No matter how well things are going with your current productivity system, there's always room for improvement. New technologies, new apps, and new personal organization philosophies are constantly emerging, and each one offers the promise of complete control over your hectic life. Here's how to make the make the most of every new tech trend and finally get on top of things.
Let's face it: Your old productivity system was flawed. No matter what methodology you used to keep yourself on track and in control, you still experienced occasional productivity breakdowns in some form. But here's some good news: There are hundreds of alternative systems out there that you can employ in your own life, and an amazing new tablet just hit the market that will almost certainly change your work habits for the better. This time, things are going to be different.
Step 1: Get the Tech
Tablets are clearly on the upswing and quickly gaining mainstream acceptance. All the most attractive people at the Starbucks by your office seem to have them. The coolest people have the iPad 2, which just launched last month and--by virtue of its slim design, integrated cameras, and ability to edit your home movies--clearly demonstrates the worthlessness of nearly every slate or smartphone that came before. So get that one. (If there's a newer model by the time you read this, get that one instead.)
Don't be tempted to play it safe and go for the entry-level model here. You can't put a price on productivity, and you don't want to look back a few months from now and wonder how much more successful you might have been if you'd only spent a few hundred dollars more. The top-end model has twice as much storage capacity as the low-end one, and you're going to need all that space to download all the apps that will alternately become the new focus of your daily life.
If you're really worried about how much to spend, use this simple equation to help you make an educated choice: P = $ * y (In this equation, P represents your total productivity, $ is the amount you've invested in your technology, and y is the number of apps you've downloaded). As you apply this equation to your personal situation, you'll notice that as $ or y go up even a little bit, P rises dramatically. So the surest way to raise your total productivity to an astronomical value is to spend as much as possible on the initial gadget purchase. That's why God invented credit cards.
You may be asking yourself whether it's really a good idea to switch from your current mobile platform right now, since you've just worked out most of the kinks in your existing productivity system and finally learned all the little tricks to make the most of the apps you've downloaded. Don't be a fool. The fact that you would even ask that shows just how out of step you really are. Besides, this thing is magical.
Step 2: Get the Apps
Once you've got your new tablet in hand, it's time to download some apps. Apps are the key to really unlocking your productive and creative potential both as a worker and as a human being, so don't be timid here. Remember that as y (the number of apps you've downloaded) in the above productivity equation goes up, your total productivity (P) skyrockets. So download a ton of them.
If you're moving from another mobile platform, such as BlackBerry, you're going to want to clear a few days on your calendar to download and familiarize yourself with all the new apps you'll be working with. If you're moving from an older iPad or iPhone, a single business day should be enough to get you started.
In choosing the best apps to download, you may feel daunted by the multitude of available choices in the app store. Don't worry. Just browse to the Productivity section of the app store and look at the top choices to get started. Even if you bought the highest-end model, there's a chance your device probably won't be able to hold all of the available productivity apps you'd like to try. So if you're forced to choose, just go for the apps with the most eye-catching icons.
Along the way, you may notice that many of the apps in the Productivity section don't really appear to belong in there, such as that emoticons app that 8,479 people slammed with bad reviews. "And why is this Web browser listed here?" you may wonder. Ignore these negative thoughts and trust that Apple has made these choices for a very good reason that you're just incapable of understanding. Could a company that makes such beautiful machines be wrong? I rest my case.
Get all those apps onto your device and you're well on your way to the life of control and organization you always knew you deserved.
Step 3: Organize Everything
Now that your slate is freshly loaded with a few hundred of the best apps you could tap, it's time to start organizing. Where to start? You have a couple of choices: You can either employ the same reliable system that got those apps onto your tablet in the first place by looking for the most attractive icons, or you could begin with the apps you've heard people buzzing about lately at the office. Either way, you're in for a long haul, so don't waste too much time thinking about it.
Just launch each app and start exploring. In general, productivity apps tend to be fairly simple, flexible, and self-explanatory, so you're bound to figure them all out. Start entering all your data into each app, one-by-one, and get a feel for the system the app is trying to impose on you. Because the vast majority of apps are designed by college-age programmers who've barely managed to get their own lives in order, you may find that some of the apps you've downloaded are either needlessly complicated or barely usable for tracking anything beyond a rudimentary to-do list. If--after entering all of your contacts, appointments, projects, and tasks into one of these apps--you believe this may be the case, don't invest more than another hour or two trying to find a way to make it work for you. Move on to the next one. Within a few days, you'll whittle the list down to a handful of apps that actually make sense for you. At that point, you'll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you've thoroughly checked out all of your available options.
Some of the more advanced productivity apps are based on popular productivity systems, such as David Allen's Getting Things Done or Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (which now, apparently, has been expanded to eight habits). To get the most out of these apps, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the systems they're designed around. So download the books from your favorite ebook store and dive in. Within a week or two, you'll have digested enough conflicting advice from various efficiency gurus to keep your mind churning for months to come.
Step 4: Always Be Optimizing
Efficiency is as much a process as an objective. To keep pushing yourself to greater heights of productivity, set aside some time each week (or each day, if your schedule permits) to tweak your system. This can be an excellent use of time during long, boring meetings, and your colleagues will likely notice and appreciate how committed you are to personal organization.
Here are a few of the things you can tweak to keep improving your system:
- Folder arrangement: Your mobile OS supports folder structures to keep your apps organized. Take advantage of this by continually rearranging your apps in folders to figure out which associations make the most sense for you.
- Screen arrangement: In addition to organizing apps within folders, you can arrange folders onto separate desktop screens. Try a lot of different combinations.
- Synching options: Many apps support data syncing to a variety of cloud services. Try them all out. It'll give you a whole ‘nother universe of productivity systems to explore. And because the synching is often imperfect, it will also give you more opportunities to reorganize your data as you go.
Optimizing your system is an ongoing process, so don't be discouraged if it takes a while to get comfortable with your new system. And of course, don't be too rigid, either: When the next big gadget hits the market in a few months' time, you'll want to be flexible enough to jump on that one and get a fresh start once again.