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Actually, I don’t golf, but I like the analogy, which I first heard from my friend Rick L’Amie at Moxie Marketing. Conversations with him and others have started me thinking about the process for finding the right productivity tools, and first recognizing that there is a need.  Golfing is kind of definitive, often something happens that makes you realize that you want to learn to golf, and it’s easy to know whether or not you are already a golfer.  Productivity tools are different.  Most people have very ingrained habits for how they deal with commitments, communication, and information – it’s just “how they operate,” and probably how they have always operated. It often doesn’t even occur to people to stop and ask themselves if they have a Process, and if the tools they have are working.

I recently saw someone with a paper-based planner.  I asked him, “how does that work for you?” He was surprised by the question, and had to stop and think about the answer.  So then he asked if we could sit down and talk about it, which I was happy to do.  He started by asking about other tools, both paper and electronic, and so we talked about PIMs (personal information managers).  I told him that to be sufficient, a tool had to do a good job at handling at least five things well: calendar, to-do list, email, contacts, and notes, plus a capture tool is necessary also.  Then I explained that there are three things to consider about your personal productivity (“time management,” if you will, although I think that term is no longer relevant):

  1. Recognizing that a tool is necessary.  Why? Because you can only manage things when you can see them, and you can only see them when they are out of your head.  And ‘out of your head’ on little scraps of paper (physical or electronic) is not particularly helpful, so you need someplace to store all of it.
  2. Choosing the right tool. Before the advent of electronic organizers, there were many kinds of paper tools, but most were essentially the same, with a calendar as the main feature, and perhaps a place for notes and an address book.  Early in the days of electronic tools, Microsoft Outlook was among the first and the most dominant, and it handles all 5 components pretty well (although most people use it only to a fraction of its potential, because of number 3.)  Now the problem is that there are so many tools on the market, and most of them are very specialized, i.e. focusing on only one or two of the 5 components. So now people are faced with the task of having to assemble their own set of tools, and they don’t even realize it, nor do they know how to pick the best one for them, because they don’t have a Process. Which leads me to #3….
  3. Owning a set of clubs does not make you a golfer.  In other words, the PROCESS is the missing piece to using these tools successfully. You could have all the latest gadgets and a whole arsenal of apps, but unless you have a methodology, a step-by-step process for exactly how you need to use these tools for effectively managing all the details, then you’ll be just another hacker on the golf course.  I’ve spent my entire professional career developing my process, called the Empowered Productivity System, and through this company,, I teach it to people.  There are also others.

For more to think about regarding your own personal productivity, or “time management,” you might enjoy my earlier post, “Three Secrets to Personal Productivity.”  Thanks for reading, and if you’re using Twitter, I’d love to connect with you there: @mnthomas. Also, I’d be happy to discuss your own process and tools with you any time.  Advice is always free!

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