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The Productivity Family Tree

The Productivity Family Tree
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Famous families are all around us, from the Clinton dynasty to Mylie and Billy Ray Cyrus. They evoke in us so many things because we can relate, on some small level, to them. Not that many of our daughters are famous pop singers or that many of our parents are presidents. Sometimes we hate the very mention of family and at other times the thought warms our heart.

The Criteria
With family in mind, I decided to have some fun and sort through the top productivity bloggers on the Internet. To “make the grade”, each had to fulfill certain criterion:

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* Must have a full-fledged productivity website
* Must blog about productivity on a regular basis
* Must do work that relates that directly relates to or enhances productivity
* Must be known as an expert in her/his field

Right off the bat, this knocked several major contenders out of the park. David Allen is a genuine player, but is “too big” for our consideration. In addition, he blogs for Huffington Post (no small gig) but not for his own site. I wanted to create a family tree of folks who are on the front lines and may or may not have totally made big on their career goals. With this said, let me be clear in saying that there are plenty of folks who could arguably be on this list but for subjective reasons didn’t make the grade. As an example, I read 43 Folders regularly but find that there are occasionally posts that are too casual for my taste.

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The Tree

The Responsible Mom: Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro
Laura has written three fantastic books on productivity, travels the world as a productivity expert and has made a name for herself as a specialist in productivity. Her blog posts have a nice lean towards her published work and her newsletter is of top quality.

The Brainiac Dad: Matthew Cornell, Matthew Cornell
Matthew is a work-flow consultant and has made “the leap” from corporate life to self employment. His blog posts tend to be highly thought-provoking and he writes as a clinician rather than a hobbyist. Matthew also puts in the time to post on many other blogs, gaining a reputation as a genuine practitioner of productivity.

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The Go-Getter Daughter: Susan Sabo, Productivity Cafe
Susan has been featured on HGTV and is the Founder and President of Organizers Inc. Her e-book, Managing Email and Paper Mail is an excellent resource for those looking to streamline and get leaner when it comes to your productivity system.

The Up-and-Coming Son: Mark Shead, Productivity 501
Mark is the mastermind behind Productivity 501 and is excellent at meme-generation and community building within the productivity network. Productivity 501 is arguably the most stylish productivity website on the Internet and features a handy ‘store’ feature of Mark’s favorite products for getting more done in less time.

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The Fun Uncle: Leo Babauta, Zen Habits
Leo is perhaps the best example of what careful planning and creative writing can do — his Zen Habits blog climbed the Technorati top 100 list and currently sits at #43. With nearly 50,000 subscribers and his first book ready to hit bookstores, Zen Habits is a genuine source for practical advice on keeping lean and staying productive. He’s an avid runner, prolific writer and all around nice guy.

The Rich Uncle: Mark Sanborn, Sanborn & Associates
When Mark’s book The Fred Factor, hit the bookstores in 2005 it propelled Mark beyond other public speakers and married productivity with customer service. Mark is values-based and sets high standards for organizations and their interaction with customers.

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There were two neighbors who live down the street from our productivity family. These are not full-time productivity ‘experts’ but nonetheless get some serious nods due to their budding prowess as effectiveness bloggers. These include Lisa Hendey of Productivity at Home and Stephen Smith of Productivity in Context. Both deserve some love and contribute to the productivity community in marvelous ways. I can picture Lisa hosting a neighborhood bar-b-cue and Stephen helping you move that heavy couch from one room to the next.

Whether you’re in the Productivity Family Tree or aspiring to make a name for yourself in the productivity world, all of us can learn a great deal from these fine professionals. From Laura Stack to Mark Sanborn, getting things done takes on new meaning for everyday life.

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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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