This is number 3 of the 9 Characteristics of a Productivity Ninja….
Using the right tools makes Productivity Ninjas more effective. There are a range of tools out there to help keep us on top of our game. There are two broad types of tools that the Productivity Ninja needs to have in their armoury:
- Thinking tools
- Organising tools
Choosing what to use and when, and being aware of the capabilities of each are key to success. Tools need to give us confidence and ensure that through their productive use, we’re rarely interrupted by our own ineptitude.
As our decisions get more complex, our need for tools to assist our thinking becomes more apparent. Strategic planning processes or line management feedback situations are often where we first encounter such tools, but their value is still underestimated. There are a broad range of such thinking tools and frameworks that have been created to help make our lives easier and our decision-making better.
From Microsoft Outlook and iPhone apps to the humble stapler, there are so many ways to be organised. The trick is to get to a very good level of organisation rather than an excellent or mediocre level; this ensures that the time spent on getting organised receives the optimum payoff in increased productivity, rather than becoming a drain on our time and an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction.
Don’t get seduced by ‘productivity porn’
Tools are there to help us get things done, but our obsession with them can occasionally become a distraction. There are some great productivity websites out there – often created or led by influential and insightful thinkers – like Merlin Mann and Leo Babauta but whilst we do need to keep up with technology and innovation to the extent that it increases our productivity, we also need to be hyper-conscious that this is in itself ‘dead time’, away from the completion of our priority tasks and projects.
I worry when I hear someone talk about their productivity purely and exclusively in the context of which new iPhone productivity app they’ve just downloaded. These tools assist our thinking and organising: they don’t replace the need for it. Worse still, it’s not uncommon for people to retype all their projects and actions from one piece of software to another under the oft-mistaken premise that they’re increasing their productivity by 5% by doing this. No, that’s just a day of procrastination.
At the heart of the way of the Productivity Ninja is improving our ability to make decisions. By challenging ourselves to continually improve and innovate, the quality, quantity and speed of our decisions will increase. Remember that informed and clear decision-making is our aim. Thinking tools help boost our mental agility, but so does the right information.
Twitter and Facebook are fantastic tools for throwing out questions or issues to a group of trusted friends and colleagues: it’s so valuable getting a second, third, fourth and fifth opinion on something. It’s amazing how much time and mental energy you’ll save. But equally, don’t be afraid to think independently and draw your own conclusions when your instinct tells you to
Find out more about becoming a Productivity Ninja with one of our Time Management Workshops