Weekly Reflection #2

Episode 2: Trello and the Pitfalls of Productivity Porn

This week I introduce you to my nemesis, Productivity Porn. The idea of “getting your ducks in a row” is appealing, especially when you are starting a new project. But a trap that I often fall into when setting up organizational systems is that of the endless diversion.  I tell myself “wow, you are so organized and this will make all of your tasks so easy” and “now you will never forget another due date”. These statements are boldface lies. At a certain point you realize that the amount of time creating your new organizational system would have been better used actually completing your required tasks. There is also something of an organizational high that you get while you are filing your life into little boxes. For me this leads to jumping on every possible organization bandwagon rather than sticking to a single system.

Ironically, this is the opposite of what I preach when I teach martial arts. I tell my students that the best block or strike isn’t the the most efficient or tailor-made one, its the one that you practice and use consistently. This is reiterated well by James Bedell who discussed organizational self help material:

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month. They are far too busy getting things done to read Getting Things Done.”

I thought that I had learned my lesson when I was remodeling my OpenEd page. Obviously the time I spent on that could have been better spent actually completing coursework. But here we go again with my decent into organizational hell: Trello

This is a tool that I have developed a love hate relationship with. As an instructor I can see the appeal of setting up boards for students and giving them ready-made digital checklist for their course work. But having singlehandedly set up 7 boards (one per class) and populating them with assignments, I have found that the amount of time I have sunk into making them will almost certainly never be recouped. The positive spin however is that I can send copies of these boards to other students to save them the time of slaving over a hot computer themselves. I am a digital philanthropist if nothing else…

You can see that I have gone through course outlines to pull all of the expectations for assignments and aggregate them into one place.


The most important thing to remember when using tools like Trello is consistency. I still find myself using the stickynote function on my computer rather than going to Trello. I think for me I like the idea of downloadable organization systems rather than web-based ones. Trello just becomes another lost tab in my never-ending see of browser windows. Even google calendar (my main scheduling app) which I use religiously, lacks a downloadable desktop client without resorting to a 3rd-party program.

Well that’s my rant for today.  I did read some interesting articles about Productivity Pitfalls, but in the interest of not falling into them I think you should only look at ONLY ONE of these links. I mean it!

The Trap of Productivity Porn

Productivity Porn: A distraction in plain sight

Productivity Pornography

One Reply to “Weekly Reflection #2”

  1. I love your post Thom!!

    Love the simile – or would that be a metaphor – just like martial arts, Find a system that works and stick with it! I love paper agendas!! Ther is something so satisfying with physically crossing things off or checking them off! Harder to share with the instructor and classmates though.

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