We live in a world that obsessed with productivity, technology, and productivity technology. Conduct a Google search, or look in any app store, and you’ll find a seemingly endless supply of productivity tools. Yet despite all this amazing technology, do you feel like you’re more productive today than you were 10 years ago?
I’m both busy and a technology enthusiast, but I’ve learned from painful experience that my single most important productivity tool is the humble paper index card.
All I do is simple–I take a blank card (cost: about $0.01, or free if you can steal if from your office) and I write down a short list (<5) of the most important things I need to do that day. Then, when I have time to work between meetings and calls, I pick an item on the card, preferably the first item on the list, and do it. When I’m done, I cross off the item.
This system is spartan and unsophisticated. And that’s why it works.
The problem with any productivity tool that you can find on your computer, tablet, or phone is that it requires you to use your computer, tablet, or phone. Trying to get to the appropriate website or app requires you to run a gantlet of distraction. The very first thing you see is likely an interesting headline, or a reminder of something else you were working on. In just seconds, you’ll completely forget your important task, and be absorbed in whatever cleverly designed engagement pattern captured your attention.
The index card removes all distractions. It’s a single-purpose device. When I glance at it, it’s doesn’t present clickbait. All it does is list off the things I need to do. And it’s so boring that I’m not tempted to linger on it, carefully re-writing and re-ordering the tasks in a case of iatrogenic procrastination.
It’s a completely distraction-free screen of productivity.
Give it a try. For just pennies, you can reclaim your attention and productivity from a world that’s been optimized to consume it, and make yourself an operator and creator again.