Talking Productivity

It must have been about half way through my OmniFocus Setup talk when I realized I likely sounded like a crazy person (and by likely, I mean I sounded like a crazy person). Don’t get me wrong – I almost always feel like I come off this way – but for once there was for a specific reason.

I was vocalizing something I don’t think about. I was talking about the way that I do things, which works rather fluidly for me but sounds insane when explaining it to others. I know my system is working for me. I know I accomplish more than I used to using my workflows (even in addition to the time I spend thinking and writing about how I use it). But as I explained my approach, even I thought it sounded crazy. And it probably is (and once again, by probably, I mean it is), but it just so happens to work for me.

I think about the way I work more than most. Probably more than I should, but much like someone who is really, really into sports or cars, this is what fascinates me. I’ve struggled my whole life to find a way to work. Now that I’m finding one, I’m interested in the best way that others can find their own.

So here’s a suggestion for those who are looking to “stop doing productive and start being productive” as my buddy Mike Vardy is so fond of saying. It’s an idea for those of you who are looking for a better way to work, but don’t want to spend your lives thinking about how you work (if at all possible, this should be avoided).

Make a checklist of the things that matter most in your workflow. List the aspects you have covered and those you feel you’re still struggling with. Then, much like a productive person would, check off the aspects of your workflow that are working for you. Then stop thinking about what’s working. When you have time, worry about the things that aren’t and figure out how to check them off as well (or, as is often the case, realize that there isn’t a great solution to some problems). Over time, if you find you’re struggling with something add it to your checklist. Once you find a solution that works for you, check it off, keep using it, and stop thinking about it (unless presented with the opportunity to sound like a crazy person while sharing it with others. If given the chance, I highly recommend this).

Why do this? I mean, let’s face it, creating a checklist for your workflow probably sounds crazier than anything I could have said during my talk. Two reasons:

  • It helps you from falling into the trap of thinking about this crap more than you use it.
  • When something shiny and new comes out, which happens daily, you can see if it’s something actually want/need or if it’s a problem you’ve already checked off your list.

When people talk about productivity, it comes off like this is something we think about during every waking minute of the day. Hopefully we don’t. Hopefully we use it to do interesting things (and even if we don’t, you should). It’s just something that we use every day in order to (again, hopefully) get things done.

Much as I hate to lose readers (I love you all individually and as a group), I hope you get to a point where a site like this is no longer helpful. I hope that some of the ideas here help you check things off your list and do amazing things. I just hope it doesn’t turn you into a somewhat crazy sounding person because, well… that’s my schtick.

  • Roger Moore

    Don’t beat yourself up. I was sitting in the front row. It made sense to me.

    It seems that you are using yoru context the way I am using Areas of Focus: just a word to inspire/motivate/remind/drive you to do something.

    I use “Ranger” as my Project name for everything that I want to do regarding outdoors and nature. It’s just a word. But it means something to me. And since it is my OmniFocus, that’s all that matters.

    Keep going. I wouldn’t be interested without some different ideas.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Oh, I wasn’t beating myself up, just taking stock. It was an interesting experience watching the day. Just realize that sometimes when you focus entirely on the tools you forget to realize how little you have to actually think about using them (especially when you find the right way to do so. Go Ranger!)