My Radical Productivity Experiment

I keep noticing people trying various experiments to help them make better use of their tools, increase their quality of life or improve their personal productivity. At first, I was a bit skeptical, but after getting a feeling for why they’re doing what they’re doing, I came around to seeing things their way so much so that I’ve decided to try an unusual experiment of my own. It might sound crazy, but here’s the radical, lifehackery, productivity trick that I am going to undertake for the foreseeable future…

Having taken the time to discover a workflow that makes sense for me, it’s time to worry less about how I do my work and focus more on the work I do. Other than getting better at using them, I’m not going to replace the devices, tools, tactics and methodologies that are working, no matter what amazing new thing comes my way. I know, I know this sounds insane, but here goes the super gimmicky three steps I plan to help me better use my tools, increase my quality of life and improve my personal productivity:

  • Step 1. I’m going to take a good, long hard look at what I use and determine what’s working for me.
  • Step 2. I’m not going to change any of that.
  • Step 3. I’m going to take all that time that would be spent experimenting and use it to actually do stuff.

If something new (other than updates) comes out that has the potential to be slightly better than the thing I’m already using effectively, I’m not going to try it. If something comes out that addresses the few pre-determined omissions from my workflow (like a more robust list app or a day planner that integrates with OmniFocus and my calendar) I will consider giving it a shot. No matter how much something shiny and new is said to be the XYZ killer, I will avoid it like the plague.

I will focus on what’s working. I will keep an eye out for what I’m currently missing, but not actively seek out problems to solve. As actual problems or holes in my workflow arise, I will identify them and see what can be done to ensure that I do not make the same stupid mistake twice. As I undertake new challenges, I will make sure I have what I need. That said, the hunt for something better is over.

I’ve been proactive in building my workflow for some time now; it’s time to be reactive. Now that I’ve put serious time into figuring out how I do my best work, it’s time to shift my energy away from the “figuring out” bit and more towards the “doing my best work” part.

For the first time in my life, things are better. For the first time in my life, it’s not about one app, one device, one trick, one tactic, or one methodology. It’s about one workflow that is helping me do my best work. And in a world of tips, tricks, life hacks, and all-in experiments, leaning in to a workflow that’s already working seem like exactly the kind of radical approach I need to take right now…

If you haven’t found a decent workflow for yourself, figure it out. If you have, stop screwing around and get back to work.

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    Completely agree with this one. The gravity pull of testing the new application is immense. You will find me testing out new apps, and writing a reviews about them, but never once, since one year ago, when I got iPhone and started using Omnifocus, have you seen me fidgeting with my system.

    Seems like it’s there to stay. Except for my writing workflow. Still trying to find the golden nugget. Byword seems like a pretender to the throne, and nvALT falls a bit behind…

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I look at my workflow like lego. Sometimes I’ll add a piece in and take a piece off, but I have no intention of throwing the thing I’ve been working on, and like, away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/avrum.nadigel Avrum Nadigel

    In last week’s B2W, Dan Benjamin asked Merlin Mann for advice on how to act on a static list (regardless of method). Merlin’s advice, which I forget, wasn’t that compelling. Mark Forster offeres a radical, and fun, solution to this conundrum via DWM system: http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2010/2/1/dit2-af5-who-cares-what-its-called-this-is-what-im-working-o.html Regardless of tool (I’m currently using Omnifocus) or system, DWM keeps me honest. If you truly follow the dismissal rule, all of your tasks, projects and ideas will remain relevant and fresh. By the way, you’re partly responsible for my return to Omnifocus – ugly as it (Mac version) is.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Looking forward to checking this out!

      I know the universe hates the look of OF (which I think we’ll see change early next year), but design has never been all that massive a priority for me. Things looked way nicer… I also got way less done in it.

  • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

    It’s odd that you have to make this declaration at all. But I am also guilty. There was a period where I spent as much time (or more) experimenting with new productivity techniques, apps and systems than I did actually getting things done. Which completely defeats the purpose.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      It’s looking like my healthy dose of sarcasm may not have been healthy enough. The declaration was a not so subtle jab at these kinds of declarations. I’ve just been seeing far too many of them lately and don’t really get it either. I actually think the early time and effort paid off for me (even though, I agree it was excessive), but there comes a point where the returns on tweaking diminish. I’ve just gotten there and don’t really feel the need to mess with what works.

      • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

        Maybe the word “odd” wasn’t a perfect choice and was by no means a slant. As an ex-productivity experiment junky (I used to track every activity, including going to the bathroom and sleeping, just so I could see accurate charts of how my time was being spent) I kind of needed to hear you say this, to reaffirm my decision to kick the habit… even if it was sarcastic. kudos

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          I guess there was the rub myself, it was said sarcastically, but meant seriously. Needed to hear it, just also needed to realize it was a bit insane to make the statement :)

  • http://twitter.com/sebastiansebald Sebastian Sebald

    Really great post. I completely agree with you. What comes to mind is something like “I have the iPhone 4S, do I need to upgrade to 5?” …NO, god damn it!

    I will send your post around our company and hope that people will stop discussing their work modus and start actually working! Hehe :)

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      The 5 was a bit of an eye opener for me. I upgraded (as I do every year), but it wasn’t necessary. It was just habit. Trust me, this was as much a note to sell as a word of caution to others :)

  • Jim

    This sums up the Less vs Sass debate. Personally, I find both confusing. So I stick with plan CSS and build a better work flow using it to develop sites.