My Productivity Tools
June 23, 2010 4 Comments
Ever felt like you’re in a game of electric football? Like you’re one of the players jiggling up and down slightly but never really going anywhere. I have days like that.
One of my goals for this year is to have fewer of those days by making better use of my time, by becoming more productive.
I’ve been a quasi-practitioner of David Allen’s Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done for many years now. I found it to be good in theory but I struggled to put a good process in place to make it happen. Instead I tinkered with my system (something that Allen warns against by the way) trying to find a new tool, a new technique, a new anything to make me more productive with less stress.
Earlier this year, it all began to fall in place. I discovered that my GTD problems were less system-based and more of a discipline issue. I was missing two key components: the concept of context and the discipline to routinely have a Weekly Review. I discovered this while trying out a new GTD tool – OmniFocus.
So I thought I’d share with you my current, and hopefully my lasting, system for Getting Things Done in hopes that you’ll benefit from it. Or maybe you’ll share with me some things you’ve found helpful since I’m always on the look out for something better.
One requirement for me is portability. Whatever software or system I use must be available to me when I need it. For me that usually means desktop or web application that has a mobile counterpart for my iPhone.
One of tenets of GTD is that must have a trusted system for collecting, evaluating, and managing the barrage of requests that come to you throughout the day from many different fronts. Lots of people try to handle this through their email inbox. That didn’t work for me; I tried.
Now I use my email inbox just like my snail-mailbox; things arrive and I take them out. I don’t allow things to accumulate in there for too long. Every email that comes in gets processed (evaluate and either acted up immediately, placed into a to-do item to be handled later, deleted, or filed for future reference).
This doesn’t happen everyday. In fact it usually builds up to 30 or so emails before I make some time to go through them all. Ideally I’d leave the office each evening with InboxZero. I’m still working to get there.
Omnifocus is the heart of my GTD system. I use it to keep track of my to-do lists for my clients. I can easily view the tasks by project, context, and due date. I can also flag the tasks that I plan to work on each week.
OmniFocus has “Perspectives” that narrow the long list of to-do’s to a more manageable list. One of the built-in perspectives even helps with the Weekly Review, the Achilles Heal of most GTD practitioners.
Every GTD system needs repository in which to file information that you may need later. I’ve found EverNote to really good at this. I keep meeting notes, design documents, project planning information, etc in there for future reference. It’s got great search capabilities and can index most anything – documents, pictures, hand-written notes, etc.
In consulting there are a lot of fairly mundane tasks that must be done – searching the internet for potential training materials to use upcoming class, finding the best hotel and flight bookings, locating funny or clever pictures to use in blog postings, making a trip folder, etc. All of these are required, yet not billable. And they take precious time away from the more important activities.
One way to increase productivity is to focus on the things that only you can do and delegate or outsource the tasks that someone else can do. I learned this from Stephen Wynkoop (Twitter) when he tech-edited my consulting book. It was great advice.
TimeSvr helps me to do that. TimeSvr is not so much an application as it is a service. I can outsource some of my more mundane tasks, allowing me to focus on the ones that only I can do. I’ve written about TimeSvr before so I won’t repeat it here.
Other Productivity Software
Over the years I’ve used other software and techniques in my never ending quest to be more productive, more effective in the way I spend my time.
What about you?
- What software applications do you use to be more productive?
- What techniques have you found useful?
- Is the quest for productivity any easier than that of the Holy Grail?