Productivity Is About Processes

Dazzled by the lights of new task management app? Before switching, make sure you’re switching for the right reasons. Productivity isn’t about the apps.

Read any productivity book and you’ll find a common observation among them. Rarely is a specific tool mentioned that makes that specific productivity method work better.

I spent a good couple of years hopping from app to app in search of a task management app that met my requirements. It wasn’t a wasted journey, I did get to try out a number of different apps but I didn’t have a productivity method in mind that I would use with the app. I was simply trying some apps out. I was going about this the wrong way, you see it should be the other way around. Productivity is about processes not tools. The tools we use should compliment our preferred productivity method.

Look at any productivity method and it’s about the processes and workflows involved. Capturing, reviewing, planning and executing are the most common processes involved in most methods. I use all four of these processes in my own method which centers around a single list of actions. I then use projects and tags to group actions, filters to review and a calendar for scheduling those actions.

The processes I use means that I could use just about any task management app, but it’s in the details where you can find great task management apps. Here’s a list of requirements that I finally settled on.

  • I need to be able to capture anywhere.
  • I need to group related actions into projects.
  • I need to group actions by tags.
  • I need to see different views of my list.
  • I need my list available to me wherever I go.

Looking at these requirements I can think of a number of task management apps that could meet all these requirements. After reviewing a number of apps that I’ve tried in the past I found a couple that worked for me. I choose TaskPaper as it gave me the ability to keep my master list in one location in raw text. After a few months though my list became difficult to manage. I started looking for a replacement.

One task management application that I hadn’t tried up to this point was Todoist. I started moving my master list over to Todoist. That was eight months ago. Today I’m still using Todoist. It meets all my requirements and also provides a number of other features that I didn’t look for before in a task management app.

With a crowded marketplace of task management apps it can be easy to be dazzled by the new kid on the block, but productivity isn’t about those apps. It’s about the processes. If you’re on the market for a new task management app or you’re simply looking for a change, make sure you are looking for an app that fits your processes.

Fixie Friday - Trophy Bike

The Senior VPs get all the cool toys these days.

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Mastery Takes Time

Yesterday I mentioned I was embarking on a last attempt to master a different text editor. If I’m to succeed at this, then one truth I must face is that this will take time, just like mastering any new skill does.

I always find that learning something new starts out to be fun. I have a clear goal in mind of what I want the end goal to be and with that in mind I start. Whether it’s a new programming language or an application, those first few days are where my positiveness is at a high. After a few days though, the stumbling blocks kick in. I don’t feel as productive as I did before. Even though I know I’m in unfamilair terroritory, I start to wonder if this is in fact the right time to be learning something new. A few days further on and I’ve only mastered a small subset of this new topic or skill. Questioning myself again, I throw in the towel and abandon the learning process. I’ve done this so many times in the past.

The recurring mistake I’ve made in the past is forgetting that learning takes time. Mastery takes even longer.

For the moment I’m content to simply learn Vim. This means getting to a stage where for most of my day I can write and manipulate code without resorting to looking up keyboard shortcuts. Finding files, finding text in files, managing files in different panes, navigating a file, search and replacing within a file and basic text manipulation represent groups of keyboard shortcuts that I need to learn in order to use Vim effectively. I’ve given myself a month to learn most of these shortcuts. After a month I should be able to assess what I can and can’t do in Vim. For all the things I can’t do, these will become the focus for the next month of using Vim. Repeating this process for six months will evenutally get me to the place where I want to be. To have mastered Vim.

Learning can take hours or days, but true mastery can take weeks, months, even years depending on what you want to master. This is the key to successful learning and mastery, you need to put the time in.

Another Attempt

I’m trying it again. I’ve made a number of these attempts over the years with my longest attempt lasting just a couple of weeks. Now though I think the time is right for a final go. You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. My fellow programmers might have an idea.

I’m talking about making the transition to Vim as my preferred text editor for writing code.

For years now Sublime Text has been my only text editor. Its flexibility, plugins and stability make it such a great editor to use. It made my job easier since I first started using it and continues to do so. So why would I want to upset my workflow and change to something else? Curiosity. For a long time I’ve watched other developers wield Vim with such ease and fluency. I’m fluent with Sublime Text but there’s something about Vim that makes me think I could be more fluent.

I’ve tried to make the move permanent so many times over the last few years but it’s never successfully happened. The main problem with each attempt to use Vim has been the initial stumbling blocks that make an impact on your typical work day. Sublime Text has worked for me so well since I first started using it and switching to Vim will take a while but my patience always takes a battering and then I move back to Sublime Text.

This time it feels different though. After a couple of days using Vim I’m making headway with the basic actions of managing panes, buffers and basic text manipulation. I’m taking notes as I’m using it and I’m practing some of the shortcut keys that I discover each day. There’s still a few teething problems with the setup I have but I’m prepared to see it out for another month at least.

We’ll see how it goes.

Fixie Friday - Paul Smith Mercian

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Celebrities

There’s a new age of celebrity available now. They offer more in the way of entertainment and you can even find celebrities who aligned with your own interests. Who are these new celebrities?

For years I’ve seen the activities of celebrities reported in newspapers and magazines. Every week it seems there’s some fashion faux pas made, another check into rehab, or just opening their mouths to say something loud but clearly wrong. I see it as a depressing form of entertainment to follow and one that doesn’t give any actual value. With reality television programmes providing an steady stream of new celebrities to add, it seems like there’s no end in sight. Well actually there is.

We often class a celebrity as a well known famous person in the public media. Actors and actresses, sports people, singers and even business people are all classed as celebrities. It’s been this way for years now, but where else can find celebrities that offer more in the form of entertainment and value? The Internet of course. A platform consisting of millions of celebrities. Through blogs and publications, there are millions of celebrities out there for you to follow, and they’re just a click away.

A few of these celebrities I follow are Patrick Rhone, Nicholas Bate, Curtis McHale, Michael Wade, Kurt Harden and many others. You might recgonise some of the celebrities I follow, you might not. For me though they trump anything that any celebrity magazine can offer. Every day my RSS reader fills with their latest activities and drama. They publish on an open platform for the world to see and yet they are often ignored in favour of more conventional celebrities. If people choose to ignore these new celebrities then it’s their loss.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though, there are millions of celebrities out there in different circles just waititng to be discovered and followed. You just have to look in the right places. Start with blogs that fall into your interests, there’s always someone posting great content in any topic you can find. Search your favourite social network for interesting people in your field or look to mailing lists that offer a condensed form of entertainment straight to your inbox.

There are millions out there waiting to be discovered.

Monthly Redux June

Blog Update

Many of you will notice that my daily posts have tailed off somewhat in the last few weeks. Despite recent attempts to scale back on the frequency of posts, I’m still not finding that sweet spot that lets me write and publish. I had it last year, but this year it seems to have vanished.

I’ve got a holiday starting next week for two weeks. It’s a clean break and a chance to kickstart the writing process again. I’m hoping to come back with a list of ideas, drafts in progress and hopefully by then I’ll have published a few more posts to get me back on track again.

Let’s see where it goes. See you on the other side.

Fixie Friday - Violet Nagasawa

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Two Todoist Tips

Mike Vardy has been writing about his experiences with Todoist recently. If you’re a fellow user of Todoist then I definitely recommend reading his recent posts on labels and conducting weekly reviews in Todoist.