some productivity tools…

We spend so many hours at work everyday – maybe at office or maybe at home, depending on our circumstances. I’d like to make a note here of many useful links that I’ve come across over the years… which I’ve tried to implement with varying degrees of success…

The Tom Peters quote in Nipun’s site: To Don’t List was really amazing.

My friend Sajit has the following maxim:

1. FOCUS on Priorities.
2. IMPLEMENT something every day
3. REFLECT on what happens
4. SEEK feedback and support
5. TRANSFER learning into next steps.

I’ve been adviced to maintain a task list every day. At the start of the day, list the things to be done, visualise details of each of the tasks and make a work-break-down structure, and also list the time required to complete them. Maintain time taken for each of them as well. Review this at the end of the day. Have found this to be a simple and useful approach, except when I sometimes get bogged down with too many things and the list grows unmanageable.

For trying to get organised, I’ve tried using Microsoft OneNote but somehow though it looked pretty cool at first, it got too messy eventually. The main advantage of OneNote would’ve been integration with the other Office products – so I’d assumed – and this was another let down (integration was very loose). Another thing is about formats. Dave as several other veterans have done earlier, reminded me of open standards – in this case, file formats. Everything in Onenote is in proprietary .one files. The biggest surprising limitation I’ve found with one note is that it dosen’t support tables. There’s a workaround but its only a poor substitute for a table.

Dave had also introduced me to Getting Things Done, a very popular book. Haven’t managed to get a copy of the book yet but for now an overview is in the wiki page:

A capsule description of GTD from Allen’s book Ready for Anything:

“Get everything out of your head. Make decisions about actions required on stuff when it shows up — not when it blows up. Organize reminders of your projects and the next actions on them in appropriate categories. Keep your system current, complete, and reviewed sufficiently to trust your intuitive choices about what you’re doing (and not doing) at any time.”

There’s an implementation of this where the entire application is in a script contained in a single HTML page, use the application by saving the page locally:
d3 a “kinkless” GTD system

There’s also this that I haven’t really tried, but just listing it as it looks pretty interesting: Introducing the Hipster PDA

Recently, I got sick of lugging my Palm V around, so I developed a vastly superior, greatly simplified device for capturing and sharing information. I call it “The Hipster PDA.”

See also: wiki on Hipster PDA

Another well known book is Stephen Covey’s
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I guess there’s no single formula, we must customize our own based on our experience.

One thing’s for sure, as Leonid notes… Consistency is Key which facilitates incremental improvement.

One interesting thing I’ve observed is that during the times I really put my heart and commitment into work, then effectiveness and productivity becomes more and more effortless.. This is the one single vital ingredient. Everything else here listed here is only a wrapper around it. Anyway, I’ve experienced quite a few conflicts on the motivation front, will detail them over esp if my ideas become more concrete!

Sometimes this is really difficult, when work seems to be a bit too mundane or mechanical and I would rather do a thousand other things. As John Perry says

Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it.


Relevant is the story of Santiago (book Alchemist ) who in the course of his journey happens to end up in a crystal shop, but though it has nothing to do with his dream, still works there, cleaning each crystal glass in the best possible way and using his creativity to come up with increasing the shop’s business, until circumstances are naturally conducive for him to move on. However there is a stark contrast against a tailor in the earlier part of the story. The tailors also in a job, but had become complacent, never moved on, and forgot all about his dreams and remained a tailor for life…

I personally would rather be like Santiago than the tailor 🙂 but time will tell as the years unfold, and I hope this post serves as a reminder!

6 Responses to “some productivity tools…”

  1. Kalyan Says:

    I’ve just started using one note. I’m impressed too so far 🙂 and can draw tables as well? may be new to only one note 2007?

    Also thanks for links to Dave’s blog.

  2. Veena Shivanna Says:

    I learnt this when I attended some program Entry leader program or something 6 years back & I have started doing that, atleast write down what needs to be done.
    Use the Calendar very well, this helps even to remember birthdays, tasks to be done, completed before deadline with early reminders.
    Definition of SMART is like this what I learnt from the program, don’t remember the exacle expansion.
    I shall get that sometime, let me see if I have that noted somewhere.

    S – Success or I don’t remember this one
    M – Measurable
    A – Action oriented
    R – I don’t remember this too.
    T – Time driven/Timeliness

    I need to visit Nipun’s blog, its been long time after I did. If possible, would like to meet them sometime in life. Have you met them BTW ?

  3. msanjay Says:

    Hi Veena, thanks a ton for this… I recall Vijetha had told me about this as well…

    S – Simple
    M – Measurable
    A – Achievable
    R – Result Oriented
    T – Time driven

    I havent met Nipun so far though one time I had the opportunity (long before I knew him from his blog) when he was giving a talk and several people from my office were going. I’d never heard of him but had felt like going, but due to some useless excuses I hadnt made it. Guess he’s in the US now.

  4. Sanjay M Says:

    Quote of the Day – Oswald Chambers

    “The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

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