The Productivity Conundrum

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   29 May 2012

I’m in the market for a new productivity app. Getting things done isn’t easy. Especially if you have the attention span of a jack rabbit. So, I lean on a task management app to plan and get things done. The task management app I’m currently using served me well for over two years now. It’s simple to use and great to look at, but in the past two years the app hasn’t moved forward an inch.

Besides, there are now so many swanky apps tempting me to make the switch. My track record with the GTD philosophy has had a lot of false starts. Whenever I took up GTD and planned all my tasks ahead with a task management tool, I failed miserably. Whatever little I was getting done earlier went down the drain too.

It was like a jinx. Since I understood that I will go nowhere without a productivity plan in place, I picked up the pieces and tried it all over again. I’m not saying it’s going to be difficult to stay the course, but it all depends on your personality. Folks who are disciplined will get along just fine. And those who are lazy (like me) and put things off for tomorrow all the time, it might be a bumpy ride. However, it’s the latter who need to get on board real fast.

Make a Plan

People who plan ahead have a good chance at staying productive. At the very least, you should have a better understanding of your workload and flow over the next few days to get started. Getting Things Done is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot like it’s nothing, but is actually a registered trademark of David Allen, father of this philosophy.

I found the underlying principles of GTD simple and easy to understand. Most importantly, it doesn’t change your behavior. Atleast not by much. Take for instance the Pomodoro technique, which requires you to go through a bunch of hoops every 30 minutes into a task. Such intense practices might make your productivity shoot up exponentially, but personally I think it’s borderline OCD. Align with a plan that’s close to your comfort level.

Pick the Right Tool

Like many among us, I too am attracted to shiny new things. And task management tools is one of the domains where designers go all in and hit a homerun almost every other week. If you look closely, almost all popular task management apps have the same set of features. The only thing that’s unique about them is the interface.

A better user interface is a clear indicator that the app has got a flow that might end up helping your productivity. But more eye candy doesn’t always mean that the tool is better than its competitors in helping you get things done. A fancy $49.99 app is not going to be the silver bullet for all your productivity needs and that’s not what I’m talking about either.

Even a tiny pocket notebook would do the trick. It’s portable, handy and extremely affordable. Or if you stay in front of computers a lot, go with an app that syncs to the cloud. That way, you can stay on top of your tasks no matter you are at home or office.

I’m not a GTD maniac who tries every app that shows up in the market. But, I do stay on top of trends and tools just for the heck of it. The best way to go is to spend about 30 minutes with task management apps that grab your attention. Then pick one and stick with it no matter how cool the next generation apps are like. That’s good enough to start with and the rest of bells and whistles hardly matter.

Reward Yourself

It might sound silly, but for atleast the first few weeks cherish your achievements and reward yourself. Grab a drink, buy a souvenir, tap dance or ditch the planned routine for a day (just kidding, don’t do it!). And make sure to check or cross off every task you complete. There is a sense of accomplishment when you get to cross things off a list. Try it for yourself!

Now that I’ve downloaded all my wisdom about getting things done and not getting distracted by shiny new tools, off to choose between Wunderlist and Producteev. Wish me luck!

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