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Productivity Without Power

Productivity Without Power

20090406-productivity-without-power

    We live in interesting times. In the last decade, there have been phenomenal advances in computer technology. Tiny computers — netbooks and even smartphones — let us carry power to rival the best desktops of a decade ago, allowing us to work just about  anywhere. Web 2.0 applications ranging from simple to-do lists to full-featured word processors, spreadsheets, and even graphics editors let us create, store, access, and share data, documents, and other material easily, and often for free. Easy-to-use software keeps track of our task lists, our project plans, even our passing thoughts — and we can use text, touch, even our voices to enter data.

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    Unless, of course, your battery dies. Which, with all the computing power we’re squeezing out of it, it does pretty quickly.  And, of course, our PCs, laptops,netbooks, and smartphones are pretty fragile — a drop on the sidewalk or into the toilet, a power surge or spilled coffee, and the teething of puppies (ask me what happened to my old cell phone…) can take us offline and out of service pretty quick, leaving us… HELPLESS!

    Getting Things Done, Old School

    Of course, we didn’t always have all these amazing gadgets at our disposal, and yet somehow things got done. The Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Rushmore, Eiffel Tower, Pyramids of Egypt, Great Wall of China, and Washington Monument were all “got done” with nary a microprocessor. Ford Motor Co., Edison Electric, US Steel, and Union Pacific Railroad were built without using a single Web 2.0 app. And the empires of Britain, Rome, Persia, China, and the Soviet Union were conquered without a single Twitter, text message, email, or push-to-talk phone.

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    Amazing, isn’t it?

    With Earth Day coming up this month (and Earth Hour a few days behind us), we thought it would be worthwhile this month to look at how we can stay productive without the bells and whistles of modern technology. Using paper instead of a spreadsheet, pencils instead ofthumb-boards , ink instead of e-ink may not ultimately be any better for the environment — the production of paper does a pretty big job on the environment, between the trees cut down and the chemicals used in processing it — but at least thinking about these issues should make us stop a moment and consider what we’re really doing when we throw a power switch just to enter a to-do list item.

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    On a more practical note, learning to be productive without power gives us options. Not only that, non-electronic productivity tools help make us bulletproof, allowing us to stay targeted and productive even when our technological systems fail us.

    So I’ve asked all our contributors to share their favorite tips about productivity beyond the computer this month. We’ll talk about Moleskine hacks, paper lists, mind-mapping, sketching ideas with pen and paper, and much more. And we’ll be asking for your input — what are your favorite no-batteries-needed productivity tricks?

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    And around the middle of the month, we’ll be announcing a unique opportunity for Lifehack readers. I’m not entirely at liberty to spell out any details, but let’s just say it has something to do witheveryone’s favorite notebook. Oh, I’m sure I’ve said far too much already — just keep reading and keep your eyes open come mid-April.

    And hey, feel free to ask questions, too — I’ve got a crew of great writers here, and all of us want to know how we can best help the community of Lifehack readers. If there’s something you’d like to know, especially if it has to do with staying productive without relying on technology, leave a comment on a post or visit our contact page and send  us an email.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    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.
    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, “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, “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.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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