The Changing Role of Technology in One Writer’s Productivity Crusade

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 6: Completing the Puzzlesubscribe and buy here

For the sixth issue of Alpha Efficiency Magazine, we have a very special guest. He is our main guest contributor and a man of great ideas. We praise him not only as an author but also as a productivity powerhouse.

Augusto became famous with his first book: 25 Tips for Productivity. This epic piece has been followed by three other productivity books: No, 4 am A Productivity Argument and a great collaboration with Michael Sliwinski called #iPadOnly. Book after book, Augusto has demonstrated immense ability to showcase consistency in product development. When we think about Augusto, we think about the person that completely walks the talk and gets projects completed.

He has been with Alpha Efficiency since issue 1 and demonstrated that he is a character capable of challenging the classic authority,  deconstructing productivity advice, understanding what works and reconstructing it within his own productivity platform. However, we’ve witnessed that Augusto is also an extremely capable thinker, capable of creating authentic solutions and unique ideas that work by doing his own thinking.

The insights Augusto has shared with us in all five previous issues of Alpha Efficiency Magazine have added a unique flavor to the magazine and transformed it into the shape and form you see today. Without further commentary, we introduce Augusto!

Can you start by saying a few words about yourself?

After that introduction, I don’t know what else to say! I am a writer; I love helping people. I enjoy making people more productive, I have been somehow for a long time helping people create small changes to produce big impacts.

Can you share the story of how you became interested in productivity?

Initially, I wasn’t interested in Productivity, I was interested in Technology. The technology was going to be the solution, somehow. It was 1995-1996 when I got my first PalmPilot. I have used Sony Databanks before, but really it was the Palm Pilot what really change everything for me. At the beginning I learned by making mistakes; I knew little about productivity but was sure that learning how to do Graffiti (the input writing method of the PalmPilot) was important. I was really fast; I could take notes in class or court just using graffiti. At that time what I was doing was really basic stuff, I knew nothing about productivity. I was in college studying to be a lawyer and discover that if I understood how to use my tools better I could also finish my job faster and much more effectively than the rest of my peers. So I put my heart on the PalmPilot and it really paid off.

The only book on productivity I had read at that time was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; I tried the ABC system, with little success, so it was more a massive list inside of the Palm Pilot task system. In 2002 I took a class in college in which we read some of the Productivity Classics, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I discovered Getting Things Done by David Allen and I understood that if instead of focusing on the tool you focus on the principles, you can get much farther much faster. It was really than when I begin to study Productivity.

I began to understand how to work some of the principles, tools and changing my understanding of technology and productivity. At that time, I didn’t envision working and writing on this topic but somehow people approached me with questions and I began helping them, and that has never stopped since. I really enjoy helping people create small changes to produce big impacts; I enjoy learning how others do their stuff and offering tips that can create meaningful impact in their lives.

“I enjoy learning how others do their stuff and offering tips that can create meaningful impact in their lives.”

How long did it take you to internalize the productivity principles, and when did they really become proficient in productivity?

I am still working on that! The problem with productivity is that it is not something you finish (at least I have not been able to do that) but as you improve some things you tend to discover other areas that you can also improve. For example, I have said and write a lot about the need for the people to learn to type. Most people spend hours on their computer, tablets, and phones and simply can’t type. If a person types 35 words per minute — and many don’t — this person needs around 43 minutes to type 1500 words (the average length of an article in this magazine) but if they practice and learn how to type 60 words per minute they will type the same article in 25 minutes. Statistics show that people write the equivalent of 50,000 words in email; which would require 24 hours at a typing rate of  35 words per minute, or only 14 hours if you type 60 words per minute. That’s 10 more hours in which you can do important things.

It is not that learning the basics takes that much time, the problem is that as you discover certain things you also realize that you can also improve other areas and that you can internalize other principles. This is not about being productive just for the sake of “being productive”, it is about creating the capacity to do more meaningful things.

For me is important to spend time with my kids and my wife, to read and to be able to work from anywhere. I am not productive so I can cross more things off the list, I am productive – and I study productivity – so I can spend time with my kids, my wife, my books, from anywhere. Every time I discover some trick or internalize another productivity principle, I can spend more time doing those things that I truly enjoy.

” This is not about being productive just for the sake of “being productive”, it is about creating the capacity to do more meaningful things.”

We know you are very familiar with the CORE concept, we’d like to know how did it affect your productivity journey?

CORE is an interesting proposal because it came from a different perspective. GTD was great, even better than what 7 Habits for the Highly Effective People in the 1980’s, but the problem is that many of the concepts and principles were created in 1990’s and are simply obsolete. I came to learn about the CORE principles at the same moment in which I have been saying for a while that GTD is getting obsolete.

Collecting is as important as it is in GTD and Organizing is different, because things have changed. When GTD was written only certain people had access to cell phones, for example, today, most people are online all the time. The organizing principles needed to evolve to a place that GTD couldn’t simply go. Even if many of the principles still work, in the same way, that some of the principles of 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People still work, many are simply outdated. In 2003 I didn’t understand the importance of Eliminating things, of reducing your own responsibilities and material things. Today, I understand it is something really important. The fact that the last step is “Eliminating” is important; people need that so much. I have been saying for a while that not every project is equal, that not every project should be treated the same, and that not every project should be done, Eliminating Stuff from your system, for example, is something foreign to Methodologies like GTD or 7 Habits, but it is an important one in CORE; so it resonates better with what I believe.

