Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Last week I started thinking about how every “system” says that you don’t need special tools to implement their system…but also has the tools available. I came to the conclusion that the reason so many people buy, and discard, these specialized tools is that it is easier to buy a pre-made one and bend our styles to the tool than to make a productivity system without guidance. The aim of this series is going to be to help us define our tool set to make us productive.
On the Go
Many productivity systems advocate that you keep everything about your life in one place. The logic behind this is that because as our world gets more connected, it is possible to work from anywhere. With WiFi, you can check your email at any time, day or night. With laptops, you can write a book on a train. With mobile phones, you can make phone calls while caught in traffic.
The Downside of Always Being Connected
Personally, I find it depressing to always have my work tasks in front of me at home, or my home tasks in front of me at work. It prompts me to give energy to those things I cannot do anything about at the time.
David Allen talks about the ideas of contexts, where you don’t look at anything you cannot do at the moment; so work tasks would never appear at home, and vice versa.
That doesn’t go far enough for me. I like being able to leave my work at work. I don’t give out my cell phone number, and I certainly don’t check work email on weekends. I believe it is healthier to have those divisions in our lives.
You Don’t Have To Have Just One System
I disagree with many of the leading experts when they say everything has to be in one place. I believe that if the activities you get paid for are sufficiently delineated so that you can leave it all at your employer, you can safely have two separate systems.
Who might that apply to? Government workers who are not allowed to take anything home. Professionals whose activities depend on their place of employment (doctors, nurses, mechanics). Contractors who do not work offsite. There are others.
I run two separate systems, one at home and one at work. While the information about what I do at work daily comes home with me, this is for a backup, rather than for working material.
The Advantage of Splitting Things Up
When you split things into more than one tracking system, you give yourself the ability to use the tools in a very focused way. For example, my work system is 100% digital, because I do everything on the computer. The digital approach does not work for me at home, since I do not have a computer in front of me all the time.
The Disadvantage of Multiple Systems
There are disadvantages. One friend, who is a Realtor, does not have fixed hours or a fixed working location. She needs all of her information in one place, and accessible at all times. Sometimes it is necessary, even in situations where the lines are rigid, to have information. I remember one morning trying to locate my boss’s phone extension: it was on my work computer but I did not have it at home.
One, Two Or More?
It is up to you to decide how many delineated areas there are in your life that you wish not to merge. Right now I have two: work and home. However, when I had multiple clients, each client had its own tool system based on the way the work was given out.
Think about how you work: do you like having things in one place, or could you split things up? If you want to split things up, how many splits do you want?
Case Study: My System
My current system consists of two pieces: one at work, entirely electronic, and one at home, that is a mish-mash of various things. I can still keep my work separate from home, although I might want to consider merging some of the contact information from work into my home system.
Since I am only supporting one client right now, I can leave the system as it is: one place for work, one place for home.
Photo by Steve Keys