3 Productivity Questions

Technology and productivity have been intimately linked for quite a long time and it’s still not really clear whether technology helps us or hinders us. I personally believe that it all depends on how much technology you use, what you use and how you use it. I’m not really a fan of productivity blogs, there are only two that I read on a regular basis: Productivity501 and Scott H. Young. Productivity501’s Mark Shead recently interviewed about 30 bloggers asking them three simple productivity-related questions. And now he has thrown it open to the public. Here’s my take:

1. What is the single biggest way people waste time without even realizing it?

I would have to say multitasking. A lot of people think that they will be able to get more done if they do a lot of things at the same time. While some people might be good at this, most people aren’t and they will end up simply wasting time. Remember that switching tasks requires changing your frame of mind to handle the new task, in effect, reloading your mental RAM. The more tasks you try to handle at the same time the more time you will spend moving between tasks and switching mindsets. Not only do you waste time, you will also tire out faster than if you devoted yourself to one task at a time.

When talking about computers, one fact that many people overlook is that out the dozen windows that some people keep open, only one or two are really being used for work. The rest are just there, more often distracting you than helping you. Please remember that reading blogs or chatting with friends while working on your project doesn’t lead to increased productivity.

2. What change has made the most difference in making you more effective in life.

This is an easy one for me to answer: making an sticking to an appropriate routine. Google Calendar is one productivity tool that I’ve come to depend on. Not too long I used to waste hours of time simply because I couldn’t remember or decide on what to do. Nowadays I spend the last fifteen minutes of my waking day making up next day’s routine. I have different calendars for different areas of my life (Academic, writing, social) etc. and they are each different color. I allocate between 1.5 to 3 hours to a single area and if my daily schedule is colorful enough, it means that I generally have a good balance. A large, uninterrupted swath of a single color probably means that I’m spending too much time on one thing and that I need to space out so that I don’t get bored.

Of course the times that I allocate aren’t always accurate. If I find myself unable to finish my work in the allocated time slab, I have to decide whether I can take a break to do something else and come back later or whether it is more important that I just get it over with no matter how much longer it takes. If I happen to finish early I pull up my simple pen-and-paper to-do list. This list contains “tit-bits”, tasks that aren’t important enough or long enough to warrant a place on my calendar. I can generally get them done in less than ten minutes without much of a mental or physical effort. I find that this combination of a proper daily schedule for longer block tasks and a sinmple to-do lists doe smaller things helps me save a rather large amount of time each day.

3. If someone were to read just one post from your site, which would you recommend and why?

A hard choice to make, because there are a number of articles that are close to my heart. However as a representative of this site, I would like to put forward my opinion piece on Mathematics: A Universal Language. Though I generally write about technology and computers, mathematics is something I’m very fond of and I personally consider a good grasp of Mathematics a prerequisites for anyone seriously interested in computer science. A lot of people who work with computers daily including many IT professionals, programmers and sytem administrators aren’t really aware of the deeper mathematical basis of what they are working with and I think a lot of this is because many people consider math to be very hard, simply because they were taught in a very uninteresting and rather tedious manner. This post outlines how I would like mathematics to be taught and how I try to teach myself mathematics. This post really doesn’t get much traffic on its own, but if there’s one post that I would like more people to read, it’s this one.

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