Tag Archives: productivity

When X Marks The Spot

It’s a general rule of thumb to break down big goals into smaller blocks.

  • Psychologically speaking, smaller blocks are easier for us to wrap our minds around, and make for easier mental digestion and responsive planning.
  • With this helpful breakdown, we can see the steps much more easily, and we’re able to adjust and improve our actions in carrying them out. This helps a lot in allocating time and labor accurately.
  • However small we make these blocks, each step we finish helps build momentum for the process, and we get to energize ourselves with the knowledge that we’re closing in on the target.

 

Positive brain hack:
Keeping a visible record of your micro-accomplishments — for example, a trailing word-count, a tally of calls made, a checklist of actions taken — keeps your brain engaged with frequent feel-good endorphin boosts at every small ‘win’ you make.

 

In working towards a goal you make incremental gains until the goal is met.
If the goal is time-bound and the time is scattered across days (or more) a good way to get it done at a sustainable rate is being methodical and, ahem, ‘metronomical.’

You make ready, and then make steady. Block out a time, and in that block pay attention to nothing else but that open action that needs closure. Between the required focused blocks, you can rest, attend to other matters and still get stuff done while paying steady action to this particular ‘string’ of finished blocks you’re building.

If the time-line to accomplish the goal is compacted, then doing the work without interruptions or spillage in the time you’ve got is necessary. When something important comes up our vision has a way of filtering out the less important issues until the main one gets solved.

It’s not the issue of bringing your A-game as it simply bringing yourself fully to the table. You choose to ignore worries and mental static from unrelated issues other than the one you tasked yourself to handle in this particular time block. You plant your tush in the chair, and you work on what’s in front of you. Even if it’s a B-minus game you’re doing, when you get the work done, then it’s A+.

Did you ever thing of ‘bonus’ work, though?
Continue reading When X Marks The Spot

Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

Here are a few questions for you:

  • Did you make decisions about what exactly are your hard targets to accomplish this year in advance, or do you often resort to planning on the fly?
  • Do you go through how a plan — in its entirety, stage by stage– will align with your goals before you push through with it?
  • Do you track the results of your plans, whether they’re marketing campaigns or productivity schedules?
  • Do you track any changes you make to your plans when you encounter issues that make these changes necessary?
  • Over the course of the past year, did you feel that you were getting better at looking ahead (forecasting) and  mentally preparing (visualizing) for the things  coming your way?
  • How good would you say you are at visualizing and preparing for execution and assessment?


The popular advice when it comes to executing plans is, “Ready, fire, aim.”

The belief  behind this advice says that speed is essential, time is precious, and each miss gets you closer to the goal.  The caveat asks you to dig deeper at the supporting structure behind this set-up and see how it applies to you in the field, not in theory.

There are tons of advice out there for entrepreneurs. But you need to be sharp about which advice is reliably useful to you and the issues you encounter.  Personalization, in this case, also applies to you, and not just your customers: Take what you can use and leave the rest.

“Ready, fire, aim,” may not  fit the way you choose to work. It can conflict with your personality, or your chosen methods, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What works for you, works. As long as you focus on staying on-target, you’ll be good.

Other considerations.
What is your budget, say, for ‘misses’? Not just in financial terms, but in labor and time, too?  How close do you need to be to the goal to count the attempt as a hit or a miss?

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
Bruce Lee

Continue reading Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

In Cold Blood: How To Deal With Procrastination

Sometimes, when faced with unpleasant task that have to be done, the best way to get it done it is to just push away the unpleasantness you feel and do it. Like holding your breath when you have to take nasty-tasting medicine: you need to take it, you don’t want to do it because of the taste, but you do it anyway. And then it’s done.

Now, there are a lot of things we can feel ‘icky’ about. And sometimes — well, a lot of times — those feelings help paralyze us into not doing anything at all. By actively feeling them, we can blow the negative feeling out of proportion so they block the energy we need to get things done, and then drain that energy so nothing gets done. That’s why avoidant behavior is seen to be unproductive.

