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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.

      How to Master 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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      Last Updated on March 31, 2020

      Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

      Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

      Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

      Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

      There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

      Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

      Why We Procrastinate After All?

      We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

      Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

      Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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      To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

      If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

      Is Procrastination Bad?

      Yes it is.

      Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

      Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

      Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

      It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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      The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

      Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

      For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

      A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

      Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

      Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

      How Bad Procrastination Can Be

      Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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      After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

      One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

      That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

      Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

      In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

      You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

      More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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      Procrastination, a Technical Failure

      Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

      It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

      It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

      Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

      Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

      Reference

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