Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

If It Works For You, Why Change?

A list with items crossed out

Over the years, I’ve met and read about a number of people who are deep into the world of personal productivity. No matter what philosophy about productivity they adhere to, there was always one constant common to many of those people: experimentation.

They jump from system to system, technique to technique, tool to tool. They constantly gather gather tips and tricks. They glom on to the latest software or app or notebook. All in a quest to find the golden path to productivity.

They seem to be too busy organizing to be productive.

For some of the people I’ve encountered, the best (I won’t say perfect because that doesn’t exist) method of productivity for them is often right under their noses. It’s the one they’re using now.

Aim for Quality, Not Quantity

A large set of file folders

Up until around 2012, I maintained a rather popular blog that covered technical communication. One day, I had the brilliant (yes, I’m being sarcastic) idea of publishing posts five days a week. That was in addition to writing for two other blogs, working on various contracts, doing a load of freelance writing, and spending time with my family.

I managed to pull that blogging schedule off. Just. Barely. The problem was that only one or maybe two of those weekly posts were of the quality that I was building my reputation on at the time. The rest were good, but nothing special. It didn’t help that I was exhausted most of the time which led my body to rebel quite spectacularly one weekend.

After about a year, I scaled back to publishing one or two posts a week. While I wasn’t publishing as much, the quality of what I was publishing went up because I could devote more time to those one or two posts, rather than dissipating my energies across five of them.

Taking a Look at 3 Text Editors for the Chromebook

Side-on view of a Chromebook

If you’ve been reading the posts in this space for any length of time, you know that I do most of my work in plain text. Which means I do most of my work in a text editor.

That’s fine when I’m working on a desktop of laptop computer — they all come pre-loaded with one text editor or another. And I can always find a editor with more features.

But what working in plain text on a Chromebook? There are any number of solid web-based text editors that you can use. If, on the other hand, you want to work offline or just keep your work on your Chromebook, then your options are a bit limited.

Limited, but available. Let’s take a quick peek at three text editors for the Chromebook. They’re fairly basic, but they get the job done and they get bonus points for working offline.

On Shortcuts

A bunch of confusing detour signs

Shortcuts. Hacks. Little tips and and tricks to make you life easier. Whatever tag you slap on the concept, I have to grudgingly admit those tricks and techniques can be useful.

Shortcuts can help you complete tasks and to learn what you need to learn faster and more efficiently. Shortcuts can help you focus on the meat of those tasks, on the important bits of what you need to learn. They can help you become more productive. Or, at the very least, shortcuts can streamline your productivity.

But shortcuts are frowned upon in some circles. Why? They’re considered cheating or taking the lazy route. Some people say that by taking shortcuts, you’re not getting the depth that those people think you need. Even if you don’t need that depth, ever.

I disagree. That said, you should approach using shortcuts with the awareness and knowledge that they’re:

  • Not always the best way to tackle every task, and
  • Not meant for every situation.

As I wrote a few paragraphs ago, shortcuts are useful. At the same time, they have limitations and they’re limiting. Shortcuts aren’t for everything or everyone.

The danger of always turning to a shortcut is that those shortcuts become an end in themselves, not a means to an end. It seems that for a certain cadres of people, including self-styled productivity hackers, the goal of shortcuts isn’t to work more efficiently. Instead, the goal is to come up with another more clever, complex hack.

The time spent researching or coming up with those shortcuts, with those hacks is better spent doing actual work. Doing the work, and not chasing the white rabbit of the next shortcut, is what working efficiently is all about. That’s what productivity is all about.

Use shortcuts when you need to. Take the longer route at other times. There’s a place for both in your life and work.

Remember that shortcuts are a tool to boost your productivity. Like other tools, you should only use them where and when appropriate.

Links Roundup - October 3, 2016