Personal productivity and the Internet

Time is gold, so goes the cliche. Everyone recognizes that but finds it hard to really manage time.

Eight-year-old Martin had a school assignment that instructed him to list at least five ways to spend time wisely. He sought the help of his parents. Of course, Mommy would not give it away. She evoked from him what he really thought about the topic. The first two ways came from him. And he could not think of anything else. So Mommy advised the third, which he readily accepted.

Problem was Mommy could not think of any more ways. Martin still needed two. So Dad was forced to think as well. Bubbles, bubbles. Eureka. I found them. Here’s the final list:

  1. Eat on time; eat first before playing.
  2. Do your homework before anything else, like playing.
  3. Do today what you can do instead of waiting for tomorrow.
  4. Have fun while learning. Play educational games.
  5. Go to bed early so you’ll have enough sleep. That way, it won’t be difficult to wake up in the morning for school.

I wonder if adults can in general adopt that list. I think they can, as both kids and adults do need to spend it wisely though in different contexts. Although it’s much more complicated for adults, the fact that there’s been a host of self-help books about time management since the 20th century. (Could it be that the intricacy is brought about by the books themselves? Cannot manage time? Buy this book. Still cannot manage time? Buy this book; it’s different. The cycle goes on.)

I think that adults need to manage time because they need to be productive and effectively manage “scarce” resources. (As far as information resources, the scarcity viewpoint no longer holds.)

Technologies are the culprit

I, for one, am a fan of time management books. In fact, I have in our book case books by Stephen Covey and David Allen. When I read Covey in 1993, I was transformed into an addict of filofax organized according to the principles and techniques of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was really conscious about my roles from which I planned my activities.

But when Filofax technology went out of fashion in late 90s, I struggled to retain the Coveyian techniques with my Palm gadget. I could not really adopt them because the related software bore a price, which I could not afford. Until I practically lost hold of the system.

When I got my own laptop in 1999, I wanted to relearn the 7 Habits system using a software. I tried the demo version of the Franklin Planner’s system that was integrated with Microsoft Outlook. But when I was exposed to Linux in 2000, my attitude toward Microsoft products changed, the fact that I could not upgrade them using the same low-end laptop of mine.

I was Covey disciple no more.

Although, I essentially remained true to my roles consciousness. I’ve used my roles–Manager, Father, Husband, Networker, Friend, and Self–as my categories for my tasks and activities. In fact, I was able to develop a LAPP (Linux-Apache-PostgreSQL-PHP)-based computer program to help me manage my time. But I’m having a problem running it every time I’m hooked to the Internet on Smartbro. (Too technical to explain here.)

I was introduced to David Allen‘s framework only this year. I didn’t notice him before until I observed that folks have been mentioning jargons identified with him: GTD, the next actions, tickler file, to name a few. I was interested to know how different he was from Covey. So I bought a copy of his famous book “Getting Things Done”.

No, don’t call me Allen disciple yet. Because I’ve not yet followed all his inputs as to organizing “stuff”, which are important things that are in our head and before us that require “processing”. Although, I think that he’s got a point. That I need to clear my head of the things I need to accomplish in certain times. There must be tools and devices that help me handle these things, like a calendar, lists, in-basket, clips, etc.

Allen also leaves to the person all his creativity he can get so long as he’s understood the workflow diagram and got all the basic tools required.

I only am confused at this point as to how to make better combined use of my laptop, office desktop, and Palm PDA and the Internet. Perhaps, I need time to really think it out. (You now wonder that I’ve not managed time to think of time to think.)

Managing time and resources in web-space

Surprisingly, I presently don’t feel any guilt that I’m “mismanaging” my time (and corresponding resources) just because I’m following neither Covey nor Allen. Is it because of lack of work pressure? Nuh. Everyday, every hour, there is. Perhaps, it’s because of the following:

  1. I’m connected to the Internet either at home or in office. And even when I’m out of these places, I can rely on Internet cafes that have mushroomed in the cities. If all fails, I can rely on my mobile phone that allows me to connect to the Internet, through Smart Internet service. That way, I never miss out on important emails and updates.
  2. I got Gmail that allows to me organize my mails according to labels.
  3. I got Firefox and plug-ins that let me to catch up with and scoop news.
  4. I’m using 30boxes.com for my calendar and to-do lists, which are very easy to manage. It’s got many features that I’ve not yet learned.
  5. I’m using 43Things.com to manage my life goals.
  6. I got time to write down my thoughts and experiences, thanks to WordPress.com and Twitter.com.
  7. I got a mobile phone that has features for capturing moments, collecting rich contact data, taking down notes, time alarms, etc.
  8. I’m feeling well, physically and spiritually.

I think that the last item is the most important one. For how can one proceed with managing time when he’s not thinking well? Lastly, I think that there should not be strict rules to spend time wisely so long as one is conscious of his roles in living his life. One basic tool that one should have, whether hi-tech or low-tech, is a calendar with a reminder feature. If he ever wants to go beyond that system, he must acquire the skill of adapting current technologies to his needs.

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