Here are some of the top five traps I find people fall into when they try to increase their productivity. Most of them aren’t bad things in and of themselves. However, if they become your focus, you can be sure you aren’t going to be getting the benefits you are striving for.
Buy (yet more) software to make you more productive
Software needs to enable your system. Just buying a piece of software won’t make you any more productive. Sometimes when you buy software you are also buying the system and procedure that comes with it. This isn’t bad, but if you don’t understand that the real thing of value is the system you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
I know people whose first reaction to something they don’t want to do, or something that is taking up some of their time is to go out and buy a multi thousand dollar piece of software. Their past is littered with software that isn’t being used for one reason or another, but has still consumed a tremendous amount of finances and time.
Hire someone else to manage your finances
Managing your finances is one of those things that you have a bigger interest in than just about anyone else. Make sure you always stay engaged in the areas where your expertise and interest are likely to be valuable. That doesn’t mean you can’t hire help–just make sure you understand what is going on and aren’t simply deferring important decisions to someone else who doesn’t have the same vested interest as you. This goes for a lot of areas–not just managing your finances.
Get a new PDA, phone or computer
Sometimes getting a faster computer can help you save time, but for most people, their bottleneck isn’t the speed of their computer. Before you run out and spend a bunch of money, make sure your computer processing speed is actually slowing you down and make sure your processes are designed to make you efficient. If there is one particular task that takes your computer 60 minutes to complete, it might be much more effective to just let it run over lunch or in the evening. If you buy a new computer to cut that task down to 30 minutes you still have a big slot of time where you are waiting on the PC. (Now if it cuts a 60 minute task down to 3 minutes, there might be some good reasons to upgrade.)
Also keep in mind that if your computer seems to be getting progressively slower, doing a re installation of the operating system (after you get a good backup) may give you a much faster computer without the expense of purchasing a new one. Many computers come with a disk or program that will let you reset everything to the factory settings. This will usually get you back to the same speed you had when it was originally purchased.
Buy (yet another) smart phone or PDA
Once again, these can be useful tools, but only if they are part of a good process. A smart phone or PDA can help enhance your process, but they won’t make you more productive in and of themselves. Also be aware that you will probably greatly over-estimate the benefits of these gadgets and greatly under-estimate the amount of time they take to learn.
When I ran an IT department, I saw some pretty amazing justifications for buying new gadgets that didn’t make any sense at all. People found something they wanted and then came up with reasons why it would help them. Start with how you want to change your work process and then find a tool that will help you implement those changes.
It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things. People get caught up in trying to be more efficient by writing down huge to-do lists of things that don’t really need to be done. If you aren’t working on things that are important, it doesn’t really matter how quickly you can do it. Make sure you are doing things that are important before you try to optimize your work.