In a business, being non-productive is a liability. Procrastination is a solid example of how putting things off can hurt us. We push things off, we forget, we lose focus —  and small things can turn into large problems. How do you deal? identify the contributing factors.

Indecision.
It doesn’t help that the internet gives you access to massive repositories of data and countless options. Paralysis by analysis, anybody? You want to make the best way to fix it– whatever  ‘it’ is?

There are  specialized forums, customer reviews, and whitepapers. There  are first-person videos, how-to’s and comparison charts. You could dip a toe in that pool and not come up for air for days. You can lose time, lose perspective, and have your judgement affected by the sheer amount of data thrown at you.

Usually when we make goals we assess our time commitments and the weight of goals.  Colin Powell’s “40-70 Rule” (Lesson Fifteen here and explained a bit more here) gives a ballpark figure on how much data you really need to make a tough decision. Less than 40%, you don’t have enough to make a well-informed choice. More than 70% means you’d taken up too much time.

More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. You need to be nimble — you can’t  move fast when you’re busy weighing yourself down with data.

High emotions.
We can think more clearly before the actual commitment pressure is on–  a cold look, not a heated glare, so to speak. This helps you dispassionately assess what needs to be finished. Finished, not ‘in process’.

Pulling the trigger is easy when emotions aren’t clouding your judgment.  A rather cold-blooded, image, yes, but it does get the point across. Make the plan in cold thinking, pull the trigger even when —especially when — you don’t ‘feel it’ at the time you are supposed to act.

Now, how did procrastination ‘pay off’ for you in the past? More likely:

  • It increased the intensity and the level of your stress.
  • Added the number of  open loops fighting for your attention.
  • Added guilt, ate at your self image, and reinforced a negative one.
  • Gave you _more things to worry about, like additional fall-out and possible areas for screwing up.

 

This is trading in short-term relief for longer-term discomfort.
You already know this.
You also know you just want to get things done and over with so you won’t have to worry about them anymore– leaving you free to go and do stuff you like and want and look forward to doing.
The shadow side of ignoring stuff is that it’s like crawling  under the rock of misery and staying there since it’s so familiar it feels like home.

Resistance is the silent killer of momentum.
You have enough small stuff to capture your current attention, those small things become hooks that you catch on. They latch onto you and slow you down with ‘false dilemmas’

For example: cleaning papers in your office, whether on your desk, or filed away….somewhere. “Do I need this? Can I still use this later? I have to decide now? Maybe I have to keep this for tax purposes?”

And before you know it, you’re sitting on the floor with yellowing papers strewn out in ‘To-be-classified’ piles instead of actually getting the clutter out

‘Fake dilemmas’  are artificially inflated busy-work. Sure, you can attend to them but the net gain to your end-of-day productivity is negligible.

“But I  need to make the most out of this decision.”
No, you don’t. There are things that definitely need to be optimized, but these things are distinguished by their value and pay-off. Give the heavy stuff their due, not the light stuff.

“I need to get New Thing before I can start New Endeavor.”
Assess your resources.  Can you make do with Old Thing with New Endeavor to start with the New Habit or New Process?  Sometimes getting new stuff can keep the happy, but happy fades and you still have to do the work. And with business, keeping track of expenses is a good thing.

Don’t fall for the belief that New Thing will revolutionize your life and make New Endeavor an cinch. Work needs to be done, and if you can make do with your resources, cool.

It isn’t the newness of tools that get the work done, it’s what you know you will do with the tools you have. Try to make the new thing work with what you have, where you are. Unless you have very industry specific tools, the habit of practice comes from action and presence. It’s not always contingent on new stuff

“I want to do good!”
Yes, but you won’t do good right off the bat. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to suck on the first few attempts or sessions. Waiting until you’re good without practice is impossible. A nice daydream, but impossible in real life. You don’t get to perfect on the first day, you just have to get it done for today. And that should be your  finish line .

This thing you’re putting off is important enough for you to plan and execute with the aim of getting it done. You don’t get it done now, you’ll still be the person to deal with it later, or tomorrow.   Plus,  the weight of disappointment and the blow to your expectations and self-esteem for not having done it will be the interest.

