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The Perfect Productivity Tool

The Perfect Productivity Tool
    Photo credit: otherjoel (CC BY 2.0)

    First thing is first.

    I’m quite sorry for the bait-and-switch that I just led you into. This post won’t really tell you what the “perfect” productivity app, suite of tools, or new service is. There are a lot of other articles out there that try to do that though – in fact, you can do a search for many of them right here at Lifehack.

    What we will be talking about today is the idea of creating your own “perfect” productivity system setup with the many tools that are at your disposal. We live in an age of a flurry of new todo apps, text editors, and services that are supposed to make you more productive.

    But, what I have found is that these choices make us look for the next “perfect” system that will help us get things done rather than get things done.

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    No system is perfect

    Sorry.

    I know you think that you OmniFocus setup shows just how complicated and intricate your life is and that your tagging system in Evernote is set up perfectly to express the taxonomy of your worklife. But, in reality, you are wasting a lot of time striving for a system to be perfect that will never be.

    If you deal with this overwhelming feeling that your productivity systems and processes have to be perfect to use then I challenge you to try to go back and use paper to get things done for a little while. Paper is a great tool because it shows you exactly what you need and don’t need.

    Want to get close to a perfect productivity setup? Then strip your system down to see what is needed and what isn’t. When I took this challenge, I found that linking of projects to tasks, contexts, due dates, and tags were pretty much all I needed to get things done in my personal and “professional” life.

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    It’s in the use

    It took me quite a long time to reach the point where I can call myself “confortable” with my productivity tools and workflows. Instead of finding the applications and tools that “had the most features” or “synced across multiple operating systems and devices”, I had to step back and see just how I was going to use these tools.

    For me, portability and “syncability” were very important as I am a commuter and work a day job. I work on different operating systems through the day so having tools that are somewhat agnostic is important, yet at the same time having tools for each operating system is something I can’t get around (ie. Visual Studio for programming on Windows).

    So, to create your perfect productivity system you need to know exactly how you will be using it, what features you need, and if it needs to work cross-platform. After knowing that try to pick the tools that closely meet your requirements and then stop looking for new ones and actually use them.

    I have to tell myself this on a daily basis. You should too.

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    Don’t over-complicate things

    I’ve got a friend that constantly tells me that I over-complicate the simplest things. Nothing is further from the truth when it comes to my productivity and personal systems.

    You may think that you need that one, awesome feature in that new, shiny application. You probably don’t. The problem is that people that like the idea of “being productive” and gushing over productivity pr0n may artificially complicate projects and problems to create a need for a system that isn’t needed.

    This takes me back to the quote that Einstein said that Mr. David Allen (of GTD fame) throws around:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

    Yes, your projects and your problems may be complicated, but you don’t need to make them more so because you have to figure out the right way to tag something or the proper naming convention for a text file (this one trips me up all the time!).

    So, what can you do?

    Some common advice still stands.

    Try paper out for a while to find out what you need and don’t need in a system. Consider some simpler task managers and using straight text files. The omissions of functionality will be glaring and you won’t be able to put up with them for long. Then you can move on to the “proper” tools and systems that meet your needs.

    Once you find those tools and systems. Stop. Then be productive with them by getting things done faster and better.

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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 October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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