I have a challenge for you.
Try to read this post in its entirety without navigating away to check your Facebook, email, send a Tweet, a text, or a status update. In fact, try not to even think about what’s going on in your various networks until you finish reading. Can you do it?
Don’t feel bad. I couldn’t even write this piece without the nagging pull of my assorted profiles, accounts, and messaging clients, silently begging me to abandon task and fall back down the rabbit hole of distraction. With all that we have to manage in our increasingly connected lives, it’s no wonder this is the case for many of us.
Here we are all about increasing productivity, so we’ve compiled a list of five productivity writers we think are adding lots of valuable insight to this conversation.
Nick Bilton is a technology and business columnist for the New York Times and has written extensively on how our modern-day devices, accounts, profiles ad nauseam slow productivity-- not bolster it as they were originally designed to do.
I like Bilton’s approach to promoting productivity: shut down your devices, clear your inboxes, keep your phone in your pocket. I know, GASP! But-- I think there’s a lot of truth here. According to Bilton, even “tech elites” are starting to distance themselves from their gadgets. If tech superstars-- many of whom receive hundreds of emails an hour-- can do it, we can too.
One of Bilton’s most frightening articles talks about something I’ll call the “mass delete”-- the process of “select all, hit delete, and declare email bankruptcy.” AHHHHHH, WHAAAT, NOOOO. But something more profound lies at the heart of this argument. Bilton posits email is outdated, inefficient. That social media now acts as our main method of contact with the outside world begs the question, why are we still using email?
Sharon Profis is a master of productivity and I know this because not only is she a senior editor at CNET, she also hosts a food-focused PBS show called “Farm to Fork.” This woman knows how to get things done. In fact, she is so efficient that she even finds time to write about productivity strategies.
Profis takes a broad approach to spending time effectively, offering up tips to simplify daily activities, like getting the most out of voice command and search technology.
I especially love Profis’ three-step approach to being more productive. She argues that we can essentially “trick” our brains into avoiding procrastination and increasing focus. The three steps are: using to-do lists effectively (i.e. not wasting time making to-do lists!), timing tasks beforehand and sticking to that schedule, and using ambient noise to drown out distracting things going on around you.
In my humble opinion, Melanie Pinola of Lifehacker is one of the best productivity writers out there. She offers up simple solutions for preserving precious brain capacity, organizing workspaces, and provides reviews of products that can help save time.
One of my favorite articles talks about choosing times to work during the day that are conducive to one’s own productivity. The business world’s working hours are generally between 8am and 6pm-- but not all of us are most efficient during those times.
“There are peak times when each of us is more productive than other times, more creative and focused. Working on major projects outside of those peak times can be a waste of time,” says Pinola. Using this logic, I’ve come to the conclusion I simply cannot work out in the morning before work. I constantly make plans to do this, and yet, saying it hardly ever happens is giving myself too much credit. On the rare occasions it does, I drag around the gym aimlessly and ultimately come up with an excuse to cut the trip short. In every case, not only have I not gotten a sufficient workout, I’ve also lost an extra hour of sleep for no reason. In the cases where I don’t make it to the gym, I feel guilty all day for having stood myself up. (Guilt may or may not inevitably lead to a donut for breakfast, only inciting more guilt). Therefore, I no longer make plans to work out in the morning.
Moral: identify your power hours and commit to doing the meat of your work during those times.
Content marketing genius for Marketing Profs and regular contributor to Entrepreneur Ann Handley knows a thing or two about how to get things done. Like Nick Bilton, Handley is a proponent of decluttering your email inbox, and offers tricks to “shed the excess weight.” She says dedicating finite time periods to checking messages can help avoid inbox fatigue. With some inbox queues these days nearing the hundreds of thousands, it’s imperative we allot time for the most important correspondences and then commit to moving on.
Some of Handley’s favorite mobile app tools include 30/30 and Pocket, the former an application to help you manage time and the latter a handy web content bookmarking program. I like Pocket because it allows me to save web pages without overloading my browser with bookmarks.
Geekwire columnist Monica Guzman always has interesting insights on productivity. Perhaps one of my favorite of her articles talks about productivity vs. inefficiency within the Millennial generation. Guzman describes the world in which this class of young people are constantly texting, Tweeting, sharing, complaining about company networks, and so on-- and how all of this leads to us being monumentally self-centered individuals.
I am myself a Millennial, and can speak to the gargantuan time suck that is the current environment of mobile apps, social networks, and photo sharing platforms. But, as Guzman argues, these channels don’t have to be viewed as evil by corporations, and in turn, neither do we Millennials. Companies can actually benefit from allowing their employees, Millennial or otherwise, to utilize the applications that work best for them. If they’re already using them, why waste time teaching a proprietary program? I agree with Guzman (and not because I want to use Facebook at work!).
Says Guzman, “Is this individualistic? Oh yeah. But critics who attribute that to selfishness or a lack of empathy are missing the bigger picture...Personalized technology gives each of us superpowers, including the power to work together more effectively than ever before. But we have to calibrate those superpowers to fit who we are. That means knowing who we are, and caring about it — at home, at work, wherever.”
What about you? What kinds of tools and tricks do you use to get things done? Which writers you like to follow for productivity tips?