Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting Things Done

I know things have been a bit quiet on the Caliban's End blog front but that's only because I have been busy finishing Book One. It's an amazing feeling to finish a book. Hard to compare it to anything, but it's a bit like coming home from a week away on Outward Bound.

Of course, I'm feeling a bit pleased with myself so I'm going to dedicate this post to GTD: Getting Things Done. I thought I'd list my Top Ten tips for productivity. Now these are just the things that came to me on my lunch break. I'm sure others will come to mind as soon as I post this. I can always write another post to cover the things I don't mention below.

Firstly, there's no better thing for productivity than the support of those around you and I've got that in spades. I'm not sure how the tips below would work if I didn't have that. I'll assume they'd still work, only not quite as well.

Being productive is about being efficient. Controlling what you can. Here's what you can control.

1. Don't continually check your email. Once or twice a day is enough, but when you do check it commit to either resolving the email or setting aside time in your planner to deal with it. Email can be seductive - it makes you feel wanted! There comes a time when you must shut the door on the endless barrage and get a bit of quiet. Outlook should be renamed Lookout! because if you aren't careful, your emails will stop you from getting the important stuff done.

2. The key to productivity is complete focus. Don't have your email notifiers set to inform you whenever email has arrived. Close everything down when you are about to start a task that requires your focus. Hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your Gtalk, Messenger, IRC etc. Clear your desk of all other distractions.

3. When you are dealing with email, use Gmail tags - I'm assuming you're using Gmail. When something comes in that you want to keep, tag it and bag it (i.e. Archive it). Tame your Inbox. Keeping the Inbox clear is the trick to feeling like you're still in control.

4. Use a management system that actually makes life easier. For example, sharing out Google calendars is a really easy way to keep things organised with others. I have numerous Calendars - one for work, one for writing and one for family/friends. Because these are all viewable on the one screen, they allow me to coordinate dates easily. I also added in Remember the Milk to my calendar which will automatically send me an email when a task is due. To set a task, I just click on the Remember the Milk icon, insert the task and then forget about it. I'll be told when to do stuff if I've set it up correctly (which I have). Having a management system you can rely on is essential to freeing up your mind to focus on what's immediately before you. For work I use Highrise to keep track of every contact I have. It's free, searchable and because it's online, I can access it from anywhere.

5. RSS feeds. I have my iGoogle home page holding all my RSS feeds. This way I get a lot of news for a little bit of time. It's very economical.

6. Dedicate yourself to one or two TV shows and try not to get pulled in to others because you're tired. If you're tired, go to bed or go for a walk. I only have one show I watch - Heroes. That's it. This means that I probably have a lot more hours to use than the average Australian because I am willing to forgo the rubbish that piles up on our screen. Not that there's anything wrong with watching telly, but it's not really a productive use of time.

7. Browsing the web is very inefficient. Use folksonomies to give you more time i.e. let someone else find the good stuff for you. I use Digg and Technorati to find the best stuff on the web, as well as podcasts about things tech. I also use This is such a time saver for me. If I see something worth bookmarking, I tag it. If it's worth someone else having, I add it to their account assuming they have one, and they do the same for me.

8. Promise yourself nice things. Whatever gets you into the chair to start work. I always plan to have some badboy food after two hours of writing. What usually happens is that I forget about the food once I'm in the groove.

9. Save time - listen to podcasts. If the house needs cleaning, the kids need walking or the milk needs getting, do it with an iPod in your ears. I have digested more literature and geek news in the past year than the five years preceding the day I discovered iTunes.

10. Accept that the smallest thing you do on a task is one less thing that you'll have to do later on. Procrastination is nothing more than an unwillingness to make a start. Often once the start is made, things get a momentum of their own and before you know it, you've done something substantial.

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