Defining technology and increasing your productivity

Recently, my 10-year-old son reminded me that technology doesn’t have to be a collection of wires and software, but can be the simplest of devices and still wonderfully productive.

His teacher asked him to write about his favorite subject. He chose science, and broke his writing project into a few aspects of scientific study, including technology, which he defined as “a tool to help you do things better.”

“Well,” I thought, “that’s right.”

Years ago, when I worked as an IT director and had many computers — and computer users — it was quite the task to keep all my work and equipment all organized. It was around that time I discovered David Seah, a designer who often writes about his efforts to become more productive online. He makes lots of cool paper-based productivity tools, including the delightful Task Order Up sheets, which I used religiously. (And Erin loves the sticky version of his Emergent Task Planner, too.)

They were inspired by the order tickets you might see in a deli or restaurant where short-order cooks whip up pancakes, chowder, and slabs of meatloaf on a regular basis. Each sheet represents a single project, with fields for the project’s title and all of the actions that must be completed before the project can me marked as “done.”

There are also fields for marking down the amount of time you’ve spent on a given project, time spent on each action step, and the date. Best of all, they look like the tickets from a deli counter, so you can line them up at your desk and then pull then down as each “order” is completed. Dave even recommends using an order check rail for added authenticity.

Of course you can just use index cards if you like, but I believe that the tools we use can be useful, attractive AND fun. Technology really is any tool that helps you do things better.

5 Comments for “Defining technology and increasing your productivity”

  1. posted by Emily on

    Good to see someone still advocating paper-based productivity tools. Most people nowadays are all about the online tools and smartphone apps and all that… and yeah, some of those are pretty cool, but for me nothing beats a pad of paper and a pen. But maybe I’m just old fashioned… at 26 years old?! 😉

  2. posted by MixinItaly on

    I have a very simple paper system that works really well for me.
    I use square pieces of white paper, that I have at home and at work. They measure 8.5cm x 8.5cm (about 3.34 inches) and I write the list of what I have to do that day on one piece, what I have to buy that day on another, who I have to call that day on another. They are always in my back pocket or purse.
    Since I don’t want to be carrying around many papers, I try to get the things ticked off as soon as possible so I can throw them away. That is my goal, to throw the pieces of paper away!
    Let’s just say, any important or long-term lists, such as work to do on the house, birthday party ideas, books to read, medical things, are all written down in my Filofax. But the little paper system really works for me and I get such a pleasure from tossing those bits of paper in the evening!

  3. posted by Mary on

    I so enjoyed reading about David Seah…such an interesting person. Thank you Unclutterer for who and all that you introduce your readers to.

  4. posted by Pat on

    I have lists on my phone and on paper, but just this morning I went back to something I have found useful in the past. I took an old business card of mine (I save them from my past jobs) and wrote three things that I feel that I must accomplish today. Then I stuck the card in a memo clip. These three things WILL get done today – and everything else is gravy. And I agree with MixinItaly, it’s such a good feeling when the three things are done and you throw that card away!

  5. posted by MimiR on

    I’m addicted to his emergent task planner. 🙂

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