Ever since I began blogging, productivity has been one of my most popular topics. But I’m convinced we’re not always productive for the right reasons. Maybe this is why many people are productive but miserable.
Over my career I’ve been entrusted with a lot of responsibility. At one time, I was responsible for the well-being of over six hundred employees and a company legacy two hundred years in the making.
Whenever I ask a friend how they are doing, they inevitably respond, “Busy. Crazy busy.” It seems like all of us have more to do that we can possibly get done.
One of the most helpful time management principles I’ve ever found is David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule. The basic concept is that you take immediate action on anything that can be done in two minutes or less. This is the key to becoming more productive.
For years, I have used templates to improve my productivity. I create a template for any task I find myself doing repeatedly. So instead of reinventing the wheel every time, I do it once, save it as a template, and then reuse it.
For example, before speaking engagements, I always have a conference call with the event sponsor. Initially, I found myself asking the same questions. Sometimes, I would forget to ask something important, so I decided to create a reusable template in Evernote. (You can see it here.)
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by email that you wanted to just delete your email account and start over? If so, you are not alone.
Last week, I tweeted a link to one of my most popular blog posts ever, “Yes, You Can Stay on Top of Email.” Almost immediately, I received two email messages.
I often refer to Evernote as my digital brain. It has replaced my physical filing cabinet, allowing me to go completely digital. It is where I store anything I need to reference later.
Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu
But Evernote can quickly become unwieldy if you don’t have a system for using it. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it does have to be intentional. My own strategy has evolved over time.
I have been using Evernote since early 2008, when it was still in private beta. Since then, it has truly become my digital brain.
My Evernote Packing List
Evernote is one of those rare apps I can’t seem to outgrow. I am always finding new uses for it.
As a writer, I have tried just about every word processor ever invented. I started with WordStar, moved on to WordPerfect, then graduated to Microsoft Word. But when I started blogging, everything changed.
Screenshot of My Computer with This Post Displayed in MultiMarkdown Inside of Scrivener
I ultimately learned HTML, but it is certainly not the most natural way to write. I have used a number of “blog processors,” including BlogJet and then MarsEdit. But in the last few years, I have completely converted over to MultiMarkdown.
Some say I’m a gadget-guy. (You know who you are.) I don’t know about that, but I am definitely a tool guy. The right tool can make me more efficient and save hours of my time.
For example, a few years ago, I stumbled on a simple software tool to create beautiful—and elegant—3D book covers (like the one above). Previously, I tried to create these in Photoshop, but I just didn’t have the skills to pull it off.
Today, I was thinking back to perhaps the busiest time in my career: the first few months right after I left Thomas Nelson, almost three years ago. At that time, I was spending all day, every day buried in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports.
image courtesy of shutterstock.com/Andrey_Kuzmin
Finally, I decided I had had enough. Something had to give. I needed to take a different approach if I was going to get my head above water.
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I have had a love affair with the MacBook Air since I bought my first one in December 2010. I have loved the elegant design and super-thin profile. I upgraded three times in the last four years. It has been the best computer I have ever owned. Until now …
Right before Christmas I happened to be in the Apple Store and had a chance to play with the new 13″ MacBook Pro. I had actually switched from the MacBook Pro originally, so I couldn’t imagine going back. The Air was just so much thinner. But the new MacBook Pros are entirely different machines. Wow.
I have been making to-do lists since college. In terms of physical systems, I started with the Seven Star Diary, graduated to a Day-Timer, and then landed on the Franklin Planner. At the time, it was state of the art.
After reading David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, I decided to go digital. I did almost everything in Microsoft Outlook and then, after switching to a Mac, Microsoft Entourage. But ultimately, I switched to Nozbe, which I have been using since 2007.