When we moved from Baltimore to north Jersey, there were several adjustments that had to be made. From a higher cost of living to the people-friendly deer population, life in Jersey is just plain different! Surprisingly, one of the biggest adjustments has been our choice of supermarkets. In Baltimore, we went to one and only one market for everything from produce to frozen goods but here we have three stores within a five minute drive. Decisions, decisions.
Initially my wife felt that we should choose one market but after visiting all three we realized that a new approach might be needed. We decided to get the bonus cards for all three and depending on our need and location, we would be flexible and shop at the market that best matched our shopping list for that day. In a strange sort of way, I think that this vignette captures the flavor of today’s knowledge worker. Instead of one tool for productivity, a toolbox is required, comprised of different tools for use at just the right time. Let’s take a look at some essential productivity concepts related to those tools.
What you need, when you need it. Let’s say you’re driving down the freeway and a great idea pops into your head- what do you do? You don’t want to lose the idea but stopping in the middle of the highway in order to write it down isn’t a safe idea either so what to do? A truly productive person will have a tool handy for capturing that idea. A cell phone might be just the thing or a voice recorder or you might in fact decide that pulling over to write down the thought is the best plan of action. Whatever the case, having the right tool at the right time is indeed worth its weight in gold. I find that having an old fashioned steno pad is always a good idea for a meeting, even if it’s going to be brief. There’s nothing more tragic than writing notes down on your boss’s business card because you don’t have a notepad handy.
Do your homework. If you’re in the market for a new productivity tool, do some homework. Check out the forums at Lifehack.org Community or do a Google search for “productivity tools”. Find out what’s working for other folks and ask questions. If you’re into paper planning, a trip to your local office superstore store might be just the thing to feel the paper and hold it up to the light.
Spend (some) money. While a pad of paper and a pen will satisfy most needs, many find that some sexy tools are needed to take things to the next level. I’ve used PDAs for years and currently run on a Palm Treo 650. In that I sign up for a wireless two-year contract, I’m forced to stay with my device for two years, getting plenty of use from a gadget that serves as both organizer and cell phone. The gadget doesn’t make the man but it can often be an essential tool for adding some “go” to your productivity toolbox.
Shrug off the peer pressure. The next time you’re tempted to feel guilty or jealous over someone else’s productivity, shrug it off. Hey, they might be posers who are just as helpless as the next guy! Check your productivity temperature, evaluate your current stress levels and get back to your system. Don’t let the next guy’s gadget get in the way of doing your thing.
Major investments deserve major time. If you’re going to put down a chunk of change for a new BlackBerry or iPhone, you’ll want to maximize return on investment. For me, the two-year cell contract ensures that I’m going to stay with my PDA for at least two years. If you purchase a new planner, don’t give it a week and then let it collect dust on the shelf- give it three or four weeks and put it to work.
Avoid perpetual “testing”. There are folks who are addicted to self improvement in the way that talk show junkies can’t get enough of the latest tell-all authors on the speaking circuit. Rather than running out to try and demo the latest gadget or productivity fad, be a person with great habits and routines. Work on your sleeping patterns, eat well and work smart. As with a child who is learning to play baseball, the basics are what make for a productive person. Instead of hitting, catching and throwing, the knowledge worker practices list keeping, time management and planning.
Whether you’re running to the supermarket(s) of choice or navigating a busy schedule, get comfortable with a variety of tools for getting the job done. Your productivity will thank you for it!
Mike St. Pierre blogs about productivity and work-life balance at The Daily Saint.