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Maintaining productivity seems like it would be difficult from the road. There are endless distractions composed of all nouns (people, places and things) worth seeing/meeting/doing. Everywhere you turn there is something new, each with the potential to distract from what needs to be done.
In fact, maintaining work levels from the road is not nearly so hard as it seems. The secret I use is called “scarcity-based prioritization” (though perhaps some researcher somewhere has named it different in a more official form).
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Each item on my mental task list has certain decencies in order to be accomplished. Some simply require collaboration with other people, but by far the best resource I have found to track is connectivity.
For me, connectivity is king. Only when I have a fast and secure internet connection can I can work on certain mobile applications which require a lot of server interaction (not to mention do my online banking). A secure and fast internet connection is by far the most scarce quantity that causes the largest bottleneck in productivity.
Therefore, I look at all my tasks in terms of how much connectivity they require. Blog posts can be written in a text editor with no internet at all – the same goes for research, as long as I have the foresight to download relevant materials first. The natural progression of this fact, then, is that I do most of my reading and writing while actually in the act of traveling (trains, planes and automobiles).
There is a third type of task which falls somewhere in between the two extremes. Some programming tasks do not require a strong connection and the act of posting blog posts requires at least some connectivity. I usually do these things from cafes and hostels.
With each major task assigned to a condition, I have a sense of urgency whenever I sit down to the computer. I feel as though I need to do it right then because I know that my connectivity scenario will change soon and the opportunity will disappear. Sure, I could technically write a blog post from a high-connectivity point, but that might not be for a day or two and I’ll need that connectivity for something else by then.
In a sense, I have warped my mind to be like a hungry man seeking a meal. I am, I suppose, a connectivity addict (though I don’t let it stop me from smelling the roses along the way).
To make sure I don’t sit down and immediately start procrastinating, I create task lists. Whenever I finish a session in front of the computer, especially when I am going to move locations, I take a look at wunderlist and see what awaits me that can be done when I return.
Some of my clients in the mobile software business also make use of issue-tracking software, which gives me a great way to have an overview of exactly what is standing between a project and completion. Not only is it pushing me based upon a sense of duty but pulling on me based upon a desire (to finish).
My final task list manager is the gmail priority inbox, where I use starring to keep track of emails that need to be dealt with. This often leads me to be able to use spare moments where I do not have a computer handy to solve problems, so that when I return the emails can all be responded to at once. Over-checking your email is a bad thing, but even when you log on not every email needs to be responded to right away.
Another advantage to this scarcity-based prioritization and task list integration is that it gives me some way to monitor my own status. If it is not already obvious from the blog, I have a bit of a fixation with the quantification of results.
The visual expansion and contraction of a task list is one which makes me naturally shift how much time I spend working. When the task lists are small I can generally rest a bit and take a vacation. When they are large, it is time to buckle down and work harder.
This strategy works wonders – most of the time. Have you identified your own scarce resource, and has it helped you to be more productive? Let me know below!