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Productivity hacks weekly in bite-size chunks. Just up your alley if you're at least slightly geeky or a tad bit obsessed with Evernote or WorkFlowy!

Productivity hacks vs. productivity systems

Frank Degenaar

"Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency... In other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, ingenious manner." - Wikipedia. Extend that same definition to a productivity hack. It is already encapsulated somewhere in there. 

A veritable mashup

All productivity systems (like GTD and The Pomodoro Technique) are a composite - or a mashup - of a number of common-sense productivity hacks or techniques that are put together in a smart way.

The more complex a system, the easier it is to criticize

Here are some random and provocative blog post titles:

  • Dethroning GTD
  • 9 Reasons Why Getting Things Done Sucks!
  • Getting (Unremarkable) Things Done: The Problem With David Allen’s Universalism
  • Tomatoes should be used just to make sauces (Referring to the Pomodoro Technique).
  • A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!

David Allen brings together a wide variety of hacks (techniques) under the umbrella of his GTD (Getting Things Done) system. This is the thing: Many people find it a little too bloated or complex for their liking. But. I'll guarantee you that in some shape or form you are already putting more than a few of the hacks therein into practice. As we speak.

  • Some may not be perfect for your context
  • Some may be presented using different terminology to what you're used to
  • The way the hacks fit together may not be useful to you 

All of the hacks in his book are "extract-able" So, you may want to deconstruct the system and salvage the parts that you need. If you're not a GTD fan, think of it as a sprawling scrapyard where you might find more than a few useful parts to build your own brainchild.

The name of a system can be copyrighted, but generally not the individual hacks. They're just too much part of common sense to do that. Let's take a brief look at 2 systems with component parts that can be "scavenged"... or used in a slightly different way:


Getting Things Done

Did you know that the "Tickler file" was patented by Frank E. Smith way back in 1888? It happens to be referenced as an integral part of David Allen's GTD system - Getting Things Done. (shout-out to Erin Doland from "Uncluterer" for her blog post)

David Allen uses the phrase "common sense" no less than 10 times in his book, Getting Things Done. He explains: "...the method and the techniques I describe in this book are immensely practical and based on common sense..." The Tickler file is a common sense hack. It helps one store tasks and material according to the day of the month you want to tackle something - whether it be a fandangled box-like contraption or its digital counterpart. It's begging to be used. Rip it out and integrate it into your system. 


The Pomodoro Technique

The same goes for Pomodoro, Personal Kanban and Pareto's  Principle. We may  easily find use for them in one capacity or another.  For example, while Pomodoro's proposed 25-minute timeboxing hack may not apply while I am teaching English classes or at other moments while I am in the "flow", I most definitely make use of it while preparing English class material. Besides, Pomodoro is a simple enough concept to be a hack rather than a system. I forego the Pomodoro system of gathering metrics, reviews, etc. I understand these "extras" thoroughly... it's just that I choose not to use them. I use the core principle at select times. In so doing, I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

The rest of what is to follow on this blog is about creating your own productivity mashup - by choosing your hacks and building your system. By the way, I created the Productivity Mashup banner image... all by myself with my iPhone camera. I'm pretty stoked with the way it turned out.