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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 December 13, 2019

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

    Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

    Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

    1. Just Pick One Thing

    If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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    Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

    Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

    2. Plan Ahead

    To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

    Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

    Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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    3. Anticipate Problems

    There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

    4. Pick a Start Date

    You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

    Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

    5. Go for It

    On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

    Your commitment card will say something like:

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    • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
    • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
    • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
    • I meditate daily.

    6. Accept Failure

    If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

    If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

    Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

    7. Plan Rewards

    Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

    Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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    Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

    Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

    Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new? Why not pick one from this list: 50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas And How To Achieve Each Of Them

    Featured photo credit: Ian Schneider via unsplash.com

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