When you’re calmer, think of what situation or event triggers you most often.
You don’t want to do A Thing.
Why not the Thing?
Why anything  but The Thing?

Emotion is blocking you and your mind seizes any available outlet to explain why you don’t — won’t– do it.
Like, you could get a better outcome if you do a little more research. So you do that instead.
Or, you might need these files for tax purposes so you’ll sort them out later.

Where and when do you put off things the most?
Like any doctor, take historical data. Where have you screwed up by putting things off for so long they mutated and bit you on the ass? Filing important papers? Following up on projects? Where?

Be honest here, anything you hide will just fester. The areas in your work where you slack off may have secret minefield that you have to deal with, or else trip over at crucial moments .

The nature of your complaints can show you a connection you may have not been able to see, and show you a picture you might not want to face. You still have to — if not now, when? Until it’s too late (again)? How will you pay when that happens? In missed opportunities? In a missed-out life?

Bulling through is still reliable when doing so gets the job done.
— Do the task, being as present as you can.
— Remove temptation — use Leechblock, close the door, make sure you have a glass of water, and had been to the bathroom.
— Plant your as and begin until you finish. Not-feeling-it can fade away when you push through the I-don’t-wanna phase and find the groove.

Finding your personal relaxed best.
Have you figured out your personal rhythms yet? People have an optimal time for when they are relaxed and yet alert, so they can be fully present and immersed in what they do. Planning your  work for the best time that you  can do that work is a rare and treasured skill.

It takes testing, awareness, tracking, and knowing your productivity cycle: whether you’re a night owls or morning lark or somewhere in between, or needing the morning to gradually ramp up your processing power, etc.

What circumstances help you focus? What helps you brainstorm?
Find that spot, look at the circumstances that make it: a quiet room, closed doors, noise-cancelling headphones or your favorite inspirational, calming, or energetic playlist — whatever makes your environment conducive to get you into the flow.

Work at a coffee shop. Work in the library. Just make sure that what you’re doing is actually the work you’re supposed to be doing, and not just busy work, which is a stand-in for the real thing.

The point is to get this done so you can leave it behind.
The point is to close this loop so you can take the next step.
The point is to start so you can stop when you’re done.

Procrastination is a common habit, and a maladaptive one. It will take uncommon work and discipline to fence off and box in, as we are still only human, and sometimes, we need to have the freedom to put things off.

When you know you have a good handle on the things that are important to you, you can take that time. Until then, getting things done even when you don’t feel like doing them is one work approach that is sure to keep you on the right track.

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How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

There are many ways to improve your personal productivity, and the most effective of them require deep self-knowledge and good feedback processes. Self-knowledge asks you to be aware of your boundaries, resources, strengths and and limitations, and good feedback processes help you protect, respect, and reflect them. In a weirdly parallel way, you can say the same about your business.

Listen to your internal rhythms.
Some people are early birds – they wake up easy and early, and are ready to go first thing in the morning.  Some people are night owls — they work best in the later hours. In between we get the bulk of humanity.

You’re busy. You’re swamped. You  are terribly, terribly aware of all the responsibilities you have on your plate, and you push yourself to process the important and the urgent the best that you can. How are you doing?

It’s a serious question, and in this article it will be dissected several ways.

One: “How are you doing?” asks about you: your internal state of mind and external state of health.

Two: “How are you doing?” asks about how you accept, prioritize and process the various action items, tasks, and check-lists of running a business. This, in turn, gives you a baseline as to how (and where) you want to improve in terms of productivity. Let’s start with the first question. Continue reading How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

Don’t Stick To The Problem, Work On The Answer

All businesses offer value for money — whether that value comes in the form of a product or a service, that’s how businesses survive. Running a business, on the other hand, is an involved process of  brainstorming, planning, execution, testing, course-correcting, and problem-solving. Nothing ever really goes quite the way it’s plotted out on paper, and dealing with problems is part of the whole thing of having a business of your own.

Many times, it’s not the problems that give you problems, but the getting stuck in the problem-solving that trips you up even worse than ‘the problem.’

