One area a lot of us developers like to worry about is personal productivity tools. Sometimes this can be a good area to explore, but in general, I think about all the time I’ve wasted on trying out all these things.
Reasons for Trying Out New Productivity Tools
A. I like trying new things (which is probably just fine)
B. My current tool is insufficient
or unfortunately more often I think it is probably C. I’ve usually lost site of the underlying driving factors — which I’m referring to as “The Mission”.
The Key to Productivity
The first, biggest key to productivity is to define your underlying philosophy of why you do what you do.. and what you love. What you want to be the best at and what areas you want to grow in. You will discover that the best tools for the job will come to you through discovery when you feel you need something better. Write out these things and refer to it often as, “The Mission” or the driving force behind what you are doing.
Low Level Task Management
Task management is a low-level function. Between using gmail labels such a “notifications, open conversations, open work (new oportunities) and todo” combined with a GTD app pretty much solve organizing importance on a task and conversational level. The tools are in place to solve this low-level action of processing through tasks.
High Level “Why” Finding
The time I spend thinking about the underlying philosophies is actually solving things a much higher level than the applications and tools.
If you want to be more productive, find out why you are doing it. If you get that far then if you find yourself consistently seeking the right productivity tools then you probably are spending your time on the wrong thing and have worn out your passions and lost sight of the “why” and are now focusing on the “how” when time would be better spend deriving passion from the why.
I think when I’m most productive I’m thinking less about my tools and more about what I want to accomplish. My tools revert to a piece of paper or whiteboard and I forget to use all my tools that I was using when I lost sight of the “why”. Tools such as GTD tools are great on a per-task basis, but don’t let them take your sight off the overall mission.
Prioritize your actions according to the mission.
Next time you are wasiting time on your tools, try saying this: “Hey tool! Get behind my mission or else your new home will be in the trash bin!” Then go sip some tea and cultivate your passions derived from the underlying mission. After that it will be much easier to produce in the area you are thinking about.
Paul Graham has a great writeup that taps on the “why” side of the fence titled, Ideas for Statups