Over the past decade, I’ve been scheming. Plotting in secret. I’ve been experimenting with tactics that serve the most selfish of goals.
I’ve been collecting data (mostly in the form of gut feelings and Wunderlist stats) on personal time management and productivity. My goal is to maximize the time I keep for myself to get things done, which means minimizing work day distractions and interruptions.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. For instance, your marketing manager may appear to be playing candy crush on Facebook when she’s actually making note of the growth hacking techniques used to gain more players of the game than there are people living in Australia (true story).
Other times, things are exactly as they appear to be… like when your marketing manager appears to be taking a Facebook IQ test and she’s actually taking a Facebook IQ test.
My point being, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at either, nor should you.
We learn things every day while at work…it’s only that it’s rarely done while we’re doing our jobs. We learn through reading blogs, through scanning our twitter feeds, from conversations with our co-workers or texts from our friends. I have long held the philosophy that if I need time for “research and development” I’m going to take it. On the clock. And I don’t feel the need to ask permission.
Why? I’m going to use the dark arts of mathematics and logic to make my case.
First, let’s make an assumption. Let’s assume that an employer is interesting in having informed employees who are well-prepared for the challenges of the future. Now, I’m going to ask you to take a small leap and agree that in order to be prepared for the future of business (whether it be in marketing, sales, engineering or medicine) a person needs to learn in an ongoing way. Still with me?
OK, so, when is this learning supposed to happen? On my personal time? What personal time?
Last week I came across a tool that is probably the coolest damn cool I have come across in months. It’s called IFTTT (If This Than That). It automates process on the internet. A simple example is that it will automatically upload any new Instagram photo to Flickr.
I came across IFTTT in trying to automate all of my social activity (tweets, vimeo posts, instagram photos, etc) to dump into my tumblr account as a catch-all. It took about 15 minutes to set up. Beautiful. It’s based on a concept called Recipes. You can create your own from scratch or browse existing recipes and still people’s ideas.
It can do more complex things, though, like adding any Tweet that your favorite to Evernote, Google Docs or Pocket.
You can set time based rules, such as posting a Facebook status to thank people for the birthday wishes every year, on your birthday. (A bit presumptuous, perhaps, but pretty slick!).
The one that really blew my mind and also widened it was the ability to have your WeMo controlled home lighting change colors based on temperature.
Sidenote: WeMo is a Belkin product line of WiFi, 3G/4G/LTE controlled switches. I’m thinking hard for a reason to drop $50 bones on one of these switches.
Simply put, I nerd out over new gadgets, digital tools and shiny pieces of tech news. I’m a designer so I make my living and spend an unnatural amount of time on a computer. I consider my devices extensions of my body and at the helm of these pieces of technology I am annoyingly efficient. I can type 100+ words-per-minute. I’m the type to have the Google results in front of me while everyone is still arguing like cavemen. Here’s the problem with being a hyper-productive digital nerdboy: your life can get cluttered, quickly.
My life doesn’t need clutter. I’m married and I enjoy my wife’s company. I have a two year old, who on top of being a skilled wielder of the iPad, is a shitload of fun to play with. I play hockey at least once a week. I run. I keep in touch with my out-of-town family and friends. I’m have a full-time job doing web, video and graphic design and I stay up late creating and building for myself and freelance clients. These are some of things that sum up my non-digital life.
It seems every week something new is released along with the feeling that I must integrate this new tool (assuming it does well what it sets out to do) into my life immediately. The problem is, this cannot be. This must not be, and this is not necessary. What is necessary is the pursuit of balance. I’m not advocating unplugging, as I run at a personal uptime of 99.95%, but I think we could all benefit from looking at our lives with an editorial eye. Addition by subtraction. Spend more quality, focused time in fewer places. I know this is difficult for people of my generation and especially the young ones (who are not reading this blog post), but this is what you must do.
Evernote Cost: Free or Premium ($5.99 per month)
Evernote is a desktop/mobile note taking app. Quite simply, you open Evernote, write/record a note or attach an image – click sync – and your note appears on every device you have it installed on. Capture anything, accesss anywhere. I use this several times a day for personal reminders, passwords, blog post ideas and everything else. Great app that I highly recommended. The free version offers 60MB of storage, which is quite a lot for text/audio notes but adds up if you add lots of images (which I do not). Premium version offers 1 GB monthly uploads, top priority support, search within PDFs, view notebooks while offline and more.
LogMeIn Cost: Free
LogMeIn is a mobile/desktop app that allows you to log into and remotely control any computer you own from your smartphone. You download the LogMeIn app for your mobile device and for each device you want to be able to remotely log in to. I just started using LogMeIn, but I cursed this person who turned me onto it for not turning me onto it sooner. There are premium (paid) options as well, but I haven’t explored it enough to explain.