Actually, I had a really productive week! Four clients; seven billable hours; one client wants to see me more than once. I’m hoping the coming week fills in quickly. Surely there are more Mac users looking to learn new things about how to use their devices more effectively, more confidently, more happily. (Maybe I’ll hear from you!)

This past week, I met with Felix and Rochelle to discuss new tools to consider in the productivity space. Before we began, I shared this article on the subject: The Only Thing You Need to Know About Being More Productive. It’s a quick read and its main message is a great insight: much of the time we spend reading about new productivity tools may be better spent actually doing our work.

Letters vs. Colors

Felix’s todo list system of the last 20 years consists of a Word document with several categories and numbered lists below them. It resides only on his Mac, so it has become tedious and difficult to manage when often only his iPad or iPhone is present. He is pretty sure he will adopt a popular app in the Getting Things Done space, such as Things or 2Do.

Rochelle’s organizational style is completely different and required more personal attention from me. I gave her the space to describe her existing system of a weekly planner with 15-minute time blocks. She also has difficulty seeing peripherally and uses different color pens to distinguish categories. This makes them easy for her to pick out of a group of information on a page. And, she uses other scraps of paper to make various lists.

Questionable Strategy

During this inquiry, I reflected on the wisdom I gleaned from my MBA program. I learned to ask open-ended questions, seeking to understand the experiences people desire, the needs they hope to satisfy, and their vision of success. Together, these components help design a path to achievement.

I tried to reveal every angle of Rochelle’s approach to the things she needs to do, some on a regular basis, some only once, and some that require daily reminders and/or action until complete.

Because of the repetition among many of her tasks, and Rochelle’s desire to see what she has accomplished before and when, she often needs to flip back to reference previous weeks. Her paper-based system would be much improved with some kind of search function and the ability to see her schedule in multiple views, including month and year.

A “Fun” Productivity Journey

Rochelle enjoyed our exploration of various tools, including Things and 2Do, as well as two other apps that purport to combine calendars and todo lists. We spent some time experimenting with 2Do, adding some of her actual tasks, to see if it would suit her needs. We tested alerts, looked at scheduled and recurring tasks, and looked for spots of color.

None of these apps turned out to be a best fit for her use case. Late in our journey, an insight struck me and I suggested we look at Apple’s own Calendar.

While Apple broke Calendar’s prior task list feature into a separate app, Reminders, Rochelle’s core need is the ability to see color-coded, scheduled tasks on a calendar. She has a good grasp of how long she thinks a task will take so having a list of tasks with little supporting information seems of lesser value. Instead, on her Mac, iPad, and iPhone, she can access a list view to see her tasks on the timeline and can easily filter by category or search for keywords.

As Calendar lacks a sophisticated tagging system, Rochelle may switch to a more capable application in the future. She is reaching out to some colleagues to find out how they organize their digital lives. However, for the moment, Calendar appears to be a great place to begin migrating from analog to digital.

Do you feel that discipline alone is not going increase your productivity? Let’s schedule a time to explore your needs and discover a new way to streamline your path to success. I look forward to hearing from you!