The personal productivity cockpit is only for myself. If I need to open it up to other Business Units, Departments or Teams, this is where OKR comes in. Objectives and Key results. I find it also helpful to write WHY they are important to me, for later phases of the project, the dip, where I need motivation to keep on track.
I write down 3 Objectives (motivating big goals) for this quarter/3 months and define for every Objective 3 specific results, as measurable as possible. Some participants call this the 333 method.

Personally, I have a strong need to feel free. I have also a strong urge to create things that matters, which leads to me saying yes to many projects and opportunities. How to stay sane? I started experimenting with this lists in the last years, and find them a little lifesaver:

Based on the lessons of Peter Drucker, I try to stick to my quarterly focus areas by saying no to everything else that comes along the way as a seductive possibility. If I get asked: Would you like to lead our agile transformation? I first check if it fits to my current 12 favorite problems, then decide if to say yes or no. If I say no, I write it on this list. This will help me overcome the fear of saying no to the next attractive possibility.

Based on the assumption, that my happiness level is indirectly correlated to the amount of things I “need”, I regularly write down things I can “let go”, because I do not really need them, or not need them any more. Every time a new item comes on the list I feel lighter, relieved and a bit more free!

Productivity is about focus, not speed.

I actively build into my schedule timeblockers for leisure activities like meditating, reading, listening, walking, hiking, running, swimming, playing, dancing, singing, cooking and similar.

Freedom to me is also about setting boundaries to activities that on the long run could drain my energy.
In my case it is about crafting and maintaining three systems:

    Which parts of my custom work can be crafted in a way to act also as an additional module of scalable products?
    How can I keep my income working for me?
    How can I consolidate tasks in order to delegate them? What can be automated?

Never hurry, always sprint.

Some relations get shallow, If I forget to care for the personal integrity of the relations involved.
Since I regard personal integrity as the bedrock element of my productivity system, I actively seek spaces and moments where I can ask for feedback. I write down and review regularly the feedback I get from clients, colleagues, mentors and mentees. I learned also a powerful practice called “diamond” from my teachers Axel Exner and Alexander Doujak, and I am eternally grateful for the diamond Felicia Tenschert crafted for me. It’s purpose is to help me see my essence, the part of everyone of us that is effortless and relentless.

The iterative approach to life has changed my life completely. I regard my thoughts as assumptions to be invalidated. Whenever problems get complex, I run multiple parallel experiments as pathfinders. Once the path is found, I dig deeper and iterate, iterate, iterate. To maintain an overview of both current and past experiments, I write down on a blue card the assumptions and to invalidate them, including the duration (usually 1-3 weeks). When duration period is over, my projects teams and I distill relevant learnings and document them on the other side, easily visible in yellow. The experiment habit fosters and discovery-driven work, which enhances curiosity and helps me maintain a certain fluidity around me.


In our Productivity Seminar, we encourage to start on paper because it is much more enjoyable and creative. After the seminar participants translate their cockpit content into digital systems they trust. For example a combination of Evernote, Trello and ToDoist. Or just a nice sketchbook. Whatever works.

The more volatile my environment, the more helpful to have a trusted system that works from everywhere, anytime. Using and reviewing my productivity cockpit, I can stay on top of things, now my priorities in real-time ans act accordingly. This allows me to sprint fast when new opportunities emerge without losing the big picture.

…Where do you get stuck? I’d love to hear your take!
…Feel free to ask anything, anytime hitting reply below…

simon severinoComment