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How to Stop Fiddling With Productivity Tools To Get More Done

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How to Stop Fiddling With Productivity Tools To Get More Done

    It’s a constant battle for us geeks. We read the tech, productivity, and “guru” sites out on the web looking for the next best way to get things done.

    We purchase shiny new tools that promise us more, better, and faster in anything that we can conceive. The newest software vendors claim their tools are the missing piece of the puzzle and with them you can get more done with less effort. And if you don’t subscribe to a certain productivity methodology, you will be a lost soul in the see of knowledge work.

    Is this something that you think about or battle on a regular basis?

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    Why we fiddle and look for productivity tools

    I’ve been around the block when it comes to todo list apps, GTD apps, notetaking software, document management, and data management applications. I have tried countless pieces of sofware on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, webOS, and even Linux that claim they will make me more productive and keep me “organized”.

    The market for these types of apps is huge and it isn’t necessarily because people need more apps that can organize them better than any other one. It comes down to the fact the many people don’t use the tools that they have. Instead they fiddle, get used by the tool, and then look for something else because the tool that just used them “wasn’t good enough”.

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    Let’s get down to brass tacks.

    You get you organized. You get you productive. A tool doesn’t “get” you productive or “make” you more productive. A tool doesn’t create productivity. A set of tools augments and enhances your productivity.

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    This is the reason why we productivity nuts obsess with tools and “fiddle” rather than work and be productive with what we have. We easily forget that it isn’t the tool that makes us productive. When we forget this and we start to try and “tweak” and “hack” the tool to fit our perceived needs. When it doesn’t fit these perceived needs we believe that the tool isn’t good enough and we start looking for something “better”.

    It’s an endless circle of productivity pr0n that gets you nowhere fast. But there are some things that you can do to get yourself back on track.

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    How to stop and get more done

    Here are seven things that you can practice to stop tweaking your tools and trying to find the best productivity tool in the world before you can get any work done.

    1. If you are an obsessive digital tool seeker, especially the GTD type, you may want to switch to paper for a while to go on a tool diet. The best way to describe this is to get “primal” with your system. Grab some crappy paper and a pen and get back to the basics of managing your life. Mike talks about the benefits of paper over at GTD Times.
    2. Take a productivity break. Stop reading articles on how to be more productive for a while. Don’t obsessively check productivity sites for a good week. Concentrate on your own system and make it work for you.
    3. Create a personal project for trying out a bunch of tools. Make the outcome of that project to pick a set of tools and stick to them for a year. I did this about 4 months ago and have stuck with OmniFocus (even during work at a Windows shop), Notesy, Outliner for iOS, text files, BBEdit, and a big ass Cahier Squared Moleskine Notebook.
    4. Do weekly reviews and purge stuff that you don’t need. “Cruft” is anything in your systems that just sits around, stagnating. This happens a lot with digital tools. Make sure to clean things up once a week. This will help you not have the perceived notion that your tools are failing you.
    5. If you subscribe to a certain productivity system like GTD, Master Your Workday Now!, ZTD, GSD, Getting Results the Agile Way, etc. take a step back and reread or revisit the literature about the system. Get back down to the basics and understand how the system can enhance your productivity. From this view, choosing a set of tools should be more clear.
    6. If you don’t know which tools to start with pick some from this list to check out. Don’t get too obsessive, kids:
      OmniFocus
      Toodledo
      Remember The Milk
      Evernote
      Google Docs
      OneNote
      plain text files
      SimpleNote
      Gmail
    7. Refine your system to make your tools work for you. Not the other way around. Paraphrased from Mr. Einstein:
      “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    Remember, the only reason you can’t find yourself productivity tools is because you aren’t making your current ones work for you. Don’t ever sacrifice your productivity at the whim of some tool that should be helping you. Always make sure that you are the one using the productivity tools, not the other way around.

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    Anyone else struggling with keeping their tool selection on an even keel?

    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 November 25, 2021

    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

    There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

    Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

      What Does Private Browsing Do?

      When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

      For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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      The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

      The Terminal Archive

      While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

      Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

      dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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      Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

      Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

      However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

      Clearing Your Tracks

      Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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      dscacheutil -flushcache

      As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

      Other Browsers and Private Browsing

      Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

      If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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      As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

      Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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