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Creating A Framework For Productivity

Creating A Framework For Productivity
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    Something that has sped the development of awesome web and desktop applications over the past 10+ years is the idea of a technology or set of technologies coming together in harmony in what is known as a framework. There are many popular technical programming frameworks out there today like .NET for Windows, Ruby on Rails, or Zend for PHP. These frameworks help the programmer development applications rapidly and in much less time than it took before the frameworks were available.

    What these types of frameworks do is keep programmers productive by allowing them to concentrate on building their application rather than getting mundane and trivial things to work like database access, control usage, and even deployment in the environment the application will be used in. Without getting too-too technical, it’s pretty easy to see why frameworks are needed and appreciated by developers:

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    1. They keep mundane things out of the way.
    2. The give the programmer awesome tools to work with to get more work done.
    3. This allows the programmer to concentrate on creating her app rather than what language or technology she is using.

    Creating a framework for your life

    That being said, why don’t we take a lesson from software development and engineering and apply it directly to our productivity practice? The idea of Getting Things Done is to keep track of the more mundane and next action type of stuff to clear our heads so we can concentrate on creating rather than just checking off a list of unimportant or habitual things that need done.

    Developing a framework for your productivity can be just as liberating for us as a programming framework for coders. But what should this framework entail?

    The mundane and everyday

    One of the best tutorial ebooks I have read in the past year was Using OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini. This book should be bundled with the task management system OmniFocus because of its in depth setup of the system as well as some awesome insights about personal productivity.

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    Dini details how to setup some “Routine Maintenance” folders and projects that contain all of the routine stuff you have to keep track of. This forms the basis of the system and allows you to free yourself from simple things and look towards more creative actions and processes. He also discusses creating templates of repeated projects so you don’t have to weigh yourself down in the future with “boilerplate” types of processing.

    But what’s this mean if you aren’t an OmniFocus geek like myself? Well, you need some lists or reminders around that keep the mundane and everyday things off of your mind. Whether it be a morning, noon, and night checklist of things that need done, weekly reminders, monthly and otherwise; all you need is to set something up to remind you and help you from thinking that you are forgetting something.

    Before I was on the OmniFocus wagon I would have a repeating event on my calendar right before I left for work that had a simple checklist of things that needed done before I left the house. Things like, remember all needed school books, review your errand list for things that you need to take with you, remember your work ID, wallet, chargers and phone, etc. This simple, stupid list helped me keep the whole “I know I’m forgetting something” feeling away. This allowed me to concentrate on other bigger things that needed done in the day. It also allowed me to have my cup of coffee in peace and to actually relax before I entered my work day.

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    Taking care of the simple and mundane stuff everyday is a key part of creating your productivity framework. Without it, you will always have that sinking feeling that something is “falling through the cracks”.

    Creative tasks and doings

    Something else that I have found to be of utmost importance is to create repeating tasks for the creative parts of my life. These are things that I need to do everyday to keep my creative energy flowing and to allow myself to do something other than think about “real work”.

    There are a couple of creative tasks that I have now that repeat every single day including writing 750 words and working for at least an hour on my web app idea. This time is blocked out everyday, so no matter what I am doing two things that benefit my spirit and sanity.

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    Being productive and spending your energy on “real work” is great, but without having some “you time” your productivity framework can fall apart. Sometimes we just need to be selfish a little bit every day.

    From framework to getting important things done

    Now that you have created a framework of the mundane and creative things that you want to commit to every day, it’s time to clear them out of the way so you can concentrate on moving your projects forward and accomplishing your goals. Making these routine tasks a normal part of your day is the first step in creating a productivity framework for your life.

    The more that you don’t have to think about, especially the habitual and even boring stuff, the more you can concentrate on important aspects of your work and creating real value in the world.

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    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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