Productivity Pr0n

I was at a cookout last night and heard someone say that in Venice Beach, where he grew up, there’s a strong ethic of “work hard, play hard.” You do your job, you come home, you enjoy your life. But then he came here, and was astonished by the frenetic pace of working life here. Working on the weekends is a badge of honor. His response is, “Get a therapist!”

My response is to try and keep my life a little more organized. I manage my working life by interruption and so trying to keep my deteriorating attention span in check while being productive is a challenge. So I’ve gotten onto an organization kick lately- what tools do I need (and will actually use) to make sure things get done?

At my previous job, I could use my own PowerBook as my work computer, so things were fairly easy. I went everywhere with my laptop and my calendar was always on hand. I had work and personal calendars in my iCal, I subscribed to Tom’s iCal feed for his travel schedule, and stuff was great.

But now I work for a company where the IT department has standardized everyone on a particular computer system and keeps the whole thing pretty locked down for security reasons. I can’t plug anything into the network that wasn’t issued by them. I also can’t sync anything to my desktop that isn’t company-issue.

Now, this seems oppressive to some of you, and being a gadget-dependent geek, it annoys me too. However, since I have always worked for tiny companies with either no IT department, or an understaffed, incompetent IT department in the past, I choose to accept these restrictions gracefully in exchange for the simple joy of having my computer’s function be someone else’s responsibility. When something breaks, I get to pick up the phone and make it someone else’s problem. This seems a small price to pay for giving up the ability to sync a PDA.

But the question I have still had to wrestle with over the 5 months I’ve worked at this company is this: What tool(s) can I use that will allow me to keep the level of organization I became accustomed to when my work machine and personal machine were the same?

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
I tried the paper calendar, but that failed miserably. It’s huge, I hate carrying it around, and I hate all the double entry into two computer systems PLUS the writing in the planner. That’s crap.

So I started reading personal productivity blogs, like LifeHacker and 43 Folders. Being a geek, I tend to prefer the electronic solution to everything, but am willing to examine when paper is simply more convenient.

Here’s what I’m coming up with:

1. Get the PDA anyway. I can’t sync it to the work machine, but it gives me someplace to record stuff that will sync to the Powerbook, hence eliminating at least part of the multiple-entry I have to do. Besides, a lot of the stuff on my work computer is other people’s in/out of office notices due to the, uh, less-than-optimal Exchange Server setup we have. I don’t need all that crap on my personal calendar anyway. My company has some sort of discount deal with and I ended up with an open-box PalmOne Zire 72 for cheap and it’s on its way now.

2. Backpack It! I was skeptical of the quality of this product at first… but then I tried it. Guys, this is teh c00l sh!t. It’s like a more structured version of a wiki- I had found that I was paralyzed by having too much choice in how to use a wiki. Backpack gives just enough structure that I’m able to corral my thoughts while still being able to enter them conveniently. I don’t think my office computer has IE 6, so I won’t be able to use the interface from work, but they have this cool email-to-page thing with specialized markup so I’ll be able to add stuff to my Backpack pages there anyway. This will also help me with my perennial What to Blog About problem- I come up with ideas at work, but then don’t record them anywhere convenient when I decide to use them later. I come home, ready to blog, and can’t remember what it was I wanted to blog about. Bah. Thank you Backpack, you’ll make me a more productive blogger.

3. Three sizes of notepads. Geek that I am, sometimes I still need paper. In fact, I need it a lot. So on my desk, I have the rectangular Post-It pad for random info that comes my way but hasn’t been processed yet, I have the junior-legal pad for short term To-do lists and such, and then I have the big yellow top-spiral pad for when I need to plan a conversation with a client, or plan for something.

4. More geekery. I’m exploring things like Quicksilver and Automator to see if I can make my time with the PowerBook more efficient.

How do you organize your life?

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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