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The Perfect Productivity Tool

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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 January 27, 2022

    5 Unexpected Places to Boost Your Productivity

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    5 Unexpected Places to Boost Your Productivity

    The environment of a typical office or a quiet library may sometimes lessen your productivity as the unchanging views fail to stimulate your senses and keep your brain running. If you are the kind that dislikes absolute silence or minimal noise when working, these unexpected places to work may boost your productivity level!

    1. Coffee shops

    Research has shown that an adequate amount of ambient noise stimulates your senses and keeps you alert. Where else better to find some chatter and clatter to boost your creative juices? Working in the coffee shop also guarantees something else: unlimited supplies of caffeine!

    Caffeine wakes you up by fooling adenosine receptors and speeds transmitting activities up in your nerve cells.If you do decide to try this place out, make sure that your work computer is facing the coffee shop customers so you will be less likely to procrastinate or go to inappropriate sites because people are secretly watching you.

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    If your workplace requires you to be in the office, try this website and/or phone app that provides you with sounds from coffee shops around the world. Want to work at a cafe in Paris? No problem, it’s just a button away.

    2. Cafeterias

    Similar to coffee shops, company cafeteria or food courts provide consistent noise and the smell of food. The aroma of food makes you look forward to your next break and should motivate you to complete your work.

    The act of eating likewise keeps your brain alert and produces dopamine. But make sure only to snack and stay around 60% full so that each bite is rewarding and invigorating. Snacking every 90 minutes should keep your brain balanced enough to focus on the work at hand.

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    3. Empty University Classrooms  

    Whether or not you’re an university student, we have all been a student at some point in our lives. And when you’re in a classroom, your brain is primed to stay focused because you have been conditioned to concentrate in class. In comparison to your bedroom, where your brain is primed to relax, sleep and have fun, the environment of the classroom triggers your memory to stay alert (unless you never listened in class) and work.

    If you do decide to try working in an empty university classroom, be sure to bring a studious friend. Once you see that your friend or coworker is working hard, you would feel guilty for procrastinate and be more competitive.

    Ever heard of environmental context-dependent memory? Research has shown that environmental context influences the way we encode information. If you study in the same place you first learned the material, your chances of recalling the information are significantly increased. Use environmental cues to your advantage so you spend less time doing more work!

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    4. Outdoors

    Fresh air, sunlight, cool breeze. Talk about getting your vitamin Ds the natural way. A healthy body is crucial to being productive. If you have a porch, use it to maximize your productivity!

    On a cool day, the crisp air is good for waking your brain up. If your work station is indoors and poorly ventilated, the build up of carbon dioxide will cause your brain to be less active, hence, less productive. Try to bring some work to a park nearby or an unsheltered town square where you are exposed to the sun. Fresh air will vitalize your brain and the warm sunlight will bring a smile to your face.

    5. The Shower 

    Many people experience their “Aha!” moments when they’re in the shower. Why is that? The hot water helps with circulation and improves blood flow to your brain, giving it more oxygen and nourishment to break down your work block.

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    If you aren’t motivated to work or feeling bored, a good shower will not only open up your pores, but also give your brain a boost of energy. Keep a waterproof white board and markers in the washroom so you will never lose those wonderful ideas again!

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Franke via unsplash.com

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