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Searching for the Perfect Productivity Tool

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Searching for the Perfect Productivity Tool

    How many productivity systems, methodologies, strategies or tools have you tried so far? Do you already use something that fits your needs perfectly, or are you just doing OK, still have a feeling that something could be better?

    Many people want to find the perfect productivity system or tool. Having such goal, they consider the “searching phase” as something bad. They think about it as time they have to waste for experimenting.

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    If you still haven’t found your Holy Grail of Productivity – don’t worry. No one said you have to. Maybe there’s even no such thing in your case. That’s perfectly fine and doesn’t mean you cannot be more productive than others.

    Searching is not a waste of time

    Searching for the perfect solution may be frustrating (that’s completely normal), yet it doesn’t have to be. Even changing your attitude may work – turning “wasting my time” into “getting experience” can do wonders. Think that all this trying, searching and experimenting is in fact learning about yourself, your habits, what solutions fit you, and which methods are good.

    Of course this is a perfect example of truism. People know these things, but unfortunately they make use of such hints rarely. I always remind others (and want to be reminded as well!) to think in a way that will make them search for opportunities and “lessons learned” instead of wining that something didn’t turn out as expected.

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    So how exactly is searching for a productivity system good for you? The keyword here is “routine,” but routine cannot occur when you’re constantly changing something, right?

    Here is how I see it: when you find a way to be productive, like GTD for example, you stick to the system’s or tool’s rules. Even if you are just using a tool, like a calendar or a web app that helps you organize your to-do lists. After we use a tool or process for some time we tend to not have to think about it as much. We eventually become productivity machines and do things automatically.

    This may not sound very tempting when we put it that way, yet it’s what most of us would like to achieve; to become productivity ninjas. But when we fail over and over, trying out new patterns, tools, and strategies, we get frustrated or filled with other negative emotions. And that’s where I ask, “why?”

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    We’re all children – new things mean fun

    When I was in school and had to do projects or homework I usually visualized myself sitting at my desk, getting bored and feeling like I’m wasting my youth. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re a kid. But I found a way to cheat; I simply bought something new that I thought would help me.

    In such situations I went to a shop and got myself a new pen, pencil, notebook (not a laptop — we wrote directly on paper then), an eraser, a ruler and a compass (if it was math) or whatever I needed or wanted. All that stuff was cheap, but it was new and selected by me, hence I liked it. And I simply wanted to start using it; I just needed a reason.

    This is the same thing that happens when a child gets a new toy and wants to play with it immediately. Who would waste time to say “thank you” to auntie who bought it? Let’s play NOW!

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    How’s this relevant? When you find a new tool or system, you’re excited and you want to use it. After all, you thought it over a few times and even if you’re not sure whether it’s perfect, you’re at least eager to find out. You’re full of optimism and happiness and you have fun organizing your work. Even if the tool isn’t perfect, there’s a good chance that you’re more productive than not using the tool or methodology at all.

    Done is better than perfect

    Of course you’d like the perfect methodology – we all would. But you won’t find it without trying. So, keep at it.

    And in the meantime, just think this: you’re not wasting time if you’re already productive; it’s just that you haven’t found the perfect tool yet. You’re still on the journey to get to it.

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    Searching for the Perfect Productivity Tool

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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