A Productivity Filled Day

Last night I decided today was going to be extremely productive. I wrote a thorough To Do List on my ubiquitous capture notepad. Upon arriving at work this morning I realized that I had forgotten my notepad at home. Although I remembered everything on my list, I decided to create a web-based To Do List in case this ever happened again and I wasn’t able to remember.

I found TaDaList.com through a Google search and signed up for a free account. I started making my list and found that I barely understood the functionality of this powerful productivity app. I remembered that LifeHacker had posted an overview and went to check it out.

The post was extremely informative. It even included a list of other web-based ToDo applications. I decided that if I was going to start a web-based To Do List it needed to be on the best platform. After all, this would be affecting my daily productivity.

Lifehacker only had reviews of 4 out of 6 web-based To Do List options so I popped over to Lifehack.org to see if they had posted about the others. Lifehack.org had some great info, and even suggested creating To Do Lists with Gmail or Jott which gave me a couple new options.

I was almost ready to make a decision when it occurred me that I’d also be using this application with my Mac. I headed over to 43folders to see if any of the web-based To Do List applications integrated with Quicksilver, my favorite Mac productivity booster.

I ended up reading an article about the Hipster PDA and began to wonder if a web-based To Do List was really the way to go. What if inspiration struck when I wasn’t near a computer?

The whole To Do List idea was getting a bit overwhelming so I went to Zen Habits to reread the Zen To Done post that simplifies the GTD (Getting Things Done) system. While I was there I found a list of 50 Great Productivity Blogs. Not wanting to miss any productivity insights, I decided to add every site on the list to my feed reader.

In the process I found some new implementations of GTD but realized I was still a bit fuzzy on the original concept. I decided to reread chapter 7 of Getting Things Done for clarification.

When I finished reading it was time to go to lunch. I felt extremely productive because I was now slightly closer to implementing the ultimate productivity system. Unfortunately, my actual productivity did not reflect this satisfaction. I had not completed a single task from my original To Do list. Is it possible that productivity obsession drastically reduces productivity?

See Also: Hyper Productivity (cartoon).

  • Decheron

    You are so right – I gave up the gtd mentality because nothing on the lists ever got done or were done too late to matter. Now I just do things as they come up.

    By the by, maybe blogs are like to do lists, too – once you get one you don’t get anything else done. I’m supposed to be studying right now.

  • http://www.positivityblog.com Henrik Edberg

    Haha, the cartoon was kinda funny. I´ve tried a bunch of different apps for doing todo-lists etc. In the end I think it might be best to just stick with pen and paper. Simplifying seems like a useful idea in most areas of life.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Yes, simplicity was the point I had in mind. I plan on doing another post explaining why productivity addiction is the ultimate medium for procrastination.

  • Other Ryan

    I have never been a scheduled person and I usually avoid to-do list. But I have used Ta-da List (and still do) for long term goals and for tackling large projects with various ends (namely my company’s inventory which can get out of control sometimes).

    I know some of the branches here at work use daily checklist to make sure everything gets done before the day is out (mostly because otherwise they slack off). But so far as using to-do list for simple, short-term task, I think it’s a little counter-productive.

    Just do what you need to do, and leave the to-do listing to the heavy stuff (if you need it).

  • http://www.JugglingFrogs.com clkl

    LOL! I’ve definitely had days like this


    “The best laid plans…”
    and all that.

    Still, I try to lay the best plans down. My most “productive” tinkering seems to happen when I’m in procrastination mode.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I agree, procrastination can be extremely productive. That’s when a lot of the most creative ideas happen.

  • http://zenhabits.net Leo

    Funny post, John! It’s good to remind people that actually *doing* stuff is more important than reading or talking about it.

    That’s why my Zen To Done (ZTD) system on Zen Habits focuses on doing and simplicity. As I said there, it’s about the habits and the doing, not the system or the tools.

  • http://infinityis.rahga.com David Hoelscher

    Don’t reinvent the wheel, I’ve already gone that route. I made a notepad web app called “Google Notes” that works well enough–it was intended to work as a module within a Google Homepage but it works equally well as a bookmarkable standalone web page. http://infinityis.rahga.com

  • http://www.catfish.net.au Paul

    Of course obsessing over productivity is another procrastination device, and it’s one of the clever ones that runs along the lines of “hey I’m doing PRODUCTIVITY stuff instead of playing Halo, therefore it’s not procrastinating”.
    Another good one is “hey I’m contributing to an intelligent conversation on someones blog instead of playing Halo, therefore it’s not………doh!”.

    Things like GTD in and of themselves are not the answer, they are the tools you use to build your own solution to how to manage your life.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Thanks, Leo! Keep up the good work over at Zen Habits. I think we could all use a reminder how important “doing” really is.

    David, that’s a neat little web app. I just added it onto my Google home page to test it out.

    Paul, you’re absolutely right. There are so many ways to procrastinate, it’s often the ones that seem more productive that we gravitate to. It takes a lot of self discipline to fight these urges.

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  • http://www.jaganath.net Jaganath

    This is a common syndrome with first time GTDers. We tend to focus and waste more time on tools that the actual task at hand. A good old notebook is the best way to go. Another very workable solution is to use a PDA Phone. Mobile phones are something you carry with you always, even during vacations. So they are ideal for taking notes. I use a windows mobile based PDA. A palm based device is also good for note taking. When you sync your device with your PC, you automatically get all your data in Outlook. If you are on Linux, you can sync with Evolution.

  • http://www.boinc-indians.net Ninad

    Thats very true, even I waste a lot of time searching for things to be more productive…sometimes its just an excuse not to do any real work, without even realising it.

    You should keep one day of the week..say Sunday to review what you have done in the past week and to find any other productive ways of doing the tasks.

    For the rest of the days, JUST DO THE TASKS :-)

  • http://ceclair.fr Argancel

    I’m happy to find someone who agrees with me : web based todo lists are useless because you depend on the internet.
    I use Excel to manage my todo lists because my todolists are usually huge and I print it if I want to carry them with me.

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  • DamionKutaeff

    Hello everybody, my name is Damion, and I’m glad to join your conmunity,
    and wish to assit as far as possible.

  • BIJU BOTANY

    …very interesting and motivating.

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  • http://clarityjones.com Clarity

    good post

    I have a technique that really works for me. When it comes up in my head I just do it – just get it done and clear it out of the way to get on with other things. That way I don’t have to spend any time thinking about it, nonetheless writing to do lists over it. In turn I’ve been able to do a lot of big things because my time isn’t spent fussing over the small things. Having said that the accomplishing of little things leads to greater and greater accomplishments in the end, ie Rome was not built in a day.

    Of course sometimes procrastination serves, I am sensitive to timing and note if some things are better off if you wait for this or that element, but in general for the small things, that need little else other than my attention, when it pops up in my head, I just do it,

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