Living and working in the productivity space I get to read a lot of articles and watch a lot of videos about productivity. I get to hear stories from clients and followers and I get to experience living a productive life every day.
One of the things that stands out to me is the number of people desperately searching for a ‘hack’ that will magically do all their work for them. That could be the latest new productivity app raved about in productivity forums and groups or a new way to organise to-dos in to-do list manager.
The reality is there are no shortcuts and there are no magic apps out there and there is never likely to be in the future either. If you need to do the work, you have to do the work. That’s the reality.
So in an effort to dispel many of the myths and untruths about personal productivity here are a few truths you should know:
1 The only way to get the work done is to do the work.
The biggie. If work needs to be done, someone needs to do it. Nine times out of ten that “someone” is going to be you and there are no apps, hacks or shortcuts to doing great work. You are going to have to sit down (or stand up) and just get on and do the work. Thinking about it, complaining about it or reorganising the order in which you will do the work is not doing the work. Doing is the only way the work will get done.
2 Complaining about how much work you have to do is not doing the work.
Telling everyone how busy you are does not give you any gold stars. Everyone thinks they are busy. The reality is “busy” is just a state of mind. If you think you are busy, you will feel busy. We all have twenty-four hours each day. Some people get a lot of quality work done, many do not. The ones getting the quality work done are not complaining, they are doing. The ones complaining are not doing the work. The more they complain, the less time they have to do quality work. Stop complaining and just get on and do the work.
3 Reorganising your to-do list is not doing the work.
I find a lot of people spend far too much time reorganising their to-do lists as if a new way of organising it will magically reduce the amount of time they need to do the work. It does not. All you need a to-do list to tell you is what work to work on. Then, when you see a task that says “Work on fixing bugs in the latest software release” you can go straight to your coding app and start fixing the bugs. It’s simple and it has been working very well for years. As a guide, it should be taking you less than ten seconds to get started on your work for the day. You open your to-do list, you see what needs doing, you start doing.
4 Checking your email is not the same as doing email
This one always gets me. I see so many people just checking their email and not doing anything about it. The way to manage your email is simple. When you see an email, you make a decision about what you need to do with it. Either you reply, file or delete. Just looking at the email and then moving on to the next email is not efficient. It means you will now have to look at the email at least twice. Make a decision about it and then do it.
5 Complaining about disruptions and distractions is not dealing with the problem.
We all get disrupted and distracted at times. Complaining about it is not going to stop them. The only way to stop them is to stop looking at your phone, turn off notifications on your computer and to politely ask your colleagues and boss for some uninterrupted time to get on with your work. Asked politely, most decent people will respect your time and allow you time to get on with your work.
6 Most meetings are a waste of time.
The vast majority of meetings you are asked to attend are not going to move you forward on your projects. Most of these meetings are just talking shops and an opportunity for people to complain about how busy they are. If you can, avoid 90% of the meetings you are asked to attend. Be selective and develop strategies to avoid attending these meetings (I know this one is much easier to write than do)
7 Speaking to someone gets results faster than emailing them
One of the fastest ways to get a solution to a problem is to pick up the phone and call the person who can give you the solution. Better still, standing up from your desk and walking down the hall to speak to the person is even faster. Emailing the person is not going to get you the solution very fast. You could be waiting days for the reply. Get up, move and ask the question directly. (But respect number 5)
8 Not knowing your outcome before you start will result in failure and delays.
Far too often people begin projects without being clear what it is they are trying to accomplish. Make sure when you start a project you are clear about what the desired outcome is. If you are given a project by your boss or a client, ask the right questions so you and they know what outcome is expected. When there is no clarity, procrastination will set in. A simple example would be saying “I want to earn more money”. If I gave you one extra dollar, you would have achieved your goal. You need to be specific with something like “I want to earn an extra $1,000 this month” This is clear and specific and will give you the starting point to begin planning out how you will do it.
9 The water cooler/staff canteen is not a place where work happens.
Yes, you need water. Yes, you need food. But that is all these places are going to give you. They are not going to help you get your work done. They are generally areas of gossip and complaining. Avoid these places as much as you can. Nothing good ever comes from indulging in gossip.
10 Not getting enough sleep will destroy your performance.
If you think staying up late working on a piece of work and getting up early to finish it will result in a great piece of work you are wrong. You need breaks and you need sleep. Pulling all-nighters and trying to survive on a few hours sleep each night will result in something breaking — usually you. A lack of sleep is not only bad for your health, it also damages relationships and dramatically reduces the quality of your work. Just don’t do it. Take your sleep seriously.
11 Not having a plan for the day is planning to fail.
If you are serious about becoming more productive then you need to plan each day. It does not have to be a minute by minute plan, but you do need to plan what you want to get done that day. Without a plan, you are going to end up working on someone else’s agenda and that is never going to work out well for you. Plan the day. Keep it simple and try to get whatever you plan completed by the end of the day.
Becoming more productive is not difficult, but you do need to be very clear about your work. Playing around with your to-do list, attending every meeting and just ‘checking’ your email are guaranteed ways to make you feel busy but you will have little work to show for it at the end of the day. End the day with a plan for the next day and when you start the day, start the work.
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