Transformation vs. Productivity

Stepcase LifeHack is featuring a 12 part series entitled “Towards a New Vision of Productivity”.  It hits out at the reshaping of the productivity blogosphere from a lifehacking pseudo-religious organizational madness filled with folders, post-it notes, beeping reminders, etc. into simplified mindful living.

Before embarking upon my own quest of restructuring and a new life of simple pleasures I dragged through a bunch of lifehack posts set up on rss feeds, sat at a desk with multiple moniters and multiple machines whirring underneath it for eight to twelve hours a day and yet ran myself dry mentally, emotionally, and physically almost every week.

Where the difference comes in is in transformation over productivity.

Productivity, as has been echoed over and over, is dead.  Long live productivity.  Productivity as a set of systems to create efficiency in our lives isn’t efficient unless we are effective in choosing the goals which produces the results we want in our lives.

No productivity system can put you in a zen like, meditative, or mind like water state. A calm, focused, and meditative mind leads to greater productivity, but productivity systems cannot create a mind like water. – Clay Collins.

Transformation is about reshaping our lives.

When we reevaluate the goals and purpose of our life, cut out the extraneous portions that are holding us back, and replace them with a simple mindful attentive life we can live in a much more meaningful manner.  When we have a mindful way of living we are far more productive than when our life is bloated with hours at a desk, associations that drag us down, tools that take more time than they are worth, and so on.

Transformation is what this blog is about.

Blogging as Creative Outlet

Over on LifeDev Glen wrote a piece on how blogging shouldn’t be seen as a job.  Sure, we want our blogs to be successful but in the long run they are an expression of ourselves.

I ran into this problem when I was working on Lindybloggers.  Once it felt like I had to put out a certain type of content with a certain tone it became restrictive and lacked the freedom I had enjoyed with my writing.  I kept putting off finishing an event review and a month passed.

After a bit of reflection and free time I deleted the old draft and rewrote my review from scratch in a much shorter time.  I took the work out of the writing and made it a creative process again.

Whenever I’m in a crunch for writing I’ll definitely have to keep this in mind.

Daily Goals – A Minor Checklist

Many productivity and lifestyle design experts advocate using to-do lists, task lists, etc. to achieve important or mission critical (work related) goals.

My take is simple and open-ended for my daily life goals.

  • Learn something new
  • Do something different(ly)
  • Practice an existing skill
  • Connect with someone

Learning something new – add to your knowledge.  Learn a new word, find a new application of an existing skill, acquire a new physical skill or technical skill.  It’s about discovering something that you didn’t know before big or small.

Do something different(ly) – get out of your comfort zone.  Talk to someone you don’t know, order something different, don’t check your e-mail for a day, turn off your phone, take a different route to work or type of transportation to work.  It’s about breaking out of habits and opening doors.

Practice an existing skill – working on things you already know is a matter of upkeep and discipline.  Pick up that instrument which you haven’t played in weeks, put on your tap shoes, pick up the pencil and sketch pad and work on refining something you already have skill in.  It’s about reinvesting in what you already know.

Connect with someone – reach out to someone whether you know them well or not.  Call up an old friend or someone you have lost touch with, talk to someone who is having a rough time, or just sit down with a close friend for a drink and hear what they have to say.  It’s about establishing and maintaining relationships and understanding others.

These are my four things that I strive to do on a daily basis.  Regardless of whether they are life altering or barely noticeable and they are open to both ends of the spectrum – it gives me a set of things to aspire to.  If I don’t accomplish them all in a given day – there is always tomorrow.

What are things you do or want to do on a daily basis?  Perhaps you have a weekly set?

Slacker – A Definition

Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary c. 1966

One who shirks his duties or avoids military service in wartime; shirker.

Wikipedia

The term slacker is commonly used to refer to a person who avoids work (especially British English), or (primarily in North American English) an educated person who is antimaterialistic and viewed as an underachiever.

So while I am not going to recommend enlisting in military service (the Reader’s Digest definition may be a touch out of date) I will recommend putting your talents to good use – as I hope to put my own to use without over burdening myself with the traditional notion of work.

