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When I first got into the whole “systematic productivity” thing, I did a ton of reading on the subject. One of the things I kept coming across was people discussing which notebook and which pen they used in their own systems. I would read these, all holier-than-thou, and think something to the effect of, “a pen is a pen. Is a pen. Is a pen. Who cares?”

I was WRONG. Over the last few years, and particularly in the last few months, I’ve started to realize that the particular pen you use, or any given tool, really does make all the difference, and has a huge effect on how you feel about what you’re doing, and how well it gets done.

We’ve all got our tools. We use computers, cars, coffee makers, and all manner of other tools to help us through just about every aspect of our day. For me, personally, the tools I see most are my computer, my iPod Touch, and my cell phone. Whatever they may be for you, think about this: how much do you enjoy your tools?

That changes everything. If you’ve got a tool or a system you genuinely like using, whether it’s for the fun of crossing things off lists, or the joy of moving the slider on the iPod Touch (that one might just be me…), it makes using it a whole lot easier.

The converse is also true. For instance, my cell phone currently has an enormous scratch on its screen, that makes it really hard to see well in the light. This minor annoyance has made me far less likely to want to use my cell phone, and I’m more reticent to pull it out to enter information, because it’s just more difficult to use.

As we develop productivity systems or systems for getting things done, we often overlook the things we like for the things we find most useful. Here’s the catch, though: if we don’t like it, we won’t use it.

This applies to Web applications, and technology in general, arguably more than anything else. For almost anything you could want to do on the Web, there are multiple options, each with its own quirks and differences. We often find and use the one others use, or think is the best one. Instead, use the one you actually want to use, and then find a way to make it work in your system. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work.

Systems only work when we can trust them not to forget something, and can trust that we’ll see what we need to see, when we need to see it. That’s only going to happen when we want to use our system. That’s why I stopped using paper-based productivity systems - they weren’t any fun. I like typing, I like logging in, I like seeing the Remember the Milk cow every time I log on.

But that’s just me.  A system you like and want to use is far better than a perfect, up-to-code system that sits dormant because it’s boring and you have no desire to use it. Online or off, trust applications you can’t help but use, because they’re just too much fun – they’re the ones you’ll come back to.

What do you think? How do you find systems and tools you want to use? What are they?

Photo: sansanparrots

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