I've been tagged! Aaron Potts tagged me to participate in a new round of assembling a volume of great information from a wide variety of sources.
The idea was originally started by Ben at the Instigator Blog and he called it The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Group Writing Project.
Participants list their best productivity habits, highlighting the most effective one if they want to, and link back to Ben's site, as well as to who tagged them for the project.
Here is my contribution:
Personally productivity - getting things done – is a hot topic. As a culture, we are obsessed with getting things done. Just look at all the time management systems and our “need” to go faster to get it all done.
What are you thinking about most of the day? Your To Do List, am I right?
And what are you waiting for before you let yourself think about all those wonderfully dreamy things you long for in your life? To get your To Do List done.
Many believe Getting Things Done is the path they must take to have what they want in life. Have you seen the backlash about the DVD The Secret? What’s the biggest grip? That positive thinking and positive feelings alone aren’t going to get you what you want in life - you have to Do things if you expect anything to happen in your life. And you have to do a lot of things. And you have to do the right things. And you have to get these things done on time for them to matter.
My nature is to be super productive and get scads of things done. I’m as attached as anybody to getting things done. I have endless ideas and projects popping up in my mind. Every day there are hundreds of things I would like to do. Some things I have to do. And more things I should do. There is an endless conveyor belt heaping more and more things to do on my ever-expanding plate.
Having seen my productive capacity land me in burn out a few times, I've learned to approach productivity more strategically.
I have changed my definition of productivity
I have redefined productivity as the art and science of successfully moving toward what I want to experience in my life. At this stage of my life productivity isn’t just about getting things done. I've taken the focus off just doing things and put the focus on a strategic plan as to what, where, when, why and how to do things.
These days I am more interested in sustainable productivity. Sure, it used to be no problem staying up all night to meet a deadline, skipping meals, getting up early, going to bed late, rushing and hurrying to get more done. But that is not sustainable. Going about it that way - you will sooner or later (usually sooner) fall over in exhaustion or just succumb to incompetence and lack of effectiveness – and end up with little or no productivity.
I now have two main guidelines when leveraging my productivity:
- Productivity is really all about learning to effectively manage your energy – all of the different kinds of your energy – physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, and emotional. See Ten Things I Do Everyday to be Simply Successful for some of my best energy management tips.
- I go to great lengths to NOT rely on will power. Will power is a very expensive premium fuel. It does not burn cleanly and it leaves a lot of residue. Instead of will power, I use a number of tricks to overcome energy inertia (see below). Plus, I leverage the power of daily rituals and routines (more below). I save will power for when I have to do something I really don’t want to do and there is no way out of it. Which is – thanks to the way I have set my life up –rarely.
With those two principles in mind, I then use a little productive strategy. I am on my sixth reading of Sun Tzu’s The Art of Strategy and it has permanently rewired my brain to think about the Five Working Fundamentals of strategy: Tao; Nature; Situation; Leadership; and Art. And I am always taking those into consideration when nurturing and supporting my productivity.
Here are some of my favorite Productivity Tips
1. The Power of Place
I’m a firm believer in the power conscious environmental design. Set up the right environment - in the right way - and it pulls you into productivity.
My office has everything I need to do the work that I do in the way that I like to do it – at my fingertips. I don’t fumble around for anything. My organization is exactly suited to me. And my office is beautiful – I love coming into my office and it uplifts me. I have the greatest office chair in the world. I spent a ton of money on it but it has more than paid off in enabling me to work effectively and efficiently. I have no environmental bumps that get in my way – it's sheer “zoom, zoom”.
And it is not only my work space that is set up to facilitate my productivity. All the rooms in my house are elegantly set up to support me (and the family) in doing what the room is designed to do.
I don’t get distracted by running off to gather what I need to be productive. I anticipate what I will need and put everything that I will need in one place and keep it there. I design my environments to make it easy to focus on the task at hand.
This little forethought enables me to carry through to completion without delays, distractions or unnecessary running around.
2. Rituals and Routines
I have a plethora of rituals and routines that keep me on track. Here are a few of them:
- The beginning and ending of my days are very ritualized. This is a long term strategy to keep me going over the long haul.
- I respond to my email once a day. And I have an effective strategy for keeping my email box clear – this keeps me ahead of information overload.
- Like Aaron Potts, I use the concept of “task times”.
- The main hours of a work day are devoted only to work. The main hours on an “off day” are devoted only to life. I avoid mixing life and work on the same day – way too much angst as to when to stop doing one and start doing the other. Before you know it half of the day is gone because you couldn't decide what to do when.
