The quest for improved productivity is an ongoing one, but what tends to happen is we spend time worrying about maintaining productivity rather than developing better productivity habits. This results in slower than desired improvements in what we need to do and, more importantly, what we really want to do.
Here are three things that you should do to build better productivity habits — habits that will help you see more of what you want accomplish realized.
I’m making a concerted effort to read a lot more these days. I’m listening to more books on Audible, whether the books are fiction or non-fiction. I’m digesting more nonfiction works through the CliffsNotes-esque service Blinkist, and then deciding which of those books I’ve read as “blinks” that I’m going to add to my paper-based book library that I’m slowly building. In order to read more, I’m watching less television and carving out time chunks dedicated to reading. I’m learning more and I’m applying more of that knowledge to create better work and live better overall.
App Suggestion: I’m using Velocity to get through my Instapaper queue more efficiently and effectively thanks to the app’s ability to deter subvocalization, which slows your reading down and your ability to absorb what’s being presented to you in written form. (iOS — $2.99)
One of the most critical things you should to build up your productivity is to capture everything. Absolutely everything. I keep a pen and notebook in every jacket pocket I own. I keep a pen and notebook in every bag I have. I only pull them out to process their contents, then they go right back where they came from so that I know I’ve got a “capture device” with me wherever I go. I keep notebook and pen at my bedside table. Capturing is an art, and the more you do it the better you’ll get at so many other things because you’re not using your brain as a warehouse for that stuff. Instead, it becomes a factory for the stuff you really want to manufacture. Let these capture devices (notebooks, mobile phone, computer, etc.) serve as the warehouses. Your brain is meant for so much more, and can do so much more when you free it from all of the stuff you’re crowding it with.
Service suggestion: While I don’t keep a multi-pen in every jacket or bag I own, the one I use most often is the green-bodied Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color 0.7 mm Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5 mm Pencil. As for the notebooks, I’m a Field Notes Colors) subscriber, a yearly subscription that is worth every penny. (Pen – $16.50; Field Notes Colors subscription — $97 USD/yr)
Whether you step away from your desk to have lunch or mow the lawn to experience the outdoors while still accomplishing something, taking a break from what you’re doing is a great way to get better at doing things more effectively and efficiently. There’s a reason why The Pomodoro Technique is worthwhile — it forces you to focus on one task a time and promotes neuroplasticity, and those two things alone will help you in your quest to be more productive. The breaks that The Pomodoro Technique allow give you the rest and recovery you need to move on to the next thing, whether it’s something you enjoy doing or something you’re not fond of, and that rest is critical to keep you moving things forward instead of simply moving.
App suggestion: Awareness is an app that lets you know how much time you’re spending on your computer by playing the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl to mark every hour of continuous computer use. It doesn’t get in the way, it just acts as a gentle reminder. That’s something we all need from time to time. (OS X, Windows, .NET 4 – Free)