There is a fairly limited amount to say about productivity (or any other topic for that matter) without (i) start repeating oneself and/or (ii) becoming a generator of time wasting posts. A perfunctory visit to sites like ‘43 folders’ or ‘Zen habits’ will show that—after reading a core of good posts—one should avoid them like the pest.
I think that one could summarize productivity tips as follows:
- Procrastination: Figure out your biggest time wasters; likely culprits: internet, therapy TV, video games. Make an effort to reduce your reliance on them (doh!). We procrastinate with our time wasters to avoid either success (and its attached responsibilities) or failure (ah, the pain). Grow up and accept success. Split project in to small, manageable pieces to avoid failure. Avoid perfect, learn to live with good enough. Perfectionism is a slow death.
- Email: Figure out your most productive time of the day (mine is from 9 to 11 am) and block it for doing your most relevant work. Avoid email and internet at that time. Adjust your email program to check for new email every hour (not every 30 seconds). Even better, manually check email only a couple of times a day. Unsubscribe from all email lists. There is no point for a complex email folder system. A single ‘old’ folder will work well. Use the search function if needed. Be ruthless with email: delete irrelevant messages, act immediately on simple/short tasks, write down longer tasks. Now you should be in ‘inbox zero’ or ‘email zen’.
- GTD: Avoid complex—and expensive—setups to Getting Things Done. We are in a recession. You don’t need an iPhone, a Moleskine or Backpack to keep track of stuff. A piece of paper, text file or a simple web system will do.
- Present in present: What is the best use of my time right now? Remember, multitasking is a myth, so the previous question uses ‘is’ as in singular and it requires undivided attention.
You can read this list and go back to work. Or you could read Getting Things Done, The Now Habit and Time Management for Unmanageable People, test a huge number of GTD software and end up with something similar to this list. So, why are you following these links? Remember the productivity p0rn paradox (aka P cubed): ‘productivity’ sites induce a non-productive life style. A fad is a fad and it will not make a difference in your output or stress level.
Where should one start? Go for something simple first: do not check your email and enjoy the extra time. After that, avoid thinking of perfection when planning what to do. Finally, beware of hyperlinks: they are the route to distraction.