There’s always the risk when you first step into the world of productivity that you lose yourself — that you spend far more time immersed in productivity books, lectures, podcasts, videos and apps than you doactually being productive. That instead of Getting Things Done, you’ll Get Productivity Books Read.
I got into productivity kind of sideways. I read Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room out of desperation shortly after leaving university; I offered to stand as a little-to-no-hope candidate for a political party, and I urgently needed a crash course in how to walk into a room full of strangers and actually talk to some of them. I was nervous, because the title sounded like the kind of icky insincerity I’d hate to embrace – but to my happy shock, her advice was excellent. True, that wasn’t a productivity book as such. But it was the gateway drug that led me to try out the Day-Timer system.
And then I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It achieved the absolute sweet spot for any author hoping to sell sequels, in that it completely changed my perspective on personal productivity while in no way altering my behaviour. Again, not a productivity book as such… but it teed me up to read Getting Things Done.
Like 7 Habits, GTD changed my outlook but also started me down the road to some degree of organization. Anyone who’s seen my desk since then can tell you that hasn’t been a road without detours, hairpin turns, switchbacks and at least one head-on collision with the 18-wheeler of my-god-where-did-all-this-paper-come-from. (All of which inspired this at one point.)
But I’m back on the productivity straight-and-narrow these days. I’m using OneTask to remind me that what I’m doing right now isn’t tracking down interesting hashtags on Twitter; WriteRoom to bang out text without distraction; and a few OmniGroup and 37Signals products to figure out what comes next. And – efficiency of efficiencies – I managed to marry not only the most interesting and amazing person I know, but Earth’s best early warning system for life-altering productivity tools. (She’s the one who first clued me into Evernote.)
When I first posted this on ReadWriteWeb yesterday, Tom Davey commented to point me to Org-mode, a plain-text organizer/note-taker built on the Emacs text editor. Which is kind of appealing, but it’s not going to be my thing. Here’s what I wrote back:
Wow, Org-mode looks elegant as hell: simple, completely open, and easily sync-able across devices. Thanks for pointing me to it!
The lack of a GUI appeals to my inner Neal Stephenson. Unfortunately, the lack of a GUI also falls prey to my outer Rob Cottingham. I must have my eye candy.
For some of us, there’s something to that. I listened to the second episode of a new podcast,Mikes on Mics, last night, and they were talking about GTD. If I remember it correctly, @mikevardy mentioned that he just likes the look and feel of his favourite task manager, and @mschechter suggested that liking the way a place looks – either your office surroundings or your digital environment – means you’re much more likely to actually work there.
And while I’m mentioning Mike Vardy, I should add that I’ve been finding his blog a great read on all things productive.
What productivity gems have you uncovered? Or are you one of those amazing people who keeps lists of tasks, priorities, dependencies and deadlines in some hyperdeveloped lobe of your brain?