Wow, this personal productivity thing is really catching on, isn’t it? Not too much of a surprise, I suppose. Today Thomas Weber, of the Wall Street Journal, has a nice write up of several Web-based productivity applications.

Along the way he makes a very good point I feel is worth mentioning:

Can a high-tech list help you accomplish more? I’ve been testing several in hopes of getting my own life better organized. I discovered some clever features and found that the shared-list capability works well for those who need it. But as with other organizational tools, from day-planner notebooks to PDAs, what you get out of these sites depends on how much you invest in their approach.

As with most the tools and processes we use to get more things done, be more productive and maintain a better work/life balance (which to me is the key to all this stuff) it only goes as far as you take it. All the tools and systems in the world won’t help you if you don’t put the necessary effort in, right?

I’ve been using Backpack and I’m growing more and more fond of it as I get in there and mold it to my working style. To be totally honest, at very first blush, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. But I applied myself to it and, after a slight learning/figuring-out curve, it opened up and quite a few useful ideas on how to use it popped into my head.

Now, after a few weeks of use, I’m finally reaping some rewards. But it was, by no means, instantaneous. Follow through and effort were needed, and more will be needed to get the most out of it. It’s like that with almost everything in life. At times I feel like all this productivity stuff could be just a placebo, and I imagine that, for some, it is. But then I remind myself that it’s up to me to make sure it works for me, and that no system and no tool, is going to help me on it’s own.

Remember that as you work (and it is work) to make yourself more productive, less stressed or whatever you’re in it for. Keep the goal in mind and put a little of your back into it.

9 Comments on Putting The Effort In

  1. Laura says:

    Keith, I just posted about Backpack on my site. I, too, am really enjoying it. I have it open on Firefox startup both at home and at work, so it’s always right there in front of me. I love that it’s simple to use and reliable.

  2. Joe W. says:

    Despite what the byline says, this story is by Thomas E. Weber, not Walter Mossberg. See here.

  3. Josh says:

    Actually Mossberg didn’t write this article, though it did appear in the space normally devoted to his Personal Journal articles on Thursdays. It was Thomas E. Weber

  4. Keith says:

    Well, that’s confusing. I’ve updated the post to reflect the correct author.

  5. Britt says:

    I think I’m at the point where I want to drop it all and go to one of those resorts where you sit in a sauna, get massages, do yoga, and eat healthy food for a week. No computers, no lists, no gadgets. Nothing.

    But I have to prepare for a presentation on blogs, wikis, and RSS first.

    This might be a topic for a different post, but when, where, how do you get away from all the “stuff” for an extended period of time? And how do you manage the stress from the return, when you have to catch up on where you left off?

  6. Keith says:

    Britt — Ah, you have brilliant timing. I’ve got a post in the works that addresses this very issue in many ways. It’s not exactly related to “how to get away” which I feel is an important topic, but it might serve as motivational for you.

    Look for that next week sometime. After all, I’m taking the weekend off to get away from all of this! ;)

  7. neha says:

    So Keith, how do you use Backpack? I’ve been using it too, but I’m curious how people adapt it to their specific needs. Do you use it in a GTD like system?

  8. Keith says:

    neha — I don’t. Not yet anyway. Again, I’m still learning new ways to use it.

    I do make extensive use of reminders, the fact that Backpack can call and email me really lets me focus on things instead of constantly pinging myself about little things I need to do. This has probably been the most helpful so far.

    I also have pages for a whole bunch of personal projects. I use the lists for to-dos and the notes for ideas. For example, I’ve got a page for To-done that has a list of things I’d like to do with the site as well as a bunch of notes for possible posts.

    I’ve also got goals and contacts listed as notes.

    For another project, a design project, I’m going to be posting all sorts of images and such to help give me a basis for brainstorming creative ideas. It’s been really helpful as an “idea” tacker/keeper.

    For more serious projects, I’ve been using Basecamp. I’ve been using that for quite awhile now and as far as professional productivity goes I’d say it can’t be beat and I’ve tried countless other solutions.

  9. Susan Locke says:

    Oh I’m so jealous. Backpack looks great and in my try out of it I loved discovering that it is based on wiki technology. But unfortunately the email reminders contain something that makes my email server service trap it as spam so I don’t get to see them straight away until I’ve checked the spam box (I don’t want to go there about the lack of a white list on my email service) and the mobile phone reminder doesn’t seem to work here in Australia. As a desktop tool though it is great and easy to use. My wish now (other than an email and mobile phone reminder fix) is for all the booking systems I link to to have an interface with Backpack. That would be heaven.

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