Running a business is full of challenges. You deal with customers, deadlines, late payments, marketing, complaints, etc.  You’re responsible for managing the little things and big things while you take the wheel and drive your business to where you’re aiming to go next. And one of the biggest responsibilities is managing and resolving issues. This is where a major part of the stress that business owners face comes from.

Now, the issue hiding in plain sight is that problems have a way of taking over your thinking process— you get stuck in the problem-solving and can’t progress into the taking-action and problem-solved stages.

When it comes to entrepreneurial problem-solving, sometimes the things we learned in science and English classes can help us make the process easier. See, the science teaches us to be methodical: things are connected in ways we don’t usually learn in the course of daily living, but when  we learn these connections, we get to understand how things work. English teaches us that how we use languages can influence people and the way we think.  In the same vein, how we  state a problem  can point us in the direction of the solution, or keep us stuck. Continue reading Don’t Stick To The Problem, Work On The Answer

How To Plan Sustainable Progress Successfully

In a previous article we explained how planning helps improve performance — now we’ll discuss creating a planning  framework which would provide you the best, most sustainable processes for good outcomes.

How do you improve your skills?
It depends on what kind of learning works best with you. There are people who learn best in a structured environment, and those who prefer  real-live demonstrations instead of watching a video-course (and vice-versa.) There are people who do better studying on their own, and those who work better in a group learning session. It takes all kinds, but the key is being focused and consistent.

Systematic learning has a specific goal in mind:  getting certification, being measurably better at a particular skill, updating your knowledge, learning  more about a topic that will help add to your value, etc.  Learning can also be recreational– for fun instead of work. When you hit that sweet spot, it can feel like both: you enjoy increasing your valuable knowledge.

Now, what do kids do to learn? They explore everything . Curiosity and energy combine to make them the perfect question-asking machines. As we get older though, we learn how to channel ourselves and our energies and interests at school. Oddly enough, the problem start once we leave school behind. For many people there’s an unspoken belief that once you graduate, you have all you need to know.

Leaning how to plan can be scoffed at as being so basic even a kid can do it, but now, more than ever, the stress and overwhelm people experience just proves that that isn’t so, because if it was we’d be doing our work with a lot less anxiety and stress. Continue reading How To Plan Sustainable Progress Successfully

Getting ‘Pumped’: Productivity for Entrepreneurs

What does “priming the pump” mean to you?

A quick search would show that the idiom describes the act of putting in a little energy of your own to get the action started. You get the ball rolling, starting the momentum, by making the initial moves and investing some of your labor, by making a sincere effort to jump-start something into working, and do it well.

In an entrepreneur’s life,  priming the pump makes for good habits in the following ways: Going back to water, a suction pump– those old-fashioned types with the handle you had to pump out and down — required that you pour water down the pump to get the air out, restore the pressure, and form the vacuum necessary to start pulling up the water when you pump the handle.

In your case, it  means doing a little something before-hand to make it easy to start something bigger: whether it’s starting on a project, continuing with something you left off yesterday, or starting the work-day properly.

Priming the pump can mean many different kinds of actions, but basically boil down to you preparing the stage to take the next step in your work:

  • You clean up after you’re finished so you can start with a clean, neat work space the next day.
  • You take good, orderly notes and organize your actionables into logical batches so you’re not all over the place attending to them.
  • You devote a block of time solely for making cold calls, or research, or deep thinking about where you want to bring your business.
  • You ensure that you are not bothered by distraction, and so on.

 

How can this help you:
Priming the pump aims to serve a particular purpose. In the field of economics, the phrase “priming the pump” means to provide stimulus for the economy to function properly. And when we use it right, it works the same for  us. We do things to  push our chosen activities work properly. We become more productive at the things that matter to us, and get more value out of the work that we do. Continue reading Getting ‘Pumped’: Productivity for Entrepreneurs

How To Handle Roadblocks To Your Goals

When you run a business it means you’ve already closed several important goals. You made concrete decisions and acted on them to make your business a reality– whether your business started out as a bright idea hastily jotted out on a napkin at your favorite coffee shop,  or an  excited audio recording you made on your phone while you were out doing the groceries and stumbled into a full-fledged vision.