- I take 3 days off work every week so that I am not life deprived and yearning for something beyond work.
- My work days are divided up into client days and project days. Most weeks I give myself some client days and some project days. And my project days are further sub-divided into writing; marketing; networking; etc.
- This year I’m taking the task time division a bit further. Every other month I take an entire work week with no days off. And every other month I take an entire vacation/life/holiday week with no work days. Still working out the kinks in this but so far I like it.
If you have to go through every day deciding every minute what to do from the hundreds of things vying for your attention it will be exhausting and a big waste of time. Setting up effective rituals and routines enables me to use my energy getting things done rather than negotiating with myself about what to do with every minute.
3. Overcoming energy inertia
Despite all the strategies, support and environmental designs and systems that I have in place I still find myself sometimes languishing. I have even written (and use!) an e-course filled with strategies for overcoming the natural inertia that overtakes us all some times and that keeps us from taking the actions that count and responding effectively to change. Here are few of my favorite techniques excerpted my popular The Way of Change e-course:
Implement a follow through strategy
Many times we don’t take action until things get serious and our survival is threatened. Our brains are hard wired to be alert for the things that our threatening to us right now. We are not really hard wired for taking a preventive approach.
To override this natural tendency you can trick your brain into following through more naturally. In their book, Following Through: a Revolutionary New Method for Finishing Whatever You Start, Steve Levinson and Pete Greider outline several amazingly effective follow through strategies. My favorite is called "Leading the Horse to Water". As Levinson and Greider explain it - you can’t make a horse drink water if he is not thirsty. But put the horse where the water is and he is more likely to drink it.
Here is how I use the strategy: I have made a resolution to walk four days a week. Many days I just don’t feel like it or I feel that there are more important things I should be doing. On those days I make a deal with myself that I don’t have to walk if I don’t want to - but I DO have to put on my walking shoes. Strangely, once I get my walking shoes on I have no problem following through with the walk.
Do Something! - Go for the Breakthrough
Sometimes you just have to start and get quick results– even if you don’t feel that you are ready or have everything you need to start. Waiting until "you are ready" can frequently lead to nothing happening. Consider using a Breakthrough technique that is designed to produce quick results and get you started right away. This might seem a bit scary but the big advantage in starting now is that only in actually taking the steps will you be able to explore all of the relevant issues that will come up as you are actually doing something. You can continue to research and refine your project as you go along.
Here are the steps to the Breakthrough technique:
- Choose a project that you will complete and present to the world – make this a stretch goal
- Side step elaborate planning and go for a result now
- Set 5 compelling, urgent and short term goals with regards to your project- skip over the planning and analysis phase
- Set a non-negotiable date for completion – think in terms of days, weeks and months and not years
- Every day take some action towards accomplishing the purpose
- Include "Just in time" education and training as needed
- Focus on what you can do now with what you have
- Take the time to reflect and capture insights that are being gained along the way. This will allow you to discover the breakthrough expansion routes that are naturally clarified as steps are taken toward the goal. As you do this you will naturally expand your capacity to create the desired future.
Be willing to play the divine fool - Explore and discover
Let’s face it - life is nothing but change. Your life will be full of quirky twists and turns. There is no straight path to some as yet to be revealed ultimate destination. You will never know everything and you will never be able to be sure you are making the right choice at the right time in the right place. In order to successfully navigate change and move and act in spite of the uncertainty - you have to merge a bit with the archetype The Fool. You know the one who once in awhile forsakes practical wisdom and prudence and is willing to travel in the dark with her eyes closed skipping over the hills with lightness and freedom.
In the end, there may be a deeper kind of wisdom in being willing to be wrong, take the wrong path, make mistakes and end up in some strange and unforeseen place. Only by being courageous enough to take the action and make the mistake will you ever really know the hidden wonders, glories, and possibilities of the heart and the spirit.
4. Every day in as many ways and as often as I can I build positive emotions and moods.
This creates an upward spiral of exploration and discovery within and around me. When I feel good, I’m naturally inspired and have great energy for getting out there and doing what I want to do.
Negative emotions and moods engender withdrawal and constriction. They help us to fight, flee, or protect ourselves. Negative emotions and mood also restrict and lessen our energy -- not a great supportive environment for making changes and exploring new things. And certainly not conducive to productivity.
Positive emotions and moods "build and broaden". They build capital for creativity, growth and development and more exploration and discovery -- a better and more conducive environment for successful change.