A lot has changed for me since 2003; I don’t have a corporate job anymore, between projects I am involved, my own business, my own training, and other stuff I don’t have time to maintain systems that are slow and I have no need to cover my back –as it was a need in my corporate days — so there are a lot of things that are crucial to other methodologies that I can Eliminate. I live in a world now where communication is much more important than covering your back; again, a principle in CORE that other methodologies simply don’t have.

As I said, the problem is that time happens. When Covey wrote 7 Habits simply change the world of productivity as people understood it then. Allen came and update the old notion that was established by Covey, but again time and the evolution of technology simply had made that system obsolete. As Collecting and Organizing are important, Reviewing and Eliminating are also key to move forward, in conjunction with proper Communication.

What type of advice do you have for Alpha Efficiency readers that are starting from scratch?

Read all the back issues. Alpha Efficiency is a different magazine and should be treated like that. There are longer articles, but also most of them are designed to be read slowly, this is not french fries, this is more an Ossobucco that you want to slowly taste and enjoy. There is a lot of content in each number for you to reflect and think. Just diving into CORE should be enough, but you can also get the interviews, and the guess contributors articles and more.

What does your technology environment look like?

I am an #iPadOnly guy. My main Machine is an iPad. My secondary machine is an iPhone. If needed (and I avoided) I also have a MacBook Pro that can run MacOS, Windows, and Linux. Sometimes projects force me to work in those environments, but in general, I try to work constantly on my iPad.

I recently upgraded to an iPad Mini with Retina and I regret that I waited so long. I love the A7 processor and the Retina Screen; I should have done it sooner.

How about your iPhone/iPad home screen?

I tend to work mostly on my main screen on the iPad. I try to keep it simple, and I believe that in order to make it to my main screen the app needs to earn it.

Apple Notes & Calendar are key. I manage some of the WordPress Stuff, so I have the app there. I try to journal often and love Day One for that job. 1Password is another app that I use constantly.  You will notice that I both have Safari and Google Chrome and the reason is simple. I work and play in different Browsers. I Work on Chrome (regardless of the machine: iPad, iPhone, Mac or PC) and play in Safari. This helps me with my own distraction and focus and make me more effective. Pages and Numbers are there because are two apps that I use all the time, and Nozbe because I am constantly going in for some projects. It manages projects and the communication part better than OmniFocus so I keep it close.

I write often in Editorial — even that it frustrates me that it had not been updated to OS7 — but sometimes I go to Byword, I don’t really know why. I Use DualMailT to be able to translate text or be able to work with 2 documents at the same time. This is one of those apps that I love and that to my knowledge no one had created anything like it. Sadly the developer is not that active on this product either. Instapaper and Mr. Reader are the apps that I use to read RSS and articles, and finally OmniFocus, where my system lives.

My iPhone home screen has more applications than my iPhone, mostly because I use my iPhone as a reference device often when I am using the iPad and also because it is my preferred communication device. Notes, Calendar, 1Password, Day One are in the first line. Then I have a “communications” folder with every app that I use for that purpose: Phone, WhatsApp, Messages, Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, Telegram, Viber and  Google Voice. Same as in the iPad, I have two browsers, (and for the same reasons, I play on Safari and Work in Google Chrome).  I have WordPress in case I need or want to do something with the blog, QuoteBook and Buffer are two applications that I tend to use more in the iPhone than anywhere else. Then I have a “reference” folder that contains Terminology, Dictionary, WordWeb, Google Translate and Evernote. I also use an app called Pop (Piece of Paper) to make quick notes that will be processed or deleted in the next hours. I use Duolingo to practice languages and to see if I someday can learn some French. Failing so far.

I have a folder miscalled “productivity” that contains Due, EasilyDo, Strides, Calm, Focus Time and MotionX. These apps remind me or help me to be more productive and effective as well as helping me to track important information about myself. WatchMeGrow is the app that connects the camera to my one-year-old boy at school, and they text you if he is doing (trying to do) something cool and you can jump in the camera. It is a little big brother and creepy but it is great that you didn’t miss that first step.

Finally, I have Nozbe for the reasons I explained before. In the bar, I have Twitter (I only tweet on the iPhone), Instapaper, Byword (because Editorial for a reason that I don’t understand have no iPhone app) and OmniFocus.

It is these two devices that I have with me most of the time, and they allow me to be productive and accomplish most of the stuff that set my mind to…

If you were given the choice to keep only one device from all of your technology, which one would it be?

That’s easy. My iPad. My iPhone is just a support device, and I rarely use the Mac.

What do you consider the most important habit in your work life?

I work from home, I work a lot of hours. For me is crucial that my job is fun if I am not having fun often, I am doing it wrong, or at least I believe so. Fun is like anything else a habit. People tend to take themselves way too serious. We work enough hours on any particular day to not have fun. On top of that, Collecting and Eliminating are other two habits that I try to apply constantly, Collecting is key, but Eliminating is something really important, otherwise, it is hard to distinguish between those really important projects, to those fun and important projects and the rest.

Can you tell us more about what future holds for you?

There is a set of fun projects on the work that I can’t talk yet, but I can say that the last months of 2014 are going to be busy and fun. I am working on a book project with Ruben Alzola and Omar Carreño that will be incredible. I am also working on another book project but I can’t talk yet about it. There is also a group of training that I hope to release in the fall, mostly a productivity series, of short training and videos. Again a lot of fun stuff.

Thank you for contributing to Alpha Efficiency!