It is (like giving up the coffin nails) the perpetual new year's resolution: get more organised. Perhaps it's not so much that you are any more disorganised than last year, it's just that the world of work has multiplied in complexity, even in the past 12 months. What with your iPhone apps, Twitter accounts, multiple logins, Facebook yada yada, "getting things done" has become a full-time job in itself.
Keeping the inbox clean has become something of a trainspotting hobby, indeed metaphysical pursuit, for followers of productivity porn (or for its aficionados, productivity pr0n). Disciples follow:
* No schedule: Technology investor Marc Andreessen wrote perhaps the iconic productivity porn post on his pmarca blog when he proposed a radical tip from Arnold Schwarzenegger: don't keep a schedule. Yep. No meetings next Tuesday, no conferences signed up for months in advance, no conference calls in a fortnight. By not making any appointments, and telling people "I'm not keeping a schedule, why don't you drop by one day, but you might want to call first", you free yourself up to work on whatever is most important at the time. It takes the idea of flow to the next level, but is unlikely to be a practicable solution for anyone who actually works with other people.
* Workflow: David Allen, owner of the trademarked words "Getting Things Done", advocates a system with three "models", five "phases of workflow processes", six "levels of focus", and a five-stage "natural planning method". Less fraught, perhaps, is his suggestion for dealing with tasks: dump them all into an inbox - email, notebook, scrap notes, whatever. Then plough through them at least once a week, classifying into "do it", "delegate it", "defer it".
* Do less: The idea shouldn't be to get more done - it should be to get less done, according to Tim Ferriss, lifestyle designer and bestselling author of The Four Hour Work Week (Ebury, 2007). He reckons we should focus on what matters over the long run: lifestyle. Email, PDAs, text, Twitter - these things complicate your life, he says. Instead, simplify, adopt selective ignorance, and hire cheap virtual personal assistants from the developing world.
* Do other things: "Structured procrastination" is the recommendation from John Perry, a philosophy professor at Stanford. At any given time, there is something you are not doing because you are procrastinating about it. Do other things instead. That way you'll still get lots done, even if it's not that one thing.
Other, more mundane productivity tips:
* Prioritise your to-do list. Put all your tasks onto a piece of paper, then prioritise from 1 to 4.
* Turn your email off. And the internet. Set yourself online time each day, maybe an hour or two. Do other stuff outside these hours.
* Consolidate all your passwords into a program that only requires one secure password to access all others.
* Link up all your online profiles, from Facebook through LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace and the rest, so that updating one, does the rest.
* And perhaps most importantly, have a decent breakfast. Fairfax Business Media
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