A recent article over at Lifehack.org, “Where Are The Aids for Increasing Genuine Personal Productivity?” turned my thinking. Here are some excerpts from it, with my comments:
“A genuine increase in productivity means getting the same, or greater, output with less effort and a smaller use of resources. Yet most personal productivity software still relies on various ways to categorize old-fashioned to-do lists.”
So much of my productivity “system” is about keeping things organized. In that respect, it does allow me to do things with less effort, because my brain is not constantly engaged in the battle to remember odd little bits of things I would either like to, or need to do.
“Where is the software that would help people find better ways to do things? To free up time for what matters be eliminating the unnecessary and trivial?”
That would be wonderful. A software package that would essentially slap me upside the head and say, “Whoa! That task isn’t important. Why are you going to devote effort to it?” or “That task doesn’t serve a purpose in your plans” or “You need to get rid of that commitment because it no longer serves your needs”
“The Tao Te Ching suggested, more than 2200 years ago, that by doing nothing, everything would be done. What I suspect the author meant was that, if you think about things long enough and carefully enough, a great deal of your present activity can be removed altogether; if you’re patient, still more will resolve itself without any input from you; and whatever is left, you can do in half the time and with a quarter of the effort. Everything that matters gets done. The rest is irrelevant.”
I agree on some level, but I suspect that the author of the Tao Te Ching also didn’t do his own laundry, cook his own meals, or move kids around from one activity to another. Yet the point is well taken. How many things do I do that could just be left to take care of themselves?
“It’s easy to build up a to-do list of almost infinite length, then feel stressed by all the things still waiting to be done.”
This is my major problem with my efforts right now. My lists build, and get filled with “shoulds” until I bury myself under the weight of it. The stress I put on myself is incredible at times.
“Until now, nearly all software advances linked to personal productivity have been based on automating what people once did by hand. That process has reached the point of diminishing returns. The real innovations will only come when we start using software to let us do what was either impossible, or unimagined, before we had it.”
It is hard to imagine what doesn’t exist. But yet, I think there is a valid point there.
What Would I Want Software to Do For Me?
What would software do for me? I would want it to help me figure out what is important to me right now, by analyzing where I spend my time and energy. I would want it to help me figure out where I want to go, and then map a path between the two. I would want it to help me keep in overall balance with where I am putting my energy.
At the same time, I don’t think the software will ever truly be invented. For it to be effective, it would have to be monitoring me 24/7, and the data entry would be phenomenal, for me to set up a system. It would have to know exactly what I am doing at all times, and be able to interrupt the thought pattern of “what can I do next” with “what should I do next”.
Being a software programmer, I don’t see that this software would be possible without integration into our brains. So it is only a dream.
Is There A Way To Get Partway There?
I suspect that core components of the system already exist. Time mapping software exists, as well as balancing software.
Are they worth the effort? I don’t know. I suspect the true productivity “software” advances will lie in training our brains to do the work for us.
Photo by De Shark