Working crazy hours and ‘hustling’ does not necessarily make you more productive. It certainly makes you busy (or look busy)but not productive. As a network engineer, I used to spend days on fiddling with the software settings, playing with the firewall software but that was not necessarily productive. I was learning stuff in the process but that was certainly not the best return on the time spent.
Reading tens and hundreds of articles on productivity or entrepreneurship will not produce the results you want. For that, you will actually have to do work that matters and that will make a difference. You will need to produce.
I believe that everyone has their own definition of what they call as ‘being productive’. Whatever your definition – ensure that you are producing things that matter to you and that is taking you towards your goals or objectives in life.
I recently came across Mark Manson’s article on “How to Be More Productive by Working Less“. It is a great short article that I would recommend people to read. It might just add an insight or two about productivity. It might assist you in managing your time better or assist you in managing your team environment better.
Here’s my summary:
Productivity is a deeply personal thing
Apart from some physical factory work and some office tasks, hardly any work is linear in function. It means that more time spent doing work does not necessarily mean that more is accomplished
Overworking can produce diminishing returns or negative returns
Identify leverage and deleverage points. What activity from your list can you pursue providing the best value for your time and efforts?
Take strategic time-offs. This will help to recharge your brain without loosing focus.
With a New Year, a lot of us will be starting new projects (resolutions). Some will stick to starting one project, finish it and then move to the second. Lot more of us will start multiple projects at the same time. If you prefer to start one project at a time or multiple projects at a time, there is no right or wrong answer in my view. It’s a personal preference.
What’s more important is that for project/s (or a new year’s resolution), identify:
– Answer ‘why’ finishing the project is a “MUST” for you. If you can’t answer it, either scrape the project or find compelling ‘whys’
– A strong vision and how completing the project will benefit or make you happy
– What will you give up in order to work on the project [Remember we have limited time and attention]
– Doable chunks in which you can get started today
– Start TODAY and don’t wait.
The Internet is flooded with productivity tips and this is another post to add to that mix. How many productivity boosting posts have you read this week? Ah, I digress.
The point of productivity tips generally is to make us more effective and efficient with our time. So I was reading one such post today. I wanted to add one thing desperately to this list and that is the habit of creating a daily list.
I am a GTD [Getting Things Done] methodology buff and have been creating monthly, weekly and daily list for quite some time now. I mostly use technology to perform my GTD. For a long time I resisted paper and pen as I wanted to be completely digital, but alas I wasn’t as effective doing just that and I was loosing focus.
So, I decided to write every day tasks on a simple post-it note first thing every morning. As day progresses and I finish my tasks, I start marking them off. Most times I also allocate the estimated time required for each task which allows me to plan my day better. What have I achieved doing this? More or less, I get 80-90% tasks completed each day. What remains is generally a low priority task or something where I have a dependency on someone or something else. Using this simple hack, I get more done everyday and my day remains focused.
As you can see from the list above, I have done the important tasks and low priority works remains!
I know what you are thinking, that there is no rocket science behind this, but then rarely is. It is all about what works best for you and what gets you focused and on top of matters.
This is so true about so many things in life, from measuring performance at work, measuring productivity, measuring ‘things’ that will make you reduce weight, measuring things that you have accomplished in a day or this lifetime, measuring learning at work and many other things. Before you start measuring and spend endless time in analysing those measurements, identify things that will really move the needle.
One thing that I have learnt over the years working on various projects is the need and the importance to ship on or before time. Want to dot all “i” and cross the “t’s” and there may be slippages or a “no-go” in project lingo. Shipping things just to get it out of the door [or to look good on project tracker] and it might be ineffective or virtually useless.
Trying to make yourself a perfect candidate before you apply for that role or ask that girl out? Well while you wait and work on that, the bar may keep rising and you or your product might never be completely perfect.
How about finding a problem or an opportunity, identifying what’s most important to get going, setting or identifying timelines, picking the most top priority thing to perfect and work on it till you get it and then ship it out.
Be Agile! Update, re-iterate and ship again.
Shipping often would not only boost your [your teams, your customers] confidence but also allow you to learn quickly from your mistakes and act accordingly. God did not make humans as we are in one day, He took millions if not billions of years to perfect us. He just kept on shipping better iterations.
Focus on one thing at a time for 10 minutes a day for the next three weeks. See the results for yourself. The results should generally talk for themselves. It is better to start and focus on something now than having the same thing on your mind or on your list for the next 10 years.
I have been using Gmail’s tabbed Inbox for quite a few weeks now.
I prefer to have Inbox Zero or close to it. My latest favourite tool was Mailbox. Using Mailbox I could quickly scan, action, delay or archive email messages while saving heaps of time and keeping my Inbox lean. But the new Gmail Inbox goes further for me. Key observations:
Smartness – The auto detection of email and sorting in various tabs really works well for 98% of my email.
Time saving – Because the auto detection works well, I can focus on getting the most important email out of the way first. All I need to do is check the Primary tab. Of course I can train Gmail to put specific email under a preferred tab.
Delete All – I get a lot of notifications from Facebook, Twitter and other services. I still want to receive them but do not necessary check them all the time. Because messages are automatically sorted under the Social or the Promotions tab, deleting read/unread/all messages is much easier. No need to search for “label:inbox from:facebook” and then deleting messages.
Overall, I am saving more time while focusing on the most important messages first. My Gmail Inbox is more organised. I still use Mailboxapp but it is my second favorite Email app for now.
I am a sucker when it comes to increasing productivity or doing things the smarter way and I am a bigger sucker when it comes to trying out software and services that helps to do the same. I think there will be millions of more like me! So every time there is a new productivity improving service out there or a great deal on web services, I pull myself aside for a minute and ask two questions:
What problem of mine is this tool solving?
Which of the existing tools or services that use can solve the same problem?
Answering these two questions, almost all of the time I come to a conclusion that my problem is either already solved with one of my existing tools/services or CAN BE solved by my existing tools or services. To improve your productivity you have to get more done in the time you have or even less time. To improve your productivity, keep your systems/workflow simple and get more done. Optimize your existing system instead of fragmenting your workflow too much and introducing more distractions. More systems/workflows means there is more management of systems and more distractions, which does not necessarily equate to getting more done.
So next time, before you spend a weekend trying a new tool or a new service, see if it will keep your existing workflow simple and to the minimum or will adding an extra tool going to add a lot of value in the long run.