Sit down, we need to talk. Chances are if you clicked this link, you click links just like it all the time. There is also a pretty good chance that those posts didn’t help all that much (you did click on another one after all…). And if I were actually about to list “17 apps to turbo charge your universe”, I’m certain they wouldn’t help you very much either.
Now before you run away ranting and raving about false advertising, I am going to offer some tips and tools for improving your productivity. But before I do, I want to make a few things clear…
There is no productivity silver bullet
I wish there were, but there is no suite of apps or productivity solution that is going to solve all of your problems. If, like me you, tend to be a disorganized mess, you are going to have to experiment with many of the tools and tactics. Sadly, finding what works with your own personal breed of chaos takes time and often pain to uncover.
Creating your own workflows is no easy feat
For some, a pad and paper is all that is needed to get things done. If you clicked on this link, you aren’t one of them. You likely needed something more robust, and robust tools come with a learning curve. You also aren’t just looking for a tool for one problem. You need a variety of answers for a range of issues including idea capture, email management, file storage and task management. Each of these are complicated, overlapping challenges which often require powerful solutions. Applying tools and tactics to these overwhelming problems comes from trial, error and experimentation. All of these take time to identify, implement and assess.
What works for me probably won’t work for you
Anyone who tells you they have the solution is selling you a bill of goods. Anyone who offers a solution, now that’s someone you’re probably going to want to hear out. As you spend more time “getting more productive” by following and learning from productive people one thing becomes crystal clear. No two productivity systems are alike. So your time is far better spent finding your own than it is trying to make theirs work for you.
A few ideas for getting started
- Stop looking for a quick fix – Start looking for solutions instead. A solution takes longer, but makes a lasting impact. I know you are busy, probably too busy to take a step back and focus on how you approach your work. All I can tell you is that the time I’ve take to do this in my own life is paying dividends.
- Go one tool at a time – While you want to think of your personal productivity system as a whole, you need to deal with each aspect individually. You need to find the tools and tactics that work well together, but trying to tackle everything at once is a guarantee that nothing will improve. Building a sound foundation needs to be done slowly and carefully. Especially if you plan to build something big and ambitious on top of it.
- Find the people most likely to help you – Things did not start to improve for me until I discovered Merlin Mann. His challenges align with many of my own and his solutions fit my personality. What started with Inbox Zero led me to his Mac Power Users episodes. These made a massive difference in the way I work, but even Merlin’s approach didn’t work perfectly. It’s been a combination of his ideas, the thoughts of others like David Sparks, Gabe Weatherhead, Mike Vardy and Yuvi Zalkow blended together with my own efforts that have led to progress.
I wish I had 17 tools for you. I wish I had an easy answer. Having spent 32 of my 32 years struggling with disorganization, all I can tell you is that there isn’t one. I’ve tried a lot in my time and taking the slower, harder approach of addressing my problems with real solutions is proving to be far more effective than seeking out a quick fix. Is it fun? No. But little by little, I’m starting to see significant improvements from all of the incremental changes in my life.
What has your experience been? Have you had results with quick-fix lists or have you also had to slowly, painfully overcome your productivity woes?