01 April 2009

Productivity Tools and Techniques

It seems that many times when I am sitting side-by-side working with others, they start asking me about the software on my computer that they see me using. At that point I have explain GTD and many things surrounding it. So here are some unique productivity tools and techniques, some that I've used for a while and one I just discovered:

  • Getting Things Done (GTD) is a book and a way of working. In the last few years many apps have sprung up surrounding the GTD style including OmniFocus, RememberTheMilk, Things, iGTD, GTDInbox/GTDGMail and many, many more. I have used and like RememberTheMilk and OmniFocus, though I must say that OmniFocus has won me over more because I used kGTD (though I haven't shelled out for the iPhone app yet). Check out this GTD software comparison for a huge list of GTD software for many platforms.

  • The Pomodoro Technique is interesting to me because I'm into GTD. This was introduced to me by my friend Alef and is rather practical. This technique helps you to actually execute if you use GTD. The Pomodoro Technique advises you to gather your tasks in the morning on a sheet of paper as a todo list and then work down the list in uncommitted blocks of 25 minute periods. Although David Allen says that the morning todo list idea is less than ideal, it works for some folks. I don't stick to it religiously, but when I use it I'm much more productive.

  • (Just a quick mention since I mentioned GTD, has anyone ready David Allen's new book, Making It All Work, the follow-up to GTD? Unfortunately I haven't had the time to read this one yet.)

  • Dejal Time Out is great for sticking to a regular schedule of taking breaks throughout the work day. It also works well for use with the Pomodoro Technique mentioned above. Believe it or not, this is a great tool for keeping you focused on tasks by making you take regular breaks. For years I've always thought about difficult problems by getting away from them completely and doing something like playing my guitar. Well this app regularly reminds me to clear my mind to make room for productive thinking.

  • SelfControl allows you to set up a blacklist of sites to block in an effort to make you stop visiting certain URLs. This app is funny but I'll bet it works, I haven't tried it yet. I typically will just close email apps and the browser (not always possible when developing web apps) to dampen the distraction that is the internet. Research shows that multi-tasking is bullshit. I like to call it multi-ignoring.

  • Timer for Mac OS X is something I used before I discovered Dejal Time Out. I still tend to go back and forth between this and Time Out. Just set the timer to count down for 25 minutes and go.

  • Time Tracker is a very simple app for tracking time on a task. This one works well but is less needed if I can stick to working in 25 minute blocks.

This post is really a quick braindump of stuff. There are many other items that I could add and maybe I will over time through more posts. But for now, this is what I had available in the cache tonight.

Do you know of any other tools and techniques that you find handy? Tell me about them.

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