How I Gained an Hour a Day by Ditching My Productivity Tools

Moleskine GuyIt happened in one of those melon slapping moments — a proverbial Archimedes streaking flash of insight:

I was wasting an hour a day trying to be more productive.

Minimalist Productivity

Thanks to Mark Shead’s interview series, I was forced to examine some time-wasters for my contribution. A couple of days later, my real time-waster occurred to me — my productivity system and tools.

It wasn’t until I started looking all the tools, forms, routines, and processes that were literally sucking away an hour of my time a day, that I found my real time waster.

I decided to go minimalist — a sacrilege to productivity geeks everywhere. So, I did some extensive streamlining…

First, I’m Taking Back My Attention

The first thing I did was deleted about 50% of my feeds. I’m not reading them anyway, and scan most of them out of habit.

Next, I deleted all my Google Reader tags, and replaced them with just 3 — “must-read,” “news-bin,” and “scan:”

  • Must-read” is stuff that provides something of real value, things I need to know, or will make me a better person or entrepreneur.
  • News-bin” is a collection of news aggregating sites. I know with just a quick scan of the list view if something major is happening, because it’ll show up a bunch of times. The other news I can read or skip at my leisure.
  • Scan” is for sites that have occasional gems, but for the most part don’t really benefit me in any way. This is also where I will add new feeds, and then tag them “must-read,” delete them, or keep them tagged “scan” depending on what a new feed offers during a 2-week trial period.

This alone has cut my reading time in half. Now I needed something to track my work…

Oh, Crap, It Really Is the Best Notebook

I opted for analog for my task and project tracking. For me, computer and Web-based tools invited endless tweaking, customizing, and lead to tons of wasted time. So I decided to use a notebook.

Much to my chagrin, it happens to be a Moleskine. I spent at least 45 minutes carefully examining, touching, and analyzing every notebook in the store. I wanted so much to find something I liked better then a Moleskine. But I couldn’t.

So at the risk of looking like a latte-drinking, hipster poet wannbe, I bought a grid-lined full size Moleskine.

I won’t go into the details of how I set it up. It’s basically a mashup of Bill Westerman’s and Isahrai Azaria’s systems, and they’ve done an excellent job of spelling it out.

The Helper Apps

For notes and such, I use gridlined 3×5 cards. I also use them to write out my goals using my goal setting system. There’s something cool about having goal cards, and I can shuffle through them to give me inspiration when I feel like slacking.

I did keep Google Calendar for all date-based items. I like it for a lot of reasons, but having access to what the whole family is doing is one of the best features. As a home-based entrepreneur, what’s going on in the household affects my schedule. It’s replaced a big whiteboard calendar in the kitchen that I never checked anyway.

I never thought I’d be a productivity minimalist, but it works for me. Just by simplifying how I track my work I’ve saved on average an hour a day.

How I use that hour will ultimately determine how successful my new system is