Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Productivity”

Seven Simple Rules for Personal Productivity

An interesting shift has again taken place over the last few holiday weeks.

The need for, and value of, the inputs for my self improvement remain fairly suspended. I am still in a consolidation and gestation mode. Simple structures are however re-emerging from my explorations over the previous years. They are moving into position for seemingly one purpose only: to accelerate my productivity and effectiveness.

So, in this absence of striving for improvement and instead just letting things ‘be’, what are the seven simple steps for my own personal effectiveness?

1. Set objectives/ target/ goals. What is your vision of a successful outcome? Obvious (and a bit of a no-brainer considering my focus with Scarlet Monday), but often forgotten or not explicitly articulated. Write it down or say it out loud for maximum effect. Get your left brain to marshall all your other-than-conscious resources.

2. Set some timescales. You need time for 3. and 4. below and then for your first chunk of action towards your goals. Very important, and the place most people set themselves up to fail. Whether you like it or not, there’s a lazy, pleasure seeking, work-shy version of yourself hidden inside you that suddenly appears as soon as you make something/set something too onerous for yourself to do. Don’t scare the lazy you into resistance. Make it a quick first couple of slots. I find myself working best in 30 or 45 minute max. chunks.

3. Brainstorm within your tight timescale all the things you have to do to achieve your target/ goal: Mindmap/ blank sheet of paper/ write a list. Don’t expand or self-correct. Start a flow or dump. Because you’ve programmed your own internal satnav in step 1., the aim of this step is to get the flow going. Your internal resourcefulness will keep working on ideas long after you’ve stopped this step: just make sure you keep something close to hand to take note of these ideas on. Time-bounding this to a 30 minute chunk helpfully stops you getting stale.

4. Lay out a rough plan or sequence of activity. Again, within the timescale you set in 2. above, do a set of rough prioritisations. The main aim of this stage is not to create a sophisticated decision-tree/ sequential programme plan/ chart. It’s to do enough to stop your brain chatter about the other actions you need to take to complete your goal when you’re actually taking an action. It allows you get on with the very next action you undertake in the next step.

5. Start your very next action (VNA). Just start it. I know that all personal productivity advice tends to say this. There’s a reason. You start and something nearly magical happens. Your lazy work-shy fades away. Your normally fairly silent/reticent creative personality comes to the fore and starts to get to work. And continues working until the task is done – even if you’ve reached the end of the time you’ve given the task. Now this may not sound right to you, but believe me. As long as you’ve taken the steps 1-4 above, you’re in a perfect place to make this magic start. If you leap in at this step then you’ll swiftly slide down the slippery non-productive/ procrastination/ resistance route. Why? Because you’re not in the right mindspace/set. You’ve not done all that your logical left brain needs to shut up and allow your right brain to relax into resourceful action. Past this, overall you won’t have been ruthless enough with yourself on the time and step management to stop taking too long in planning and not enough in just doing.

6. Stop at the end of your first action time chunk/ slot. That’s right: stopping is a step in doing more. From my view, avoiding wasting big blocks of time by trying to maintain your energy, focus and passion on one action past 30-45 minutes counteracts any possible inefficiency from picking up, getting up to speed, starting work again and then stopping at the end of the timeslot.

7. Continue the previous VNA/start another VNA in the next time slot suitable.

Repeat 6 and 7 until goal achieved.

With thanks to the simplicity of a set of project action steps in Tracy’s Eat That Frog (see sidebar) for guiding the above.

What Do the Secrets of Greatness mean for Time Management and Productivity?

Pierogi by Anna Moderska

Pierogi by Anna Moderska

Following my last post, I’ve been thinking about what the secrets of greatness mean for time management and the impact this has on personal productivity? 

I think that there is a scarily simple answer: just do it.

To explain: the core of the ‘secret’ of greatness was deliberate practice. Practice defined as being the focused attention at getting better at doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Therefore, the only way you’ll get better at managing your time and productivity is ‘just do it’.  Just take the time and do the task. Don’t prevaricate or procrastinate. Just start and do what you can in the time. Lowest unit of time? Assuming everything is to hand (i.e. brain/ pen/ paper) then five minutes? Try and do this as many times in a twenty four hour period as possible.

So this gives you the ‘practice’. When it comes to the deliberate improvement activity:

1.    Try and get better at just starting and doing

2.    Try and maintain mindfulness on the best way of squeezing the task in hand, and the quality required, into the time you are so ruthlessly managing

3.    ….and repeat

There was a TV programme about a dumpling factory in China. The most productive dumpling maker was interviewed. When asked what she thought about all day when making dumplings, she replied ‘how to make them faster and better’

Dumplings or decisions: the deliberate practice is the same.

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How to Improve Time Management: The Blockers to Focus

Focus by CraigPJ

Focus by CraigPJ

Contrary to popular opinion about multi-tasking being a higher form of skill than the individual who just does one thing at a time, the key to Productivity+Efficiency=Time Management is focus.

Now this is no great revelation: most good time management/ productivity books will highlight focus as being the ‘magic’ ingredient or key to success.

However, until recently I have felt similar sentiments on this to that portrayed in my comment in my post on Mindfulness: Learning in the Task:  ‘I have always challenged that multi-tasking, or at the very least thinking about something else whilst doing the things you can mundanely/ unconsciously do is a higher form of skill. That just focusing utterly and mindfully on one thing is time wasting’

I think that a number of things have shifted in my views. The value of focus is starting to glimmer through the clearing mists of ‘to-do’s’ as my own personal productivity improves. I have identified the following as a ‘starter for ten’ on things that facilitate or block your ability to focus: Read more…

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