Posted tagged ‘Productivity’

Doing less or more on vacation

January 15, 2019

There’s truth in what Lucille Ball said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

It may be obvious to you, but recently it struck me that the busier I am, the more I get done.

Over the past few months, I have been overwhelmed, stressed, and a little ragged when I let myself think of all the things I need to do. Somehow the urgent things get done, and I move on down the list.

Then I took a vacation. Except for checking email every once in a while (so I didn’t face an overflowing inbox when I got back to work), most of the “busy work” halted.

I took time to sleep in, to read, to relax. But I also had plans, places to go and things to do.

On the first and last days of my vacation, we took two family day-trips – places we wanted to take our son for the first time. But with so much time, we couldn’t stir ourselves to take the second trip sooner.

Between those family days, I worked only on projects that I wanted to do. I couldn’t justify doing them when there were more urgent projects, but I enjoyed doing them. There were other things I wanted to do, and had the time to do them, but not the motivation.

Though my vacation is over, here are three things I could have done to make sure I got more done:

* Designate work times. I could have aside two days, or three mornings, as work days. Whether it’s checking work email, preparing taxes, doing yardwork, or cleaning the house, making that mental shift to “work” can help focus attention and set boundaries for the rest of the vacation.

* Set imaginary deadlines. My default was “I’ll do it over my vacation,” but that’s not specific enough. I should have set a date for when something needed to be completed – even if it was an arbitrary date.

* Tell someone about it. Better yet, I should have told someone what I wanted to accomplish, and when, so that I felt some pressure or accountability to actually follow through.

Now I have some ideas for staying on task during my next vacation.

What is your ideal vacation? Are your vacations all-leisure or a combination of work and play?


“The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey

July 7, 2018

With so many distractions in life, we could probably be a little more productive.

Author and productivity blogger Chris Bailey embarked on “A Year of Productivity” (AYOP), 12 months of intense research, interviews, and experimentation, so that we can be more productive about being productive. Delegating tasks is Bailey’s productivity hack #14, so we’ve already become a little more efficient just by reading his book, “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy” (2016).

The productivity tactics in this book can “help you accomplish everything you have to do in less time, so you can carve out more time for what’s actually important and meaningful in your life.” Each chapter begins with a takeaway and estimated reading time. There are 25 productivity hacks and productivity challenges so that you can see which ones work best for you.

Bailey redefines productivity as how much you accomplish – not how efficiently you work. That means managing your time, energy, and attention so that finish everything you intended to do. He reminds us that busyness is not productivity, even though you’re working hard!

Bailey’s writing is conversational and humorous (“This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my head all day long. Please send help.”). The chapters are short and bite-sized, so I could read a bit and then go back to work, or stop and do a productivity challenge.

If you want to take small steps to increase your productivity, I recommend these three productivity hacks: First, disconnect from the Internet when working on high-impact tasks. Next, limit attention-hog tasks like checking email and making phone calls. And finally, schedule a “maintenance day” to do all your routine chores and errands, such as laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Make these routine tasks a necessary part of your productivity.

There were three productivity challenges I stopped reading to do. They didn’t take a lot of time, and I felt a sense of control at organizing my tasks.

* The Values Challenge, which asks what you would do if you had two more hours in a day. I immediately thought of three things: reading more, writing more, and doing more art projects.

* The Impact Challenge, which asks you to write down all of your job responsibilities, big and small, and highlight the ones that have the most value.

* The Capture Challenge (the brain dump), which asks you to write down all of the things that you have to do, the things you are waiting for, and the things you are worrying about. This was

The most insightful productivity hack is to treat your “future self” with as much care as yourself today, being careful of your future self’s time and money.

As Bailey reminds us, “People are the reason for productivity.”

How do you keep on-task every day? What are your most effective productivity tips?

“The 5 Choices” by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne

January 7, 2017

The 5 Choices

“Everyone has the capacity to do extraordinary work.”

This is the foundation of “The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity” (2015), written by three executives at Franklin Covey: Kory Kogon, Global Practice Leader for Productivity; Adam Merrill, Vice President of Innovations; and Leena Rinne, Senior Consultant for productivity and leadership development. The book is a practical and helpful guide to planning and organizing your day.

The authors first identify three critical challenges in our lives: 1) We are making more decisions than ever. 2) Our attention is under unprecedented attack. And 3) We are suffering from a personal energy crisis.

Then the authors discuss the 5 choices that can increase our capability in decision management, attention management, and energy management. Some of the principles and anecdotes are influenced by Japanese martial arts and stories. Some of the organization tips feel targeted more to employees and managers of large corporations, who have access to more technology resources. But all of it can be scaled up or down for any business. Each chapter concludes with “To Sum Up” summaries, with a special section about being a Q2 leader, and a handy appendix with the Top 25 Email Protocols and Key Models.

Here are the 5 choices that can lead to extraordinary productivity:

  1. Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent. Important activities, like planning, creative thinking, and relationship building let you take charge of your life and do things that make a difference. Use the Time Matrix to divide your activities and tasks into four quadrants: Q1 Necessary, Q2 Extraordinary Productivity, Q3 Distraction, and Q4 Waste. Before making decisions, Pause-Clarify-Decide whether something is important.
  2. Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary. Extraordinary is feeling satisfied and accomplished. Use a Life Wheel to identify the most important roles in your life (parent, spouse, manager, volunteer), and evaluate how you are doing in each (underperforming, ordinary, or extraordinary). Write role statements for each role, articulating what you will do and how you will achieve it. Set goals to focus your attention and energy.
  3. Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel. Let go of a lot of the little things and focus on the important things. Create a Master Task List of Q1s and Q2s. Commit to spending 30 minutes each week and 10 minutes each day on Q2 Planning. Review your roles and goals, and schedule a specific tune and place to do Q2 Planning. At the end of the day, “Close out the Day” by reviewing what you have accomplished, identify the few “must-dos” for tomorrow, and organize the rest.
  4. Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let it Rule You. Technology is not the problem; it is how conscious and deliberate we are in using it! Sort everything into Appointments, Tasks, Contacts, and Notes/Documents. Keep everything in one place in each category, either digitally or on paper, so that you don’t miss anything or waste time with duplicate effort. When you receive a document or request, act on it, file it, or dismiss it.
  5. Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out. Take care of your brain and body. Follow the 5 Energy Drivers: Move, Eat Healthy, Get Enough Sleep, Relax, and Connect with People.

“Extraordinary productivity is a question of being conscious in the moment” rather than reacting to the most recent crisis.

Do you feel as if you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do? How do you balance work and personal life?