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Components of Productivity

by Kerry Dawson

Productivity is the ability to improve outcome by either enhancing the outputs or decreasing the amount of time it takes to produce the results but in a lesser amount of time. In three previous articles I discussed three task management systems to look at how they compared. There are many more on the market and the best one is not necessarily the same for everyone. However, some are better than others but not surprisingly it is quite individualistic as to what works best for you.

Task management though is just one component of that which lends itself to productivity. There are at least two major software groups that lead to increased productivity but in some cases there is more that is necessary. For our purposes though we will just discuss the other major category, that being information/notes/knowledge management. That is, as you’re working through the tasks of a project there is always information being generated about the project that needs to be captured. This capturing of information or a note can be essential at many levels. In fact, it might even lead to the generation of another task not previously thought of to complete the project.

Information or Knowledge Management is Incredibly Powerful

The information generated from doing something in our project can be incredibly powerful. It provides us with context, the why of the project and how we move from one point to the next. It is essential to both the creation and conclusion of anything we do.

So knowing what we need do is a certainty. As an example, if I want to write my will I have to know what needs to be done to do that. However, as I’m doing the different things involved in the creation of the will I’m constantly generating information and this information is essential to moving forward.

I could leave it to my memory for this guidance but that is a precarious thing. We might think oh I know what needs to be done next but forgetting largely what’s been done and thus what needs to be done. A task without context is a very precarious boat to be in. It’s leaving it as close to chance that you will remember what has to be done, why and how. There might be people, telephone numbers, contact information in general and a lot more specifically that is essential to the process of getting things done. Assuming because you have this great task management system that you are in full control of your of say a goal, a task or whatever, is close to folly. You need to record what is happening to continue a long the path of getting things done efficiently. You might get it wrong but you’ll get it wrong based on the best information you have at hand.

What Kind of a Notes Management System Should be Required

Individual Productivity
Notes management can go from the incredibly simplistic to the very powerful information/knowledgement management systems that can be found. The system you employ should be able to follow in lock step that which is happening with with your task management system. As an example, a software product called Informant tries to provide the whole of what we need in one package. It has a calendaring, task management and notes management system, all built into one, such that each module mimicsf the requirements of another module. This all in one system is replicating what you’d have to do with single, stand alone product.

The components are synergistic. You could easily say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One might wonder if Pocket Informant can do it all, why not just use this. You can if you want with little downside if any at all. However, Pocket Informant might not suit everyone. Rather, to use what the person prefers, requires one to choose the applications that are preferable to that person and have the power to meet the needs.

Three Kinds or Levels of Note Systems

To start with, let’s define any note system of value as one that is Multi-platform. Thus, for a PC related system all the other components need to at minimally run on the PC. The same is true for Mac. Thus, the Mac would see the Note system running on the Mac, iPhone, iPod and iPad. Of course if the software also ran on Android (IOS and Android are the two leading mobile systems) that is a major bonus.

So at the first level, one would have a simpler note system that can provide some detail about the situation (context). A good example of software that would fit here is Simplenote as it syncs not only between IOS and the Mac but also Android. It is though a simple note taking system and thus you can say it’s referential.

Something like Notefile, SomNote and Notebook would all fall into this category the difference being merely style. You might prefer this over the more powerful information manager for a variety of reasons one being it is very easy to jot a Note about an activity without a lot of distraction. That is, jot your note down as it relates to something and away you go.

The Information Manager

Again, leading or following from a task is your information manager. Information Managers compile the information around either getting to a task or as the result of getting a task done.

There are a variety of information managers to choose from. KeepIT, Nimbus Note, Notebooks and Notetaker are all excellent information managers. As you work through your project, it is important to have an information manager available to you to keep track of outcomes, access situations and scenarios and know who is involved in the project.

This is but a small example of what an information manager can do for you. It can contain text, images, photographs, videos etc as all part of the capture and analysis process.

Products such as DEVONthink and Evernote are information managers but they go a mild step beyond to that of a knowledge manager. They are not just necessarily dealing with information but they are using that information to go a step beyond.

Knowledge Management

The difference between an Information Manager and a Knowledge Manager is only one of slight degree. Your Knowledge Manager is an Information Manager that has the capability of producing knowledge through the intricate connections of information. Information can stand on its own, be referenced and massaged but when the system allows you to extrapolate such that you produce a new idea or concept and manage that process you have a knowledge management system.

This is not for everyone. It is at a higher level of complexity but your system has the ability to produce different ideas and concepts. DEVONthink is one of the best examples of this. I’ve heard it mentioned that some people come to the Mac just so they can use DEVONthink. The Database engine is very powerful and flexible. It has an AI component to it which aids in the production of knowledge. We’re actually talking here of coming up with new ideas from the information that is being managed.

DEVONthink also has the unique ability of just being able to take a simple note. The results of doing a task often involve simply taking a note. DEVONthink is very adept at the this. However, it does have the power to go a lot farther.

Productivity or Enhancing Outcomes Involves more than One Thing

More to knowledge management
Although it’s nice to think of productivity as just getting a series of tasks done in the completion of a project, it is generally more than that. There’s a need for a database to keep all that information and massage it if necessary. A project might complete just on the conclusion of tasks but it is important that these results are stored in an information manager be it simple or complex. The nature of the components in a system depends very much on the demands of the project, its scope and the goals attempting to be achieved.

For a simple project or task, an easy to use task manager that is possibly more of a reminders system maybe all that is required. The storage of the information being processed along the way too can be of a simpler nature. There’s no point in using a wrecking ball and chain when all that’s required is a hammer.

On the other hand, if your tasks or projects seem more complex then the tools used must be more capable. Regardless, productivity can be achieved at any level as long as the right tools are being used with the right scheme. Knowing that to be truly more productive involves more than just task management is a major first step.

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