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Productivity, Relying on Technology & Redundancy

Productivity, Relying on Technology & Redundancy

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    Your computer crashes. It won’t start up again. What do you do? Nothing productive. The morning’s wasted, the technician comes and tells you that you need a new hard drive, and your afternoon’s gone too while you go shopping for a new one.

    There are a million variations of this scenario. We put ourselves in a precarious position when we rely totally and completely on technology to maintain our productivity systems and execute the tasks we set for ourselves with them. Technology gives personal productivity steroids; everything’s faster. Most of us can type faster than we write and using email as a form of day-to-day communication allows us to drastically reduce the number of disruptive conversations and phone calls we receive each day. So we learn to rely on technology, so much so that when it fails — and it does — we can be left speechless when asked the old question, what’s the next action?

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    Two years ago I was in such a position. My task management system was a text file stored locally on my computer. A computer that failed with disturbing regularity. It wouldn’t have mattered if I stored my task management system in a Google Doc; at the time I didn’t have another computer, nor an iPhone, and anyway, what if Google Docs went down?

    We need to learn to rely less on technology. And I don’t mean we should ditch our computers as the hub of our productivity system, but we need redundancy. Redundancy for the system, and redundancy for the situation.

      Redundancy for the System

      Redundant systems are systems that ensure that a problem with any single component does not cause problems for other components or the system as a whole. This is usually done by doubling up on components; either the same component in a different place (such as off-site backups), or simply the same component in a different medium that is unrelated to the first.

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      So you could keep copies of your task list on two computers and ensure they’re always up to date in case one of them goes down. You could depend on Time Machine (if you’re on a Mac) to provide this sort of redundancy for you, or keep a copy in Gmail or Google Docs, or best yet (if not somewhat obsessive), all of the above. Or, you could write the list down on paper and email a copy of your computer’s list to your phone.

      When it comes to computer-based systems, synchronization between multiple devices is a good start. But it’s also a good idea to keep a copy that doesn’t rely on electrons. Your power could go out for hours (the same day you forgot to charge your laptop and phone the night before). Anything can happen with these solutions, whereas if you’ve written or printed things out, the system is a lot less fickle. Someone you live with could accidentally throw your task list out or your house could burn down (in which case the last thing on your mind will be whether your task list is okay) but it’s much less likely you’ll lose access to both your online and offline copies at once.

      Redundancy for the Situation

      The other problem with relying on technology too much has to do with execution. Even if you’ve got your task list on a piece of paper once the power goes off, what do you do? Nothing, if you haven’t planned for it. One of the excellent tools that many productivity systems provide are some sort of variation of GTD’s Contexts, and they’re useful in exactly this sort of situation (among others).

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      In almost any project, there’s usually some task that can be done without the help of a computer — even if using a computer would, under normal circumstances, be the best way to go about it. The idea is that if you’ve got your contexts set up properly, when you don’t have access to a computer, you use a context set up for offline work. No Internet connection, switch out of your @internet context and into something else. If you’ve got a fair bit that can be done offline, just make an @offline context and switch to it when you need it. You can use multiple contexts on a single task, too. If your work should be done on a computer but can be done without one, you could attach an additional @offline or @nopower context that works as a secondary to the task’s usual context.

      It’s mostly a matter of personal taste as to how you set your system up to adapt to unexpected changes, but the bottom line is that you should plan ahead for these situations and be ready to go with a list of things that can be done in the meantime.

      Contexts is about having a productivity system to include and suit the environment you are in and the tools you have available. Consider technological failure of any kind as just another environment. Planning ahead for something to go wrong isn’t being pedantic, it’s smart, and it’s even got a name in the public relations world: crisis management. Any good public relations team will have a plan in place for a crisis so that if anything happens, they can move straight into action. There’s no reason you can’t do this with personal productivity.

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      It’s much easier for us than it is for PR guys; during your weekly review, while you set up new tasks, just scan through your list, and slap a context on anything that can be done offline. Easy — takes a minute or two longer than your weekly review usually does. You could go weeks or months without using it, but it’ll be well worth it when the time for technical failure comes. Instead of having your sense of the day’s work set off course by this “disaster” and sitting there with a confused expression, you’ll be back up and running in no time. That’s what redundant systems are all about.

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      Joel Falconer

      Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

      Mastering the Art of Prioritization The Importance of Scheduling Downtime How to Make Decisions Under Pressure 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

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      1 How To Start a Conversation with Anyone 2 Where Am I Going? How to Put Your Life in Context 3 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day 4 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 5 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

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      Last Updated on August 12, 2019

      How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

      How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

      The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

      This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

      Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

      First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

      • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
      • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
      • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

      You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

      All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

      This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

      It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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      The Rules

      I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

      1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
      2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
      3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
      4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

      Who To Talk To?

      I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

      That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

      In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

      Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

      Building Confidence

      The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

      If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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      What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

      Across the Room Rapport

      This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

      In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

      People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

      The Approach

      When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

      Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

      At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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      If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

      However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

      When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

      Briefly, Approaching Groups

      When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

      The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

      A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

      More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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      It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

      Topics Of Conversation

      Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

      • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
      • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
      • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
      • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
      • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

      Exiting Conversation

      Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

      • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
      • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

      Likewise, you could start another conversation.

      If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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