Advertising
Advertising

Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need

Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need
Moleskine

    Myth: Having the right portfolio planner, calendar, mole skine and containers (tools) will make someone productive.
    Reality: Having the right tools is the first part to being productive, managing your time well, and being successful. The second part, which is even more vital, is that one knows how to use the tools.

    None of us would expect to be master gardeners just because we purchased a shovel and rototiller. Nor would we think we could play Chopin because we purchased a piano. Ditto for playing like Tiger Woods simply because we bought good golf clubs. Why would we think we’d be magically productive and organized by having the right tools?

    Advertising


    Fortunately the second step to being productive and organized follows immediately on the heels of the first step. The second step is to create then implement personal standard operating procedures! Just as we know that using those clubs, garden tools, and piano, correctly and practicing will yield a good golfer, gardener, or pianist, you can be assured of turning in projects on time, having accurate budgets, and allocating your day effectively by using standard operating procedures (sops).

    Simply, the solution is to have the tools AND learn how to use them proficiently. Notice I don’t say use them perfectly – that’s a quest that requires too much energy and time. Use tools proficiently and they will impact your life in many positive ways.

    Advertising

    The concept that makes SOPs most powerful is that you ‘automate’ things that you can so that you have energy and focus for that which you cannot automate – planning, decision making, and communicating. For example, if you know that you always list phone calls to return on the next line in your notebook you will always know where to look for someone’s number. Closely linked to this SOP is ‘enter contacts into your address book weekly’ (or daily if that is better for your own SOP). An additional benefit of using the notebook (tool) consistently – elimination of scraps of paper that you have to toss into your inbox and process later so less clutter!

    A quick list of useful SOP for productivity & organization that are meant to trigger your thinking as you develop your SOPs:

    Advertising

    • Calendar SOP: list every time commitment in the calendar, print the calendar and post the copy at home (update weekly)
    • Calendar SOP: Color code types of activities
    • Business Meetings – the company color IE blue for SAP
    • Personal activities – Gold (because that’s what your time is worth)
    • Annual events like birthdays & anniversaries – Dark Green
    • Actions – Black
    • Things to do while driving around – Bright Green
    • Travel days – Red
    • Kids Activities – Orange
    • Inbox (paper) SOP: all unattended collect in the inbox. This includes receipts to be recorded, mail to be open, notes from others – everything. All things are held here until processed. Process the inbox once per day. (processing is a subject unto itself – for a future post)
    • Moleskine notebook SOP: I’ll refer you to Kathy Sierra at the Creating Passionate Users Blog because it’s ace!
    • Addressbook SOP: categorize your contacts as you enter them. This allows you to create a Holiday Card mailing list, for example, throughout the year rather than having to review every contact at that busy time of the year. Yeah, you’re streamlined.

    There are many sources from books to classes to coaches that will help you use your tools more proficiently. Explore the help menus, view the tutorials, ask a colleague, for their ideas on using productivity tools. You don’t need to learn to use them on your own!

    Previous Myths:

    Advertising

    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at Productivity Cafe, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity SOPs & tips(such as how to get home for dinner) to groups.

    More by this author

    Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need Put yourself on the line Working at Night is for Raccoons – Not You! Where You Are Depends on How You Look at Things How to Use a Notebook to Make 2008 the Best Year Ever

    Trending in Featured

    1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 How To Start a Conversation with Anyone 3 Where Am I Going? How to Put Your Life in Context 4 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day 5 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    Advertising

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    Advertising

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Advertising

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    Advertising

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Read Next