In my post about the one productivity hack that works for everyone, I said that the first thing you have to do is very easy, despite what all the productivity articles are telling us every day. Just take one small step.
But then the inevitable question comes along, I’ve started, now what? What is the next step?
Take a step back and review how things are going!
That’s it. You simply try something out, that first step, then step back and look at what it’s accomplished and where you are. Did it achieve what you wanted it to? Could you have done anything better? Does it feel like you’re making progress?
Even a small step gives results.
So when should you review each step? I would say that whenever you feel like you’ve achieved something, failed somehow, or got stuck, those are points at which it is good to review how things are going. If none of those things happen, it depends how much you are using your new productivity tool. I find that the regularity of review should be related to how often you use your new tool or process. If you can use it every day, then a weekly review isn’t a bad place to start. If you use it several times an hour, you might want to even review it sooner, after two days for example.
When I started trying to increase my productivity in Windows with extra tools, I began doing weekly reviews of how things were going (here, and here, and here). These helped me keep in perspective what I was really trying to achieve with the tools, and I ended up dropping one tool early on (QTTabBar) because I realised it wasn’t meeting all my needs after a couple of days.
With the other tools I carried on using throughout my trialling process, I made sure to look at what they were giving me against what I wanted. I learned more about how to use them and discovered additional ways of simplifying my work with them.
From going through this review process, I was able to find which tools were really working for me and which were not. One tool that I really liked the idea of in the beginning, PhraseExpress, ended up not being as useful as I had wanted it to be and even added challenges to my workflow.
I also discovered that the tool that helped me the most was the simplest one to use and set up, with the least options and was completely free, that being Desktops V2.0.
I’m still on the search for a tool to help me with emails, although I am becoming more comfortable with the standard ways in which Outlook handles templates (even though it’s really unintuitive!), but when I do find one, I will try it, review it and try it again.
And that my dear readers is the second step to becoming more productive, take a step back and review how it’s going.