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blog.gkaindl.com » Productivity for Non-Yuppies

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Productivity for Non-Yuppies

Productivity is one of these things that you read a lot about. Last year, there was this almost gigantic boom of GTD (Getting Things Done), well, you can easily tell that from the obscene amount of GTD apps that have been released last year.

The only problem is… It doesn’t work for me. GTD doesn’t, and most of the other productivity tips I stumble upon on blogs don’t work either. They are mostly principles to follow, it’s just all too Yuppie-ish to me. It always boils down to adhering to some sort of disciplined organizational scheme, being focused as much as possible and a few truisms thrown in. I have seriously tried some of this stuff, but it always makes me feel under some sort of pressure, like “Oh, damn, now I forgot to file this email correctly, oh, no, now I’m no longer focused on my task, argh…”.

Fortunately, I have developed my own tips, and they work fine for me. Basically, they aren’t principles in themselves, they are more like observations about my own productivity that seem to be somewhat non-intuitive: Simply put, they are things I would have previously assumed to be detrimental to my productivity, but they are actually beneficial.

  • Don’t force yourself to stay focused on your task. If there’s something interesting happening outside your window, go take a look. If you’re drifting to read a magazine, do it. There’s a reason why you can’t stay focused, and it’s usually because you’ve either hit a brick wall or because you’re burnt out (If the task sucks a lot, this can already happen after 10 minutes or so). Once you get back to the task, you will feel refreshed enough to have another go, even if it’s just for 10 minutes again. You’ll see, in the long run, it pays out.
  • Don’t plan the day. If you need to, plan for each day of the week, but don’t plan the day itself. Don’t make up a to-do list and work through it sequentially, know what you want to get done today instead, then work through it in whichever (non-linear) order you want. Interrupt boring tasks for fun ones (or at least less boring ones). Sequential working makes it easier to measure your progress, but the unordered approach gives you less of a feeling of working to achieve your own organizational goals rather than your tasks.
  • Don’t script everything. I know, it can be tempting to come with a script for every single repetitive task you have to do, but sometimes, just doing it manually can be a nice little break. Sometimes, it’s even somewhat satisfying, for example, to manually upload a file you’ve been working on for half the day, rather than just passing it to some script.
  • Listen to music during tasks that require less attention and stop it when you really need to (or want to) focus. If you don’t feel like you’d need to focus, you probably do not need to. If the task is easy, you’re probably even less error-prone when listening to music than when fake-focusing on it (because you wouldn’t focus anyways, you would just trick yourself into believing you’re doing it).
  • Do not over-organize. Usually, all you need is a to-do list and maybe a calendar. The more complex your organizational scheme is, the more complex you’ll perceive your tasks to be. Silence your inner control freak and just get going.
  • Don’t leave your work at work. No, seriously, don’t force yourself to stop thinking about work-related issues when you get home. Rather, see your spare-time as a time when you may think about your tasks, but do not need to finish them. You usually have the best ideas when you’re not trying to have them. Most often, I have half of my day already finished in my head before I’ve heard the first hard-drive spin up.
  • Aim to maximize your enjoyment rather than your productivity. They go hand in hand. The important thing is that you get stuff done, it doesn’t matter how often you have taken a break to play Pac-Man.

I can’t claim that this will work for everyone, but the important point is that I can feel that the more I let all the organizational stuff slack and the work discipline doctrines go, the more productive I am! I just take an intuitive approach to productivity, and it works so much better than the principles…

About

Hi, how are you? My name is Georg Kaindl, and I'm a twenty-something from Vienna, Austria. During the day, I'm a CS student at the Vienna University of Technology, but at night, I turn into an independent software developer for the Macintosh platform, social nerd, lazy entrepreneur and intuitive researcher.

I like to write about everything that matters to considerate technology enthusiasts, but humbly retain the right to go off-topic from time to time.

My posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Contact

You can reach me by email if you have something to say that's not related to a blog post or that you don't want to have publicly available as a comment to a post.

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