Suck Less, One Step At A Time

From Cody Fink:

Jumping right into a new habit is a bad idea when you can make small changes that add up over time.

So often when we start trying to improve ourselves and our workflows, we want to go fast. We want to identify all of our problems at once and we want to fix them. We want to find momentum, we want to suck less and we want to see immediate change. The one thing we don’t want to do: be patient. So we end up attempting a radical change that almost always fails.

Remove the notion that we have to toss out our complicated, but memorable systems in favor of simple workflows. I think throwing away what works is the wrong way to go about changing your workflow or lifestyle for the better.

Before changing anything, examine what you’re doing. Look for the friction, for the things that just don’t work, but also take the time to figure out what does. This will often give you the best inroads to your own personal productivity. Over time, I realized that paper just didn’t work for me. I could barely read my handwriting when trying to keep up with my thoughts and considering my utter lack of innate organizational skills, my desk inevitably ended up buried in paper. I was having far more success leveraging technology and this made it much easier to eliminate systems that wouldn’t work (no matter how well they worked for the creator of the system) and helped me zero in on the tactics that were most likely to help.

The “minimalist workflows” you read about online shouldn’t be applied as is. These people have achieved the goal of ironing out all the bugs and have come to a broad conclusion of how they ended up working after long periods of reflection, tweaking, and time.

I’ve been working at this for a year and I’m still trying new things all of the time; I’m still tinkering. At first, I thought Omnifocus was too much and opted for the simpler Things. Overtime, I came to realize just how stubborn I was being, however the time spent with Things made the transition over to Omnifocus so much easier.

Give Cody’s article a read; it’s a great explanation why what works for me may not work for you. It is also one of the best looks as to why refining the way you get things done is a process rather than a one-size-fits-all solution that you can find. A reminder that it takes time to create your perfect workflow rather than find the perfect workflow (which likely doesn’t exist).

Hat tip to Stephen M. Hackett for initially sharing Cody’s post.

12 Responses to Suck Less, One Step At A Time

  1. Great quote about the minimalist workflows. Trying to apply them to a someone else is a bit like applying Lance Armstrong training regime to a person who started cycling last week.  They are sleek, researched but as I keep screaming on the rooftops- one size solutions fits all doesnt’ work. Small changes, consistently everyday. We need to be more like water.

    • And sleek is tempting, but I’m no Lance :) I do learn quite a bit from those who strive for them. I actually think that Patrick Rhone from Minimal Mac has some amazing thoughts on the subject. It isn’t your standard, BS approach to this kind of stuff. The man puts a tremendous amount of heart and thought into the idea of minimalism and the idea of finding your own personal enough. I actually think you’d find him interesting.

  2. So true. There’s so many ways to be right. And there are so many things that may be right for you that might not be for others. The speed of the web seems to be training us to feed our instant gratification urges offline too. A problem that took years to manifest is probably not going to be fixed by a fast solution. Just doesn’t work that way.

    • Love that point about the online impacting the offline. We are so used to the fun stuff coming so easily that we expect the difficult should follow in kind. It’s going to be an interesting transition, but I’m finding seriously benefit from finding the right tools to get my crap together. It may take a while, but it sure as hell is worth it (especially if you tend to be as naturally disorganized as yours truly).

  3. Cody’s post provides considerable insight. He’s thought long and hard about these things – whether or not he admits to it.

    Michael’s digest is great for those who’s attention span grinds to a halt at 250 words. That’s not a dig at Michael. Summarizing Cody’s rambling style is a service. 

    Sucking Less, One Step At a Time has real pith and bite to it. Thanks, Michael.

    Recently on my blog: Beautiful Things For The Asking http://wp.me/pbg0R-sv

    • No offense taken whatsoever! Cody’s full post is well worth the attention, I was just particularly drawn to that one thread. Besides, if there is anyone who understand the idea of an attention span that halts at 250, it is yours truly :)

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