Four Great Personal Productivity Blogs

Blogging is using a new medium for what it’s good for—connecting and interacting.” — George Siemens, Canadian social theorist.

“Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.” — Penelope Trunk, American writer and blogger.

“Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day.

Thornton Wilder, American playwright.

Over the course of my 20-year career, I’ve seen a technological revolution wash over the world, impacting nearly every aspect of our lives. In the early 1990’s, desktop computers came into common usage, and “portable” computers still weighed about fifty pounds. About then, interesting rumors about an odd development called “the Internet” had started to circulate. Now, of course, we can’t imagine life without these things.

Despite what I think of as “the Schlimmbesserung effect,” e.g. the tendency for so-called labor-saving innovations to create more work than ever, the Internet and associated info-tech have a wonderful potential for boosting productivity at work. If nothing else, we can now more easily share ideas about maximizing workplace productivity.

Then we started exploring the increasing popularity of downloadable audio recordings called podcasts and articles on blogs. Good, old-fashioned writing saw an explosion of popularity due to the rise of the Internet. Nowadays, millions of folks write and distribute blogs, regularly contributing their singular forms of wit, wisdom, and knowledge to the “blogosphere.” You can find hundreds of productivity blogs online, and I read a handful myself (in addition to writing this one). Today, I’ll share four of my faves, in no particular order.

Productivity501

Most bloggers post more often than Mark Shead does on Productivity501, but Mark’s entries are worth the wait. New articles appear on the site about once a week, thoroughly exploring some aspect of personal productivity in a precise, easy-to-read manner intended to actually benefit the reader, rather than just fill up space. (All good productivity blogs share this characteristic). Sometimes the tips outline how to get the most out of a new software program or emerging technology; sometimes Mark examines general productivity topics, such as the dichotomy between effort and ability (i.e. hard work vs. raw talent). Invariably, his blogs prove informative and thought provoking.

Zen Habits

Leo Babauta approaches productivity from a more holistic perspective, rather than focusing specifically on the workplace. Yet work represents a major facet of most peoples’ lives, and unlike some “New Age” writers, Leo doesn’t ignore this reality. Once or twice a week, he posts on subjects ranging from the value of simplicity to the importance of family life, goal setting, motivation, health, enjoying the moment, and more. All have a place in the smart professional’s career, and I think Leo’s gentle blogging style effectively emphasizes this without hitting you over the head with it. He has about a quarter-million regular readers, so lots of people seem to agree.

Dumb Little Man

Jay White’s no-nonsense message of practical productivity, based on automation, setting and exceeding goals, and (as he puts it) “finding a simpler way for everything,” belies the title of his blog. No dumb little man here. When he began the blog back in 2006, he took care of all the content; now he allows others to submit articles for consideration, as long as they stick to the general platform of sharing useful experiences and offering tips and advice. So this blog is a bit more freewheeling and harder to pin down than most, in terms of personal style; however, White still rides herd on the site, and makes occasional contributions himself. He also regularly republishes what he considers his best work, so if you decide to work your way through the archives, you’ll get some duplication. No worries—the information bears repeating.

Stepcase Lifehack

Also popularly known as “Lifehack,” this productivity/lifestyle blog is written by a consortium of several dozen individuals (about 50 as of this writing) who offer advice, resources, tips, and tricks intended to help you handle life more effectively. These represent the titular “lifehacks,” a term derived from the tendency of some computer programmers to hack into buggy code and make the programs they use more useful (at least from their perspectives). While the writing styles vary, the blog entries tend to be accessible, straightforward, and easy to apply to your work or home life. Typically, you’ll see a minimum of 2-3 new posts per day on Lifehack, so you may find it hard to keep up. Fortunately, the writers post their entries in specific categories (Communication, Lifestyle, Management, Money, Productivity, and Technology), so you can narrow your focus if necessary.

Worth the Investment

While you can listen to podcasts on the drive to work or during unscheduled downtime, blogs require you to deliberately make room in your schedule if you want to stay current with them. Needless to say, don’t bog yourself down with aimless blog-reading, but do cast your net widely, and build a roster you like and find useful If you choose your blogs carefully, you’ll find them worth the time you invest, due to the ideas they expose you to. Even if you can’t use a particular tip, it might prove handy for someone you know; and reading about it may spark some ideas that will work for you.

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