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6 Ways to Ungeek for Productivity

6 Ways to Ungeek for Productivity

    We have to have the latest and greatest gadgets. We have to be on the newest and coolest web apps. We have to be cutting-edge. But does all this technology really help with our productivity? I’ve found that there are days when I just have to back away from the bleeding edge if I want to get anything done, and despite how cool some of these toys are, I’ve found that ungeeking can up my productivity. There are a few specific ways to ungeek that I’ve found particularly useful, and I’m not talking about turning off your internet connection or cutting back on your time on Twitter.

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    1. Get a big paper calendar

    If you’re working on anything involving more than just yourself, you need a big paper calendar. That includes organizing a house full of kids, starting a business, sharing an office, or anything else involving multiple people. And don’t think I’m talking about one of those sissy little wall calendars with spaces of less than a square inch to write in. You need enough room to write multiple notes for each day. Syncing electronic calendars is all very good, but what happens if your technology goes down — or if one of your ‘team members’ isn’t old enough to have unsupervised computer access?

    2. Print off drafts

    Whether you’re working on a sketch of a website or writing out a company memo, take a minute and print it out. No matter what kind of project you’re working on, seeing it off your screen can help you catch typos, think of new directions for your design and generally take a second look at your project. I’ve found that this technique is especially useful when I have writer’s block: when I can’t produce at the keyboard, I can often figure out something to write if I switch to pen and paper.

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    3. Ask for business cards

    I don’t particularly like adding to the paper cluttering up my home and office. But pretty much anytime I go anywhere, I ask for business cards. I don’t do it to kick my networking into hyper-drive, though. After I leave the presence of the origin of the business card, I write down any next steps I need to take on the situation. For instance, I took my car in to get the oil changed. I got the card of the customer service representative and wrote down a note that I needed to put mark my calendar with a reminder to schedule the next change when it’s getting close. I carry my own notebook as well, but I like the context that business cards provide — if I just wrote appointment on the back of the card from the mechanic’s I know automatically that it’s something to do with my car.

    4. Go into the bank

    Rather than relying entirely on drive-thru or online banking, go into your bank on a semi-regular basis. Make friends with at least one of the tellers. It will pay off if there’s ever a problem with your account. Your favorite teller may not be able to make any problem go away — or may not be willing to — but if you’re friendly, she’s going to be more willing to send your case up the food chain to someone who can do something. I’ve had the same experience with tellers and cashiers: I’ve made a point of going to the same lady at my post office whenever she’s working. She knows how most of my packages go out and can get my mail handled in no time flat.

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    5. Do research at the library

    Despite what I’d like to think, Google can’t find me every detail on every topic. Depending on what I’m researching, I often go to the public library. Many libraries maintain subscriptions to databases that cost quite a bit to access, but they also have plenty of offline information. I make a habit of chatting to one of the librarians about what I’m working on. They can often point me to references that I might not have thought of or show me connections between my topic and another that I never would have found searching for keywords on the web.

    6. Go to a real show or concert

    It’s awesome to have my favorite TV shows and bands available by flipping a switch. But I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to music or watching movies while multi-tasking, even when I’m supposed to be watching a show in order to relax. Actually going out to a show or a concert forces me to step away from work and my task list and actually get some downtime. Separating myself from the environment where I know I have stuff I could be doing can be the easiest way to guarantee that I’ve gotten enough of a break that I’ll be refreshed and ready to be productive when I get back.

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    Step away from the computer

    There are some amazing tools on our computers that really can help us be more productive — but there is the occasional benefit from approaching a task without all that technology. It’s a matter of deciding if there’s a benefit in approaching a task in a way that might take a few extra minutes. Is there anything you choose to ungeek for? What makes it worth your while to go with a solution that might seem less productive?

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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