From a rather simplistic perspective, we buy and use a Mac to get things done. A lot of things.
The problem is multiplied by the fact that there are more things to do, and the Mac is capable of doing more things. Unfortunately, we’re not.
Take a quick look at the software on your Mac and then make a mental list of all the things you ask of your Mac, including everything that comes with OS X, plus all the applications and utilities you add.
For most of us, the Mac is where we go to handle, manage, receive and send email messages. So, Mail or Entourage takes up a chunk of our daily Mac task time.
The same goes for web browsing. There’s news sites to visit, sites of interest, RSS feeds to track, and just general surfing, browsing, fooling around in a browser, whether Safari, Firefox, Camino or something else. Browsing takes up a chunk of our daily Mac task time, too.
OS X brings a share of effort with iCal calendars to manage, Address Book to set up, and more. There’s iTunes to hold our music, TV shows, music videos, movies, and now movie rentals. iTunes requires time and effort, and there’s syncing and managing iPods and iPhones.
For most Mac users iPhoto is always there, ready to suck the digital images off our cameras, store them, help us edit, manage, sort, prints and send those photos of value. Because our Mac does more, we try to do more.
How about those productivity applications? Software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe’s Creative Suite applications, even Apple’s great iWork all require time and effort because they do things for us—from reports to spreadsheets to graphics. Our Mac does more, so we try to do more.
See the common themes? Our Mac can do plenty. We can usually do just one thing at a time, and each day comes with only so many hours in it, so there’s only so much we can accomplish on our Macs.
Our jobs, our lives, our family, and the need to stay on top of things, all require that we get better at getting things done. The problem is that most of us can only focus on one thing at a time, do one thing at a time.
In recent months we’ve discussed how to use the Mac to Get Things Done. There’s no shortage of Mac software to help us, but sometimes the applications and utilities we use are as much a part of the problem as the solution.
These days we have Mac software to manage our money and investments. There’s software to manage our To-Do List, our Projects and Tasks. There’s Mac software to track our CDs, our DVDs, our Books, our Games. There are specialized Mac applications for writers.
There are times that it seems like we have so many tools on our Mac to help us get things done that we need an application to manage our software for us. In fact, there are more aids to help us accomplish specific tasks on our Macs than we have the capability to manage.
Is software the answer? Yes, and no. Kate recently asked the question, ‘Can You Really Multitask Better On Your Mac?’ The answer is a qualified ‘yes.’ But the trick isn’t the software you use. It’s something else that’s far more important.
Discipline. If Walter Kirn and the scientists who say that humans don’t multitask very well are correct, and from personal experience I believe they are, then Mac users need to adjust how we use our Macs to remain productive. That requires discipline.
I took some time to dig back through the gems of Mac software reviewed by the Mac360 staff and found one I had overlooked, or glossed over, or ignored, or was too busy to pay attention to, or something. Mac360 writer Alexis Kayhill was first on the scene to use iGTD because it was good and free. I suspect free was her primary motivation.
The only problem I had with my first view of iGTD was that it seemed overly complex. Hey, I’m a busy guy. I’m trying to decomplexify my digital life, not add to it. I missed the discipline boat.
Instead of trying to juggle six things at a time, and manage the dozen applications and utilities that are open on my Mac at any given time, day or night, David Allen of Getting Things Done fame, says seemingly counterproductive and antimultitasking things such as ‘focus’ and ‘think’ and ‘allocate time.’
He’s right, of course. Whether we think we’re multitasking animals or not, we’re probably not. Our Macs can handle many tasks for us but the Mac is just a vehicle we have to drive and most of us can go in only one direction at a time. Fortunately, our Macs can change direction quickly and efficiently, and keep track of everything we need to be productive, but it doesn’t do all the driving.
Perhaps the real issue is how we view multitasking. Is it getting lots of disparate things done throughout the course of the day? Or, is it juggling and balancing many tasks at the same time? My guess is that we do a little of both, try to do more of the latter, end up doing less of the former.
Back to discipline. Is there a Mac application or utility which can truly be the center of our digital hub, one which helps us manage time, priorities, tasks, projects, and the like, without becoming a complex gargantuan lumbering through tiny Liliput? If not, why not? If so, which one is it?
time being, I’ve centered my focus on a handful of promising Mac utilities to give more discipline in managing all that I ask of my Mac each day. iGTD is the center because it allocates action and time. Together because it captures information so well. NetNewsWire because nothing is more efficient at retrieving information. Finally, Things to help me with more detailed tasks and projects. But the center of discipline will be me and iGTD.
What about you? What is it on your Mac that makes you highly productive, more efficient, and lets you get things done? What is it about managing your digital life which slows things down, is sometimes counterproductive, and adds complexity to your day? Talk Back to Mac360 readers in the Comments section below.