As to my definition of a slacker – the wikipedia definition for North America is on target.  I would add to it that slackers general have a level of idealism that breeds a cynicism of the current system (or at least I do).  As for in practice: slacking, as I used it in my school career, consisted mostly of ignoring the busy work and completing important tasks (projects, papers, etc.) in the shortest time possible (usually at the last minute).

In a way this was my use of Parkinson’s Law without knowing about it.  Parkinson’s Law is cited a great deal in Timothy Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Workweek and refers to the notion that we a job will swell in work according to the time given.  While some may dispute how Timothy Ferriss uses the Parkinson’s Law, Study Hack for example citing the specific context Parkinson was referring to in his paper on British Civil Service, it is in many contexts an effective idea to put to use.

The purpose of slacker reform is then not to take the slacker out entirely but to optimize the slacker for high yield and efficiency while maintaining a minimal level of work.

Are you a slacker?  Even if you aren’t, how would you define slacker?  Let me know and comment.

Play Auditorium – An Exercise in Play and Creativity

Play Auditorium is a spectacular puzzle game created in Flash by CipherPrime.

It combines excellent graphic design with an intuitive and simple interface and a fascinating puzzle concept.

The concept centers around redirecting a stream of sound particles to VU meters using directional objects.  When all of the VU meters on the level are maxxed out you progress to the next level.

Initially you have only white sound particles and your directional objects are limited to relative directions (up, down, left, right) but as you progress through the levels additional colors are added to match alternate VU meters and gravity objects become available.  It seems in the full game many more options and challenges will be included.

I could describe it more but seeing is believing – this clip is of one of the last levels in the demo.

What’s most fascinating is the simplicity of the interface and the interplay of visual objects with sound objects.  These three elements along with the immediate affect your control has over those objects draws you in.

I’ve found myself going back and playing it again and again as I attempt to work out different solutions to the puzzles.  While not necessarily a productivity tool it evokes playful behavior which can be all too lacking in our everyday.

The TED Talk by Tim Brown points out the effectiveness play can have in the creative workplace and PlayAuditorium brings excellent design and playfulness together.

It’s currently in beta awaiting a full release a full 70 plus level game so give it a play.

AwayFind – E-mail Intermediary

So many productivity gurus advocate a variety of e-mail management systems and although I’ve never had a problem with e-mail management (I’m not a guru in demand) I have implemented AwayFind preemptively.

AwayFind Homepage
AwayFind Homepage

AwayFind is a free service provided by SET Consulting which provides an intermediary service with a variety of options for managing your incoming information flow.  You can also pay for a higher level of service with more options for managing your e-mail.  AwayFind has already been featured on Lifehacker and Stepcase Lifehack, two websites I frequent often.

So far I have opted for the free service until a greater quantity of incoming email necessitate a change.

AwayFind’s free service offers the following:

  • AwayFind Contact Form
  • E-mail Autoresponder Setup
  • E-mail Signature Setup
  • AwayFind Inbox
  • Contact Options including Text Messaging and E-mail

The AwayFind Contact Form is what people will fill out to contact you depending upon how you provide the AwayFind link.  My AwayFind contact form can be here: http://awayfind.com/CarlNelson

As you can see it includes spam filtering, contact information fields, and a brief space for the message.

I use the E-mail Autoresponder attached to my business gmail account.  This sends anyone who emails me an automatic response with an “out of the office” style message and includes my AwayFind address for contacting me if it is of immediate importance.

You can also use the E-mail Signature setup to create a personal signature including your AwayFind address which will be appended to any e-mail you send.  I don’t use this option as I prefer the Autoresponse message.

The AwayFind Inbox is just that.  An inbox of those messages which are left through your AwayFind Contact form.

Lastly, AwayFind provides two options for contacting you when someone submits their information via your contact form – text messaging and e-mail.  I prefer the former as I have AwayFind’s contact form setup for when people need to contact me immediate.  Texts will get my attention much quicker than e-mails as I prefer to batch my e-mail tasks.

Overall, I have not had my AwayFind Contact Form used a great deal, although I do not receive high volumes of e-mail.  We shall see where it goes in the future.