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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 August 4, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

    For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

    But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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    “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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