"crutch" by Kate Tomlinson It’s something that I’ve been thinking about recently. For how much all these nifty tools have helped us become more productive, I think there is a percentage of creativity or inspiration that we give up. All productivity tools are things that can do harm to our work habits as much as they simplify a task.

Maybe it’s that most of these tools are single-task automation or simplification utilities and from that perspective are inefficient solutions. Take a close look at all your “social media” or “Web 2.0” tools and services – I bet most really only solve one real task with a few frivolous extras sprinkled on top.

I’m not sure what to do about this, but I look at my productivity today and compare it to a year ago. Back then I was chewing through thousands more feeds, had more ideas and, it seems, more time to write posts for my blog.

Today, I have client software installed that automatically checks my Twitter and FriendFeed accounts for updates. It notifies me with a pleasant tone that triggers me to quickly switch windows and check out the latest possible news like a rabbit hitting the feeder bar for a food pellet.

How is this productive? How is this helping me? I have Twhirl updating the main Twitter feed every 2 minutes – how many times am I interrupted in an hour? Right. 30! Think about that. Now add FriendFeed into the mix on its own (similar) updates schedule. How many times can you be interrupted in a day without losing focus?

Now I don’t mean to beat up on Twitter and FriendFeed – heck, I can come up with dozens of reasons why they help more than hinder my daily life. Email used to be the same. I used to use Microsoft Outlook. If the computer was on, so was Outlook – and what was that nice feature introduced in Outlook 2003? Pop-up notification… great. So that is where that bad habit was developed for me. Since changing to web-based email about three months ago, I find myself checking email much less often. I’m no less effective or timely in my communication either.

So it’s really how we use the tools – their convenience allows us to lean on them for help. Sometimes a little too much. As we’re creatures of habit it’s up to us to develop, groom, and manage those habits. If we start developing bad habits, it’s ourselves that needs to correct them.

So that’s what I personally need to do.  Simply change how I use Twitter and FriendFeed. There are others, but those are the two that I really need to manage my time with the most.

How about you? What are your tricks & tips in managing these productivity tools?

Photo credit: Kate Tomlinson

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