Category Archives: Productivity
Zen Habits has a very good list of things that will help you simplify your work day.
Most of these I’ve seen before, but here’s a new one (which is sort of similar to other things I’ve seen, but different enough I thought it was worth quoting):
# Practice a focus ritual. Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. This only takes a minute or two. You might start it by closing down your browser and maybe other open applications, and maybe even take a walk for a couple of minutes to clear your head and get your blood circulating. Then return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next. Before you check email again or go back online, work on that important task for as long as you can. Repeat this refocus ritual throughout the day, to bring yourself back. It’s also nice to take some nice deep breaths to focus yourself back on the present.
I’ve been using RescueTime for a while now, and while it hasn’t really improved my productivity, that’s mostly because I’m actually really productive already. And I can prove it thanks to RescueTime.
RescueTime is an software application you install on your computer that tracks the active application and logs that information so you can view it in their web app. You then rate the applications on how productive you are when using them. For example, when I’m using my IDE, I’m clearly being productive. Same when I’m using putty. Not so much when I’m using iTunes.
RescueTime gives you nice little graphs (one of which you can see above) on a daily and weekly basis, and you can also view your productivity by category. They also let you compare to the average of everyone who uses RescueTime and give you a rank based on your percentile.
When I first installed it, I was kind of obsessed with checking and categorizing and scoring everything and trying to get my productivity score as high as possible. When I get busy, I can drop to just checking weekly when it sends me a report via email, and I don’t even really notice it running in the background. When I’m not as overwhelmed, it’s a fun little game to play, and a small little reminder in the system tray to check what application you’re using and how that’s going to affect your productivity score. It’s also a good way to effortlessly track and log your productivity/application usage, which is especially good for people like me who love tracking productivity/output but either spend too much time time tracking stuff in spreadsheets, or go to the other extreme and just give up on tracking completely.
During the live Mindsweeping event on Twitter (@GTDSpecialEvent) I was basically writing down all my “mindsweep material” in a plain text document because when I put Next Actions into Remember The Milk, I like to tag them, put them in a context list, and prioritize them right away.*
Of course, after reviewing the items in that text document, I realized that most of them were either Next Actions or Projects that I needed to then copy and paste into RTM.
So, I kind of “redid” the Mindsweep by putting everything into the Inbox list in RTM and didn’t really eliminate a lot of the things that I’d swept out of my mind because, as I said, they had already sprung from my forehead in the form of Next Actions and Projects.
After filling up my RTM Inbox in this way, I was able to essentially conduct the Mindsweep using RTM and eliminated the step of putting the contents of the sweep somewhere else in the mean time. In the future, this will save me the step of transferring items from the “Mindsweep Dustbin” to RTM, and allow me to Organize those items at my leisure. I think that’s an important part of the Mindsweep because it means that I can sweep away everything so that my mind can detach from those items and focus on things I should be doing, while at the same time, I don’t have to spend the time organizing them unless I want to do it at that time (and if I have the time to do it). As Kelly Forrister tweeted during the Mindsweep:
I don’t think I’ve ever looked back after a GTD mindsweep and said, “Damn, I wish I didn’t do that.” It’s always valuable to me.
When I did the first Mindsweep into the text file, I almost did say “Damn, I wish I didn’t do that” because I realized I’d have to copy and paste a whole bunch of stuff that should really have already been in RTM. Now that I have gone back through and realized how easy it is to let RTM be unstructured, I can do sweep my mind more frequently without worrying that it’s going to hurt my productivity (I don’t ever consider Organizing to be unproductive because it always makes me feel good to clarify things).
To finish things off, here is a post from Kelly Forrister about clearing your mind with a Mindsweep.
* This may sound like I’m trying to capture, process, and organize all in one step. Not the case, I say. If it’s going to one of my RTM lists, then it’s already essentially been captured and processed because it has to have passed through one of my inboxen, and I’ve already decided on a Next Action or I wouldn’t be putting it on the list. So, arriving at the point where it’s been captured and I’ve got a Next Action ready means that it is time for organization. Of course, the whole point of this post is that I want to start using RTM as a capture tool in addition to an organization and review tool.
There a few key settings in order to be able to record notes to yourself and have Google Voice transcribe them for you. You can get those from that Lifehacker link, but there’s an addition note I want to make now that I’ve actually tried this.
It works, but only sort of, and you have to speak really slowly and clearly. It’s hard and actually kind of takes some practice, because the first couple times I did it, I started off slow, and Google did well with the transcription, but then I focused more on what I wanted to say and not how I was saying it and the end of the transcriptions came out like a monkey was at the keyboard.
Nevertheless, you can usually get the gist of what you wanted to make a note of, and it’s usually easier to speed-dial your GV account than it is to try to pound out a text message (or even a “note” on your smartphone). It’s also more useful than a voice note (again, if your smartphone allows for that), because you get at least some of it transcribed correctly for you, and automatically emailed to you (instead of having to send it to yourself after recording and then transcribe it from there).
So, go ahead, all tens of you readers, give it a try (if you have Google Voice) and leave a comment with your experience, and if you don’t have GV, let me know if you use something else to record and/or transcribe notes to yourself on the go.
Near the end of this podcast on Organizing, Robert (David Allen’s tech guy) makes the point, basically, that you are the boss of your future self. By “boss” he means, in the traditional 9-5 working for the man way.
Why is that important (as a concept)?
Well, would you rather have your boss just dump a whole bunch of papers on your desk, and say “do these”, or would you prefer a boss who only hands you papers when you need them, or when you don’t have anything else that you’re working (or at least, not anything that’s a higher priority)?
Would you rather have a boss who says “Here’s an entire project, get it done” or a boss who says “Here’s the first task of a project that I need you to get done. Come back to me when you are finished with this small, completable task, and I’ll tell you what to do next”?
In both cases, I’m hoping you opted for the latter. Making that decision one of the essential parts of GTD. By defining specific Next Actions and creating appropriate calendar reminders, you are essentially “managing” your future self in a way that is a Best Practices way of managing someone who works for you.