20090406-productivity-without-power

We live in interesting times. In the last decade, there have been phenomenal advances in computer technology. Tiny computers — netbooks and even smartphones — let us carry power to rival the best desktops of a decade ago, allowing us to work just about  anywhere. Web 2.0 applications ranging from simple to-do lists to full-featured word processors, spreadsheets, and even graphics editors let us create, store, access, and share data, documents, and other material easily, and often for free. Easy-to-use software keeps track of our task lists, our project plans, even our passing thoughts — and we can use text, touch, even our voices to enter data.

Unless, of course, your battery dies. Which, with all the computing power we’re squeezing out of it, it does pretty quickly.  And, of course, our PCs, laptops,netbooks, and smartphones are pretty fragile — a drop on the sidewalk or into the toilet, a power surge or spilled coffee, and the teething of puppies (ask me what happened to my old cell phone…) can take us offline and out of service pretty quick, leaving us… HELPLESS!

Getting Things Done, Old School

Of course, we didn’t always have all these amazing gadgets at our disposal, and yet somehow things got done. The Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Rushmore, Eiffel Tower, Pyramids of Egypt, Great Wall of China, and Washington Monument were all “got done” with nary a microprocessor. Ford Motor Co., Edison Electric, US Steel, and Union Pacific Railroad were built without using a single Web 2.0 app. And the empires of Britain, Rome, Persia, China, and the Soviet Union were conquered without a single Twitter, text message, email, or push-to-talk phone.

Amazing, isn’t it?

With Earth Day coming up this month (and Earth Hour a few days behind us), we thought it would be worthwhile this month to look at how we can stay productive without the bells and whistles of modern technology. Using paper instead of a spreadsheet, pencils instead ofthumb-boards , ink instead of e-ink may not ultimately be any better for the environment — the production of paper does a pretty big job on the environment, between the trees cut down and the chemicals used in processing it — but at least thinking about these issues should make us stop a moment and consider what we’re really doing when we throw a power switch just to enter a to-do list item.

On a more practical note, learning to be productive without power gives us options. Not only that, non-electronic productivity tools help make us bulletproof, allowing us to stay targeted and productive even when our technological systems fail us.

So I’ve asked all our contributors to share their favorite tips about productivity beyond the computer this month. We’ll talk about Moleskine hacks, paper lists, mind-mapping, sketching ideas with pen and paper, and much more. And we’ll be asking for your input — what are your favorite no-batteries-needed productivity tricks?

And around the middle of the month, we’ll be announcing a unique opportunity for Lifehack readers. I’m not entirely at liberty to spell out any details, but let’s just say it has something to do witheveryone’s favorite notebook. Oh, I’m sure I’ve said far too much already — just keep reading and keep your eyes open come mid-April.

And hey, feel free to ask questions, too — I’ve got a crew of great writers here, and all of us want to know how we can best help the community of Lifehack readers. If there’s something you’d like to know, especially if it has to do with staying productive without relying on technology, leave a comment on a post or visit our contact page and send  us an email.

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