apps Tag

Are Productivity Tools Helping Us To Procrastinate?

In today’s world of relentless distractions including email, social media and app notifications, we’ve also become obsessed with organising that chaos through tools and processes which promise to bring order to our messy lives. But do these to-do apps, project management tools and the like really help, or are they giving us yet another reason to indulge in useless busy-ness?

Over the years I’ve tried everything, and I’ve come to the conclusion that our answers lie not in the tools, but a few simple principles.

Just Do It

The best thing you can do right now is just get on with it. If you look at successful people down the ages, they didn’t need any planning or productivity tools. Just the guitar, paintbrush or golf club required to do their thing. Their burning desire to create and complete something drove them on without having to overthink it. The most creative people I know all work like this, they simply do what they need to with minimal planning.

Realise the Preciousness of Time

For some it requires a major life event like losing a loved one or having a near-fatal accident to bring home the immense preciousness of life. For others, and I suspect this is a common trait in successful people, it runs through their head every single day.

So if you’re not thinking about your mortality and the fragility of life every day, try it. This sense of urgency you will feel is something you need to reconnect with on a daily basis.

This doesn’t just mean you should think about death every day. Just think about how precious today is, and at the end of it be grateful you got to have today, whatever happened. All the dead people you know would have done anything for today.

Know Your Calling

If you’re lacking that burning desire that naturally gives you the energy to get on with it, you’re likely doing the wrong thing in life. What is the thing that would truly excite you, and what’s stopping you doing it? Most likely the answer to the latter part of that question is fear. Fear to tell your family that you’re going to take a big risk and do something different from that which you studied or trained for. Fear of failure. Fear of losing your house. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of being told it’s not viable or a daft idea. Maybe even a fear of wasting your precious time (that’s a valid one!).

Answer that question and then…

A Simple To Do List

There’s clearly a lot of comfort in to-do list and time management apps. But having used a lot of them I feel that the filling in of tasks, checklists and deadlines is in itself useless busy-ness. We naturally love useless busy-ness. It makes us feel productive. It’s so seductive because it’s very easy to start (unlike the valuable things we should be doing).

Other things that fall into this category of activity are checking email, reading social media and wandering the internet. But useless busy-ness creates almost zero value for you or anyone, and is a killer drain on our two most precious resources — time and brainpower. Those resources, particularly brainpower — cognitive energy, attention or however you want to term it — need to be spent on what you’re really good at.

Keep a simple to-do list that requires as little management as possible. I have a Notes (on Mac and iPhone — your system has an equivalent) note containing a few small lists categorised by the life goal to which they contribute. Each task on there must drive towards that goal. There should also be a personal list for stuff at home like repairs, things to buy and looking after family. Each task should be the immediate thing you’re going to do. So instead of ‘publish a book’, just start with ‘write pitch for book about birds’. You don’t need a project plan for stuff like that because you know what comes next. Just get started.

So mine is a somewhat spartan approach to task management. But after all these years of trying so many different processes I’ve realised that being protective of my time and attention, because I appreciate its value, and then just getting on with it with a minimal to-do list is what works for me.

This post originally appeared on my Medium blog

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How To Create a ‘Welcome’ Landing Tab for New Facebook Pages

On 10th March 2011 Facebook will upgrade all pages for brands, companies and organisations to a new version of Pages, bringing the design in line with personal profiles which were upgraded in December 2010. For details about the changes read my last blog post here.

‘Static FBML’ tabs, with which you could quickly add extra tabs containing basic HTML to show text, images and videos are being phased out so that you won’t be able to create them after Thursday. This means adding a simple Welcome tab like the ones above which introduce new visitors to your Facebook page (and encourage them to click ‘Like’) is about to get a little complicated. Here’s my step-by-step guide to the easiest and quickest way to create a ‘Welcome’ tab:

  1. Create an image 520px wide and a maximum of 800px high with your Welcome message on. As in the examples above this can include a strong call to action to ‘Like’ the page. You can start with this very basic Photoshop template and save in a new folder called ‘welcometab’.
  2. Open your text editor of choice (Notepad+ for Windows, TextWrangler for Mac perhaps?). Add the following code into a new document replacing my ‘http://yoursite.com/welcometab/IMAGENAME.jpg’ with the address of your own image:
    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
    "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
    <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en">
    <head>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;
    charset=iso-8859-1" />
    <style type="text/css">
    body {
    width:520px;
    margin:0; padding:0; border:0;
    }
    </style>
    </head>
    <body>
    <div id="fb-welcome">
    <img src="http://yoursite.com/welcometab/IMAGENAME.jpg" alt="Click 'Like' to get started" border="0">
    </div>
    </body>
    </html>
    
  3. Save this as fbwelcome.html in the ‘welcometab’ folder and upload the folder and its contents to your FTP.
  4. Visit facebook.com/developers. If it’s your first time here you’ll need to add the developers app, which you’ll be prompted to do. Then hit the ‘Set Up New App’ button in the top-right of the page.
  5. Name your new app ‘Welcome’, click ‘Agree’ and hit ‘Create Application’.
  6. On the next screen describe your app and add icons for it. The icons are important because without them you will see the default ‘gears’ logo next to the app’s name wherever it appears around the site. You’ll need a 16px x 16px image and a 75px x 75px image:
     
    Enter your other details such as email address and support URL and then click ‘Facebook Integration’ in the left-hand menu…
  7. This is where you point to your iframe.
    In the ‘Canvas’ section just enter your iframe URL in ‘Canvas URL’ e.g. ‘http://yoursite.com/welcometab/’, select ‘iframe’ in ‘Canvas Type’ and move onto the bottom half of the page…
     
  8. Enter the name as you want the title of your Welcome tab to appear and then in ‘Tab URL’ enter ‘fbwelcome.html’ and click the ‘Save Changes’ button:
     
  9. You’ve now created the app and should find yourself on the app developer dashboard looking at an overview of your new app:

    Click ‘Application Profile Page’…
  10. On this page click ‘Add to my Page’ in the left-hand menu and in the overlay that appears click the ‘Add to Page’ button next to any of your pages to add your new app:
     

And that’s it, you’re done! You can create as many apps you need in future, and as the iframe is a webpage hosted by you, you can add what you like there, including previously prohibited goodies like Flash, JavaScript etc which is a great boon, despite the inconvenience of simple ‘Welcome’ apps taking a bit longer to build.

Anything to add? Think there’s an easier way? That’s what the comments are for 🙂

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My Two Conclusions on Apple’s iPad

1. Its success will rely on the apps that developers make for it.
They’ve been given the SDK so many are hard at work to have apps out for the March launch. If the iPhone’s history is anything to go by there will be some mindblowing applications. Only then will potential buyers see the device’s true potential.
Also, Adobe are upping the pressure on Apple to adopt Flash support which would open up a lot of content to users.

2. It will take at least another version to become a must-have, game-changing product.
Again, this draws partly on experience with the iPhone. With Apple’s revolutionary mobile telephone, it took annual revisions based on what users were clamouring for, and what hackers were building into custom firmware, to arrive at the 3G and 3GS. I predict the inclusion of a camera in the next iteration as frankly I was amazed that the iPad wasn’t launched with one. Some might say that holding back such features is a cynical strategy on Apple’s part to sell more units to an avid fanbase who’ll happily fork out for every new version.

See you in the queue on launch day 😉

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