Now whether you’re just starting  out, or  already matured your business into stability, or  you’re at the stage where you can think of expansion, there are always things that you need to keep an eye on, just to make sure you don’t run yourself down while managing the eventual snags and roadblocks on the way to realizing your goals.

Here are 4 thoughts to keep in mind when you’re planning ahead and thinking of obstacles to your progress.

ONE: Make a “plan to fail.”
Plans survive  when you have reliable data to help you make alternative decisions. At this point you should have enough data available to see when and where your goals can come to a halt. Thinking ahead is a mentally tiring activity, yes, but in  terms of  creating back-ups, alternative plans, and disaster recovery blue-prints , the labor and discomfort NOW are  small beans compared to what you save by avoiding problems and minimizing the impact of the ones you can’t avoid — as well as creating enough buffers to cushion you in case you’re blindsided by this thing called life. Continue reading How To Handle Roadblocks To Your Goals

7 Rules To Ward Off Information Overload

Everyone, individuals and organizations, is struggling to keep pace with the accelerated rate of change today. While in many cases the speed of communication in things like data  delivery, acquisition, and dissemination has helped us make great strides in many areas, the rate of comprehension is where which bottlenecks have jammed up and pose as a huge source of stress and anxiety. There is so much information out there and it comes in so fast, how do we keep our heads and stay clear-headed when we get so much conflicting, compelling, and even alarming data?

Check your sources.
Facebook is the most popular social media  site in the world. Anyone off the street and on their mobile can  make a post and have it go viral. The key word being ‘social’, unconfirmed or even  false information can then trend and spread like wildfire.   While you rely on your Facebook account to keep in touch with friends, family and your other social circles, don’t count on it to be an utterly reliable source of information about the world.

You need information to make a decision, to tell you more about something you’re working on, or interested in. When you  find sources of information, you need to know you can trust your sources not to let you down with the information you get from them.  Don’t just take anyone’s word for it. Do  your research.  Verify your source’s reliability and experience.  Make sure you can trust your sources of information. Continue reading 7 Rules To Ward Off Information Overload

Keep Your Work Satisfaction Up With Small Daily Victories

Have you ever watched “Office Space”? What about “The Office”, in either its British or American incarnation? Popular movies and television shows like these source a lot of their material from real-life workforce experiences and complaints, and in the very best human tradition, what we can’t change, we make jokes about. After all, laughing beats crying any day.

In real-life however, using just humor to survive working in a less-than-stellar environment can only take you so far.

Two big factors in that contributes to dissatisfaction in the work place is happiness and productivity, and they’re linked. It’s easy to admit to an idle fantasy of being paid to do nothing, but from many accounts shared online, jobs where you finish early and then spend the best part of the working day staring at the walls (or playing Solitaire), or being drowned in relentless waves of paperwork, or working on projects that get nowhere, are wearing on the soul.

As seductive as the fantasy is, the truth is that we’re not really made for scut-work. Past a certain age, our own development pushes us to find meaning in the work we do, pride in it, and no small sense of satisfaction in work done well.

When you are proud of and satisfied in the work you do, you are driven to keep that streak going. And continuing this happy event contributes to your own success:  we all want to know that our time, our efforts and our energy were well spent.

One of the ways we can get in the way of our own steady string of accomplishments is the lack of commitment. Sure, it’s nice to to be appreciated. Recognition and respect are great extrinsic (that is, external) motivators, but where it counts is the inner driving of our hearts. That’s where intrinsic factors come into play.

Things get stale. You do the same things over and over, getting the same acceptable results, but, and say it with me, ” [your] heart’s just not in it anymore.”

You just do the work on autopilot and your mind wanders onto other things, the way it’s wired to do when it it doesn’t find new stimulation. Our brains do that…and this phenomenon can work against your progress if you don’t fight it.

Given that the enemy lies right in your own head, finding the reserves to commit to daily skirmishes with work-connected boredom can be quite hard. What can you do? Continue reading Keep Your Work Satisfaction Up With Small Daily Victories