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The Internet and Productivity: A Love/Hate Relationship

The Internet and Productivity: A Love/Hate Relationship

    As hundreds to thousands of American websites go “dark” to protest the current SOPA and PIPA proposals that are in front of their government leaders, they have found that they aren’t alone in this plight. Around the world many other websites from many other countries are uniting with their American Internet colleagues, truly demonstrating that the web is indeed “worldwide” and assembling the largest online protest in history.

    While Lifehack.org hasn’t gone this route today, I’m going to take a look at what the Internet has done (and not done) for those who have wanted to get more productivity out of themselves and their coworkers. Whether you’re looking for solutions to bottlenecks in your workload, want to communicate better with your teammates or simply want to shape your life so that you can live it to its fullest, the Internet has played a part. I’m not saying it’s always been an ally – because for many of us it hasn’t – but I am saying it has played a part. The Internet and productivity have a love/hate relationship, and it’s important to understand that proposed legislation like SOPA (which appears to have been killed) and PIPA will have a real impact on both sides of the equation.

    Why Productivity Loves the Internet

    I could very easily drive off course here and discuss why I love that productivity loves the Internet, but I’ll do my best to avoid that.

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    The ability to use comprehensive web apps – whether it be Asana or Flow – or a secondary web app like Dropbox to sync up your tasks and projects, the Internet has made it so much easier for so many people to get things done. You’d be hard-pressed to see iOS and Android devices that could sync as well as they do if the Internet didn’t exist in its current form. In addition, websites such as Lifehack.org would have a much tougher time getting the message out if there was no Internet – because the only way they could exist is in print form. And while productivity sites are pretty popular in the online world, they can’t stand on their own in the offline one.

    Without the Internet there would be far fewer resources for people to look to should they want to improve their productivity. As for collaboration tools, they would be a distant memory (or a figment of the imagination) if it weren’t for this “series of tubes” – as one of the US lawmakers described the base technology you’re using to read this piece right now.

    Think about it: Without the Internet, productivity tools would be far less advanced than they are today.

    That said, some people may not think that’s necessarily a bad thing…

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    Why Productivity Hates the Internet

    When we had electronic organizers and paper planners to help us get stuff done, that’s exactly what they were for. They didn’t check email, they didn’t play games, and they didn’t do Twitter or Facebook.

    But the Internet does all of those things…and more.

    The best part about the Internet when it comes to productivity is also its worst. It can help or hurt you, depending on what you, as the end user, does with it.

    The distractions that come with being able to access anything, anytime has done as much to harm the productivity of many as it has done to enhance it for others. But like those who choose paper over digital despite having the option to go with the latter, users have the same type of choice when it comes to using the Internet. You can use it responsibly or you can just use it. You just need to be prepared for the consequences either way.

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    What do I mean by that?

    Should you put all of “your productivity eggs in the Internet basket” and it goes down – either in error or on purpose – you had best be ready to deal with what you had on your plate regardless. The thing about analog tools is that you have control over them from beginning to end. How you choose to implement them, what ones you use, what happens to them before and afterward – that’s all on you.

    But with a web app or a software solution that works by connecting to the Internet in some fashion, you’re giving up some form of control. Even if it is a small amount, like syncing, it can be a vital amount. Losing all of what you’ve stored online because of a glitch (or perhaps a server being shut down due to violating the terms set out in a country’s laws) isn’t exactly something you’re ready for. But you might be wise to do so.

    Your Internet. Your Productivity.

    Today is a great to sit down and figure out whether or not you really value the Internet and productivity as a union or if you don’t. You’re not going to be able to remove the internet from the process entirely – email is on the Internet, after all – but you can lessen your reliance on it.

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    But do you really want to? Or do you really not want to have a choice in the matter?

    The Internet is a valuable resource that the world needs. It serves to connect us and can make what used to be impossible possible. Productivity types like myself (and likely yourself) have tools and tactics we employ every day that involve using it. Many people nowadays make their living on it. Many of those using it don’t understand all of it, and that’s fine. The problem lies when those that don’t can control its future.

    The only person that should be able to split up the Internet and productivity is you. Don’t let anyone take that choice away from you, no matter how tough that choice may be.

    Editor’s Note: If you want to learn more about SOPA and PIPA, head over to Stop American Censorship.

    (Photo credit: Road Signs Showing the Way to Hate and Love via Shutterstock)

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    The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

    The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

    Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

    It’s also unnecessary.

    Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.

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    Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

    But it’s not about that. Not at all.

    Here’s what it actually is, as defined by Mann:

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    “It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

    The Fake Inbox Zero

    The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

    Certainly by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”. You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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    Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero. However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

    So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero? Have zero inboxes.

    The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it. So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention. You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. that’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It’s allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

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    The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to. There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

    Stop Faking It

    Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

    Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

    If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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