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When More Is Less

When More Is Less
    Image credit: ImJustCreative

    Too often we look for a silver bullet, one app or one program that will solve it all. For some, this works. All it takes is a quick read of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and they are on their way. For most of us, especially those that tend to read these sites, there is no get-rich-quick approach to productivity. It just isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition for us.

    More often than not, prevailing wisdom and general laziness lead us to try and take powerful, albeit bloated applications like Outlook and attempt to make them work for us. We learn all the bells and whistles, ignore what we don’t want to use and try to manage our contacts, calendars, tasks and email all in one place. And if you are reading this, chances are that this approach did not work for you either.

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    Put Your Own Pieces Together

    So much of what set the Mac apart was the decentralization, yet integration of everything. Address Book for contacts, iCal for calendars and tasks and Mail.app for email. Each one is highly focused, yet deeply entwined with one another. However even this was not enough. While these solutions are often perfect for casual users, many of these stock applications are just far too limited for power users (or even just for particular geeks such as myself).

    Thankfully the idea of decentralization took hold with developers and what we’ve seen in the past few years is a renaissance of highly focused, highly polished applications. Apps that were built from the ground up to integrate with both stock and third-party software, enabling users to create their own personal tapestry of productivity.

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    And How Does One Manage To Do That?

    In theory, the goal should be to find a few apps that solve your needs. Pick a calendar, pick a contact manager, pick a word processor and email client, learn them and move on with your life. But honestly, and I’m speaking from personal experience here, it’s the wrong (yet familiar) way to go about it. You are far better off working inside out. Start off by finding your biggest pain point and identifying the absolute perfect application for solving it (as long as that app plays nicely with others). From there go one problem at a time and slowly build your perfect system.

    For me, that was email and my starting point was Inbox Zero, followed by a switch to both Gmail and Mailplane. For you, that could be tackling your writing projects and you may want to look at apps like nvALT or Scrivener. Perhaps it is constantly forgetting to add things to your calendar, causing you to miss key obligations. If so, quick entry apps like Fantastical can help. Just have an honest conversation with yourself, figure out where you suck and start there.

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    That Sounds Like A Lot Of Work…

    This process will take more applications and take more time, but you’ll quickly begin to notice something. Even though you’re choosing to use more, it will feel (and likely look) like less. The applications only show you what you need, they integrate so seamlessly that you hardly notice switching from one to the other. Many, such as Dropbox, LaunchBar and TextExpander, run in the background and are ubiquitous across your system. Over time this more complicated system feels contoured to your life, to your unique challenges and is far better suited to attacking them. Strange as might sound, it will feel far more a part of you rather than something you are working (or likely fighting) with.

    Consider Yourself Warned

    There are some risks. Other computers can start to feel unfamiliar and frustrating; you’ll potentially have trouble shutting up about how there is a better way (e.g. this blog post and my entire blog for that matter) and there will be some pieces of software you just cannot avoid. There is also the very real fear that you will end up spending so much time figuring out how to get things done that you never actually get anything done. But as long as you are aware of the realities and the potential side effects, you’ll be fine. Combine this awareness with some brutal honesty about where you fall short and start building a computer that might include a lot, but is so personal that you’ll hardly care.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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