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Summary:

It’s a little early yet to be thinking about the new year (there’s still at least 75 percent of the holiday party season ahead of us, after all), but one of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to try and be more prepared, so here […]

It’s a little early yet to be thinking about the new year (there’s still at least 75 percent of the holiday party season ahead of us, after all), but one of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to try and be more prepared, so here we are. I’m getting a jump on my resolution list this year, with an eye towards boosting my day-to-day output.

Some of these are things that I know and have known I should be doing already, but haven’t seem to be able to implement. Others are tips passed on to me by coworkers and other professionals. No matter the source, there’s no shortage of productivity tips to be had, so I’m trying to pare down and refine the list to a manageable few, since I’ll have a better chance of actually following through come the new year.

Common Sense

A few of the proposed resolutions fall under the blanket category of common sense, which is to say I should already be doing them, but am not, for whatever reason (laziness is a definite possibility). Here are some prime examples of things that fall under this category:

1. Work Longer Hours

I’m not going to lie, one of the reasons I became a remote worker was the opportunity to set my own hours. Coming from a consulting background, where twelve hour days and frequent weekend work weren’t that rare of an occurrence, I think it’s perfectly understandable and a good thing that one of the first things I did was shorten my average working day.

Over time, however, as I’ve gotten better at my job (I hope, anyways), I can do the same amount of work in less time. What I should’ve done was do more work in the time I’d originally allotted for it, but instead, I’ve shortened my days further still. The result is that revenue stays roughly the same, but I have more time off. Too much time, in fact. My resolution here would be to double my output and work a bit longer.

2. Set Up a Twitter Schedule

Nothing is worse for (or better suited to) a terribly short attention span like the one I’ve been cursed (or blessed) with than Twitter. Currently, I have it running 24 hours a day via Tweetie on my Mac desktop, on a third screen set up only to monitor it and my email.

It’s a great way to keep abreast of the news cycle, which is important for some of my work, but when that’s out of the way, it’s a tremendous distraction. I suffer from a chronic inability to browse YouTube or blogs unguided, so I click on pretty much every link that comes my way via Twitter that promises humor or something interesting. In the New Year, I want to keep a strict Twitter schedule, outside the boundaries of which Tweetie remains unopened.

3. Find a GTD/To-Do App I Will Actually Use

I’ve been an avid fan of quite a few to-do apps in my time, both for the computer and for my iPhone. Even the most promising, though, haven’t stuck, and I remain without a consistent GTD process. My quest continues, but maybe I should focus more on the usage, and less on the tool.

Not-so-common Sense

Not quite out of left field, but things I want to try that might not necessarily be immediately apparent as productivity boosters.

1. Cut the Cable Subscription

I don’t really need you anymore, cable, so why do I cling to the belief that I do? I consume almost all of my media digitally these days, via things like iTunes and Amazon. Most of the time, I don’t even bother with video and stick to reading on my Kindle.

Here’s the purpose cable serves: I can put it on when I’m bored and can’t think of anything else to do. You know what else I could do, though? Work.

2. Prepare Meals in Advance

This is another area where my usual habits are awful. Not only do I never have leftovers in the fridge to heat up, but I also can’t bring myself to shop beyond the current day. I honestly go out to the grocery store every other day, at least, and buy just enough food to last me one or two days. Delivery fills in the gaps.

So much time would be saved in food prep and grocery shopping if I sat down and took the time to plan out a week’s worth of meals in advance, and made many portions of things that I could then freeze or refrigerate and reheat. This is one of the biggies on this list for me.

3. Expand Photography Hobby

I love cameras, and taking pictures, and I update my entry-level Canon DSLR whenever one strikes my fancy in a particular way (the latest was the T1i, which stole my heart with its HD video abilities), but I never take it much further than that.

My plan in the new year is to start at least putting some photo work on stock image sites, in the hopes of turning the hobby into a revenue stream. It worked well for writing, so why not for photography, too?

Your Turn

That’s my working list. I’ll probably end up picking about three of those items listed above for my actual list of resolutions going into 2010. I’m interested in what you have to say, though, both about my proposed resolutions, and about your own plans for boosting productivity in the new year, so offer up any suggestions/insights you may have.

Image credit: Marcelo Marfil on deviantART

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By Darrell Etherington

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  1. For a good GTD app I would recommend checking out NirvanaHQ or Toodledo. They both work great. Nirvana is prettier, but Toodledo has more options.

    I agree with you about putting Twitter on a schedule. It can be a big time sink! (same with RSS).

    Good luck!

    1. Or you may check out GoalsOnTrack, it maps your to-dos to your goals so you are actually doing the things that move you closer to what you want, not the other way round.

  2. I have the same problem with the To Do apps. Have used many but never stuck to one. I even reverted to the old-fashioned notepad and pen to see if it would help. I wrote down everything diligently but unfortunately, it didn’t give me reminders!

  3. I’ve tried most if not all the GTD apps and I’ve eventually settled on Google Tasks. Its not that advanced at all but I pretty much made up my own style of GTD with naming conventions and with Google Tasks its nice to see not only your to do list but your to be somewhere list as well. Personally it means that I can actually plan what I’m going to do with where I’m headed, like an hour long train journey is a great time to hit thoose small niggly things on my list. New year, New Common Sense :) I’m inspired to do the same.

  4. For a task/GTD/note app you could try out Squareleaf.net.

    I’m trying to keep it super simple and not lay down any rules about how YOU use it, so hopefully it would let you worry about the usage and not the tool.

    I’m still adding features, would love your opinion on it.

    Cheers,
    Steve.

  5. Darrell, I applaud your getting out in front. However, your list seems to be steps within a larger, unspecified goal that has something to do with work and productivity. What are you after exactly?

    I just wonder because most people don’t choose a New Year’s Resolution that’s truly meaningful to them. Rather, they just pick from a Top 10 list. This emotional connection and lack of specificity is huge in causing failure. I think you have good Resolution in there somewhere!

    Also, even if people pick a true-fitting Resolution, they lack the skill set to address personal change management. There is a scientifically proven process to follow and even if you know it, it’s hard to hold yourself truly accountable. If that seems to be an issue for you, then I wanted to let you know that we’re launching our site Resolution Velcro on New Year’s Day. It will help people accomplish and achieve their Resolutions. Check us out at http://resolutionvelcro.com.

  6. I think a resolution to be more productive in less time is something that should be top of my list. In fact, the company I founded is all about that.

    Another resolution is to thank people more often.

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