On Productivity

Maintenance & Advancement

When it comes to productivity and the need to keep moving forward with both your work and your life there are basically two parts to the process. The first is what I call "maintenance tasks" and the second is "advancement tasks". 

Let us look at "maintenance tasks" first. 

Maintenance tasks are tasks that you need to do to keep your work and your life at the same level. This could be something as simple as checking your email every morning, writing up the weekly sales report or simply going to the gym. All these tasks are what you do, just keep yourself in one spot. They could easily be called housekeeping tasks. They don't improve your life or necessarily take you to new places. They just keep you on a even kiel. 

Advancements tasks are those tasks that are designed to move you forward. For example they could be something like preparing for a marathon. This is a task that you want to do to improve your life in some way or format. So preparing the training programme, buying the right clothing and shoes, entering the marathon you want to enter and doing the long 20 mile runs on a Sunday morning, they all fall under the title of advancement. Likewise, at work planning your next promotion would also come under the advancement task list as this obviously takes your life further forward. Unlike the "maintenance" part of your work, where you do just enough to maintain your current level, Advancement is where you more forward with your life and your work. 

The first steps on getting organised with the "Maintenance" and "Advancement" is to figure out what tasks you do everyday that you do just to maintain the current position in your life.  This could be something as simple as washing the dishes before you go to bed, or checking your email when you arrive at work. Once you have created this list it is time to move on to the areas you want to improve in your life and to things that you would like to achieve, These form part of the all important "advancement" list. 


A little like what Stephen Covey described in the Time Matrix, in his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", there are certain areas of your life that are "important" but not "urgent" If you can identify these tasks then you have probably identified your advancement tasks. However, when starting this set up, it is easier to begin with the tasks that you have to do just to maintain your life at the level it is. 

Let's look at some samples of "Maintenance Tasks":

Checking email
grocery shopping
regular team meetings
Preparing for your regular work
Washing your car / dog / cat / windows etc.
Filling your car up with petrol
Preparing your work bag for the next day
Emailing a weekly report to your boss / colleagues
Your regular, daily work
Cleaning your house / apartment / flat
Cutting the lawn
Regular exercise
Taking the dog for a walk

Now, some examples of "Advancement Tasks"

Preparing for a marathon
Planning your next holiday
Working out what you have to do to get a promotion
Volunteering to do the next team presentation
Preparing for the presentation
Buying a new house / car / boat etc.
Writing a book [and the preparation involved]
Starting and writing a blog
Looking for a new job / career

The lists are endless, and as everybody has different thoughts and ideas about what they want to achieve in life this list is obviously going to change for each individual person. 

Once you have created your two lists, then the goal is to make sure that something from your "advancement list" is on your daily todo list every day. This may seem simple in theory, but when you are hit with a very busy day at work, your daughter has been sent home from school sick, and your dog needs to go to the vet because he also is sick, it is going to be pretty difficult to do an "non-urgent but important" task. That is why you need to have a good mixture of 'easy' and 'difficult' tasks in your "Advancement" list.