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Low-Technology, High-Productivity, Less Distraction

Posted on October 16, 2009 by Sean

The advent of the personal computer has given us incalculable advances in potential and the internet has opened wide the floodgates of productivity. It seems that anything is made easier when the young and ambitious prepend old-world issues with an “E” (or the Apple Corporation re-invents it and uses the prefix “I.”) Unfortunately, unlike commerce, tunes, movies or phones, there hasn’t been a tech-whiz out of Silicon Valley able to redesign focus

Industries are crawling their way out of a centuries-old reliance on paper and humans are struggling to find ways to adapt. Automation has done much to improve the quality and quantity of human life and the Internet has literally provided millions of pages of information at our fingertips. But in these advances, the potential for distraction has increased proportionally with the potential for success. For many of us, social media, instant-messaging, Wikipedia and the latest RSS feeds wage their war of distraction through two 22-inch cinema display monitors. All of this done through a personal computer loaded with nearly every available efficiency-promoting piece of high-technology.

The war must be fought and won, but contrary to every available piece of e-advice, the answer is not in higher-tech but in lower.

To increase my own productivity, I’ve adopted an old-world response to new-world issues. Each morning, I write down (physically- pen & paper style) my agenda. Simply, I create a to-do list, and each day, I “do” this list. Simple? Exactly. I make sure to include all necessary emails, calls and correspondence that need addressing throughout the day. Everything is written in my own handwriting using “working-titles” for each issue. I make sure to describe the necessary issue concisely - but clearly. There is little worse than attempting to translate your own 6:30am sleep-scribbles.

Email reminders (Google Apps lead the pack) and pre-set deadline notifications are helpful, but for me, it seems that the answer to convolution is not systematically adding more convolution, but systematically dismantling it. For me, it is more helpful to rid myself of distraction than it is to download another program to organize it.

While meticulously handwriting all of your impending obligations can get tiresome, there is little substitute for the satisfaction of physically drawing a hard-won strike through your daily tasks. And, while my archaic answer can be effective, it is not absolute; results depend largely on discipline and circumstances. Evidence: this blog has been on my “List” as of two days ago. The strike-through feels excellent.



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