Positive affective states undo negative affective states and give us more energy for new ideas and experiences. Positive affective states are the fertile ground for more successful interactions and achievements. Build an upward spiral of positive emotions by practicing appreciation, gratitude, and forgiveness. Savor your pleasures and mindfully create fun in your day. Want to know more about how to create positive moods? Check out Top Ten Ways to Generate More Positive Emotions in Your Life
I know you have probably heard this many times and it seems so common place as to not be important. But I cannot stress enough how much more you can do when you are in a good mood than when you are in a bad mood. Talk about energy efficiency – being in a good mood is the ultimate premium fuel.
5. Act on a whim
Now this may seem counterintuitive to all of the structures and systems I have set up to encourage and nurture my productivity but it is actually the balancing act.
I love structure and routines, systems and rituals because they free me to be as wildly creative and spontaneous as my nature embraces. Nothing kills productivity like being bored and uninspired and doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it.
Paradoxically (or so it seems), the more order and regularity I bring into my life the more space and energy I have to be original and creative in my work doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Because I have so much order and regularity in my life, I can trust myself to follow the call of the wild when I get a whim to do something that I just am so excited about.
Ever notice that when you really want to do something how amazingly easy and effortless it seems? How quickly you get it done and how great it turns out.
When you allow creativity, spontaneity and flexibility to be present in your life and you are guided by inspiration productivity is not much of a problem.
When you are doing what you want when you want to do it you don’t have to worry about getting things done – it just happens.
I believe that as a culture we are so obsessed with getting things done and with time management because we have lost our connection with knowing what we really want. Instead of being guided by what we really want to do, we keep whipping ourselves into doing what we have to do or what we should be doing.
When you know what you really want and stay connected to that you have an infallible energy guide that takes you step by step through what to do and when to do it. Building a little trust in your intuition and staying anchored in what you really want to do allows you to hear that little voice of your inner inklings or whims.
If you are not doing what you want to do in life you might as well forget about productivity because there is no way you are going to be truly productive. You might churn out a lot of things, cross off task after task on your to do list but you will not have the experience of “having the power of producing; producing readily or abundantly; or causing or bringing about” something. True productivity is grounded in a fertile, fruitful, and prolific relationship with “what you really want in life”.
6. I keep a sharp eye open for “productivity snatchers”
My favorite is “let me just get one more thing done”. You'll recognize this: It is time to break for lunch and you make one more phone call or write one more paragraph and before you know it your can’t think straight because it has been eight hours since you’ve eaten and you have not had a drop of water all day.
So now, whenever, I hear myself saying “just let me do this one more thing and than I will...,” I immediately launch into my mentally pre-taped message to myself that goes like this: “You know that if you don’t stop now you will end up missing lunch. Then you will get cranky and grouchy and there goes your positive moods and creativity. And you will get tired and your thinking will get clouded. It might seem like you are getting so much more done but it will end up taking you 2-3 times longer. So step away from the desk, take the break and come back to finish up quickly and easily. Step away from the desk - NOW!”
It used to take about an hour before that talk would get through to me but now I can zap that productivity snatcher in only a few minutes.
Other productivity snatchers include:
- Having to do any number of unrelated tasks before you get to the one that really counts
- Having to know every step before you start anything
- Having to learn “just one more thing” before you do something
- Continuing to do things that just aren’t working in the name of persistence
- Going for perfection in the name of excellence
- Filling your day with busywork
The trick is to learn to distinguish the productivity snatchers from the intuitive whims. But the more order and regularity you have in your life and the better you are at managing your energy the easier it is to know what voice you are hearing.
The Real Value of Productivity
I believe that being productive is an important part of life. I don’t think, however, that our ultimate success or failure in life is going to depend upon the actions we took or didn’t take.
Life is much more multi-dimensional than to be just centered on our actions. I believe that our actions are simply an outward manifestation of our internal vibrational state. I have started to see the actions that I take more as an outward flowing of my entire vibrational state rather than as my attempt at effecting some change in the world. First, I work internally and then the inspired actions just flow.
Without internal power and alignment behind our actions, I don’t believe that an action can carry much power in this vast universe of things.
I do believe - and my experience validates - that there is nothing more delicious in life than having a dream or desire and then taking actions that seem to flow you toward the manifestation of that dream. I have to side with “Abraham” (the Law of Attraction) that taking actions increase the joy and bliss of bringing forth my dreams into the world. When I take actions that are merged with my internal dreams and desires and I see their manifestation – I do feel the natural and wonderful power of being effective in the world. And for me, that is the true value of productivity –as a path for us to experience ourselves as effective in the world.
Okay! To further the project I tag: