6 Important Habits for Getting More Done

6 Important Habits for Getting More Done

6 important habits for getting more done. It's not just about to-do lists!I spent a year doing weekly experiments in productivity. The benefit of the series is that I learned the most important habits for getting more done. My hope is that reviewing what works for me might give you some insights into what could work for you. I hope you’ll listen to an interview I did with Barb Raveling of the Christian Habits podcast on the subject. Barb wanted specific advice for a time-management hiccup that plagues many of us. I’d love to know if you have different advice.

#1 Plan your week

David Allen’s Getting Things Done was my first foray into productivity literature. I loved it and should have been a paid seminar leader for as many people as I told about it. GTD was the impetus behind me finally getting my email under control and collecting all my to-do’s into one trusted system. I had these habits prior to experimenting. The GTD habit I didn’t have was a weekly review.

I became overwhelmed by the process of reviewing all potential to-do’s each week as part of the GTD process and so I just didn’t do it. Unfortunately, that meant that I wasn’t reviewing my calendar or projects for the upcoming week. I was often finding myself surprised that I couldn’t get to a number of tasks I planned because I had forgotten about prior commitments.

Using a paper planner during my experiments convinced me weekly planning was important. Now I have the habit of planning my week each Sunday. I actually look forward to it! I review my calendar, projects, and life areas in ToDoist, and even Pinterest ideas that are sorted into corresponding secret boards. Rather than overwhelming me, a weekly planning session (or review) helps me feel in control. I can set weekly goals and make sure that the tasks I can reasonably accomplish in the upcoming week are visible. The rest are put aside. I no longer have calendar surprises! For more on my weekly planning process, read this post.

If you aren’t getting much accomplished in a given week, try a weekly planning session. Just 30 minutes of planning will be a wonderful investment in your productivity.

Timeful scheduling and task app

#2 Schedule your day

Before my year of productivity, I wasn’t really wild about scheduling my days. It felt too restrictive for this spontaneous, time-rebel woman. I did love my week of using SmartDay, an iOS app that automatically places to-do’s around scheduled activities. But my passion for the habit of scheduling my days didn’t reach its peak until after the series was over.

The first thing that convinced me of the value of scheduling was Francis Wade’s post that has been hugely popular on this blog. I thought I needed to revisit the idea and I did begin using SmartDay more frequently. But it wasn’t until I read this article about how the president’s day is scheduled that I realized that I needed that kind of productivity. While I don’t have an assistant who schedules for me, I am that assistant.

About the time that I read this article, I heard about an iOS scheduling app very similar to SmartDay called Timeful. I love it! Each morning I put together the day’s agenda based on my weekly plan. When each new activity is supposed to start, Timeful plays a pleasant tone on my phone. Unlike a paper schedule, Timeful makes it easy to move things around and change the amount of time I plan to devote to them. Timeful reigns me in when I start off thinking I can easily finish 101 tasks in a day; they just won’t fit in the calendar! If I want to leave times open in my schedule, Timeful makes suggestions and learns from my behavior when I am most likely to want to do tasks. The bonus is Timeful can be used to schedule goals as well. I don’t think I’ve ever completed the schedule as written, but here’s why this doesn’t discourage me: I accomplish more in half a day that’s been scheduled than I do in an entire day just working from a to-do list. I created a Timeful calendar in GCal and now also have a record of how I’ve spent my time.

If you need to get more done, try scheduling your day. Even old-fashioned paper will work!

#3 Build energy-based routines

Routines differ from schedules in that they are tasks you repeat daily or weekly and don’t need to be put on your to-do list. I relied on routines before starting my year of productivity, but I kept trying to force myself into idealistic routines that just didn’t work for me. For example, I tried to get myself to do homeschooling subjects with the kids (that I don’t enjoy doing) in the afternoon. Once afternoon comes, I have very little energy left to overcome resistance. I learned that putting those subjects early in the day, when I’m most energized, made all the difference. I saved the subjects I loved to teach for the afternoon.

Similarly, I learned that trying to get myself to do high-energy tasks in the evening was a waste of time–no matter how ideal it would be. Evenings are now saved for social media, schlepping kids to activities (when I can’t talk my husband into doing it), and family fun. That understanding enabled me to stop being so mad at myself for “not getting anything done” in the evenings.

But I was left with a dilemma. I am writing a homeschool curriculum–a major undertaking. I kept trying to find a time to work on it in my daily schedule. Morning was an obvious choice, but it wasn’t working for me at all. I can find morning time to exercise, do devotions, and chat with my husband, but not for writing. I tried getting up even earlier during the course of my year of productivity and found I was crashing mid-morning. I’ve already made it clear that I’m worthless most evenings, but I thought I would just have to force myself to write at night. You can imagine how that went. I realized that the ideal time for me to write was early afternoon. Yes, I just said that I didn’t like to teach aversive subjects in the afternoon, but that’s teaching after a full morning. I have always longed to write in the afternoon, but felt guilty about it. After reviewing other homeschooling mothers’ schedules (who have many children and blog, too), I realized I was not only spending more time doing hands-on teaching than they were, but than most public school teachers! I reevaluated my teaching schedule, made some changes to encourage more independent learning, and started writing in the afternoons. I have written every single day since making the change and feel energized while doing so!

If you are struggling to get things done, build a routine around your energy levels. Keep experimenting until you find the right combination of times and tasks.

#4 Work little and often

It’s a waste of time to try and figure out why you procrastinate on some tasks. Yes, I’m a psychologist and I’m saying that! I have no idea why I hate mailing things so much, but I do. I would rather take a paper and drive it across town. It’s weird. But during my year of living productively, I discovered a solution: just do a little and do it often.

I discovered that I could get things mailed if I counted any tiny step as done for the day. I would find an envelope and re-date the mailing task for the next day when I would put a stamp on it. Yep, it’s ridiculous, but it worked. Before I started practicing little and often, I would have items to be mailed sitting for weeks. Now when I come across a scheduled task that I’m putting off, I will count any little step as done for the day. Fortunately, I don’t have to do this often, but it makes a world of difference to do something. The next day when I’m faced with the same task, it feels less onerous because “I’ve already started it.” Even though Pomodoros were a separate weekly experiment during the year of productivity, they’re effective for the same reason. For a particularly aversive task, I will set the timer for five minutes and call it done.

Do you keep facing the same yucky task day after day? Do five minutes or one tiny step on it and count it done! Repeat tomorrow.

#5 Do it now

My week of doing it now appealed to readers and even my kids who loved this video. I can be doing a great job with my schedule, but if I don’t do the little tasks when they need to be done, I can easily find myself overwhelmed. I’m talking about things like adding things to shopping lists as you see you need them, putting clothes away as you take them off, and cleaning up messes as you make them. David Allen recommends doing tasks that took less then two minutes. I think that’s a fine rule, but even better is to do tasks now if now is the best time to do them. We will not have more time later!

Some quick tasks are better batched. Paying bills is a good example. I pay bills online on Mondays. Even though it would take me just a minute to pay a bill I receive on a Tuesday, I don’t. But if I spill a box of cereal, I’ll clean it up now. I won’t wait until kitchen clean up day. Does this seem obvious? I become an imbecile when it comes to these things.

If tasks are starting to pile up, do them now if now is the best time to do them.

#6 Ask for help

I have my kids do chores and my husband is a big help, but I rarely ask for help in other ways. During my weekly experiment, I learned how important delegating can be to get more done. But in the months since my experimenting, I have learned that asking for help can be an even more powerful way of accomplishing things.

Because I didn’t have the ask-for-help habit, I wasted a lot of time doing things myself or doing them the hard way. I recently found another example of how my behavior hurt my productivity. I had been wishing for an iOS app that would enable me to process my to-do’s. I had to wait to use the desktop to get them into ToDoist. I also wished that there were an iPhone app that would allow me to attach photos or files to email automatically. Mike Vardy mentioned Dispatch in the ToDoist Google+ group. Turns out, it does everything I need it to do. I could have been enjoying the faster email processing if I had only asked if there were apps that did what I needed. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m trying to ask people for help more often.

I’ve also learned to ask for help from God. I have always been willing to ask God for help for medical and relationship and even emotional issues. But not to-do’s. When it came to tasks, deep down I felt that I had no business asking God for help. I just needed to work harder, stop procrastinating, and stop watching cat videos. If I asked for help, that’s what He would say anyway, isn’t it? It turns out that God is much less of a task master than I am. Even when I waste time, God wants to help me. He doesn’t want me to be a self-reliant Christian, but to get to know how good He really is. He has canceled appointments when I’m overbooked, left the stoplights on green, and even given me a close parking space when I asked. Asking God for help with all the little to-do’s is a habit I’m in the process of developing. God is in the process of using it to develop me.

If you don’t know what to do first, try going to God! Ask Him for help, even if you’ve been on a cat video marathon.

Which of these habits do you need to develop most? Or is there another habit that helps you get more done?

I’d love to connect on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, or via productivity posts in your inbox.

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The AGT Approach to Productivity: What the Popular Show Can Teach Us About Getting More Done

The AGT Approach to Productivity: What the Popular Show Can Teach Us About Getting More Done

The America's Got Talent Approach to Productivity: What the Popular Show Can Teach Us About Getting More DoneOur family has been watching America’s Got Talent for the first time this season and it’s been enjoyable. But I think the most valuable aspect of watching for me is what it’s taught me about personal productivity. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, you may appreciate what you can learn from it, too.

#1 It’s okay to let a lot of tasks audition for your attention

The AGT season begins with auditions in front of the judges and a live audience for acts that have made it through the city auditions. The judges approve a high percentage of these acts; they all seem great! What’s remarkable (and sometimes wearying) is how many acts are allowed to audition.

This first round is like our task inbox. The majority of the potential tasks, projects, and opportunities presented to us should go into our inbox so we can consider them again. While the number of possibilities can be tiring, I like to keep my inbox open to them. A point of clarification: urgent tasks wouldn’t be put in the inbox (AGT is an entertainment venue, not an urgent care clinic).

#2 Give tasks a second critical audition

There are a small number of acts (eight this year) that are allowed to audition at Radio City Music Hall without a second audition, but there are none that aren’t given a second consideration. These eight fortunate acts were discussed by the judges and were given a free pass where Judgment Week was concerned. All the rest auditioned for the judges, and only the judges, again. There is something about the second look that makes the judges wonder what they were thinking when they put them through in the first place. Removed from the emotion of the crowd, the judges are able to discern which acts are most likely to achieve their goal of discovering a million-dollar act. A sizable portion of the acts are dismissed at this point.

With fresh eyes, we will also recognize immediately when an “act” in our inbox needs to end its journey with us. Time to allow emotion to cool and a quiet space can likewise help us determine if an item is a clear winner because it will help us reach our goals. I prefer to pass judgment on my tasks in the quiet of my family room the next morning.

#3 Limit the number of tasks in each genre

AGT is seeking a variety of acts for its finalists. They wouldn’t want 20 singers and 4 dance acts, because it wouldn’t be as exciting as a few singers, a few dancers, a few comedians, and a few magicians.

Variety is the goal for most of us, too. We all have life areas that are our genres. Some of mine include homeschooling, blogging, writing, relationships, and church. Blogging is an area I tend to have too many “acts” in. I have to eliminate some of them so I have more great relationship acts in my life. I can easily see how many tasks of each genre I have by assigning them a category. I do this in ToDoist, but nearly any application or paper list will work. I’m happier and healthier when I have balance.

#4 Get input from another audition

At Radio City Music Hall, each act once again has the benefit of a live audience, but is now judged by America. More than half of the acts are eliminated by this vote.

It’s easy to add tasks to a list and neatly categorize them, but that won’t mean they’ll go any further. We need to review them again and get input to trim the list . It would be interesting for me to have my readers vote each week on which tasks I should do, but not very practical. However, I can get valuable input during my weekly review. My husband’s vote carries great weight with me, because he not only cares about my life balance, but about my goals. Looking over my upcoming commitments is also a vote for certain tasks over others. The calendar can dictate which tasks go on. Finally, I consider past results to help me differentiate the winners. For example, when considering a long list of potential blog post topics, I review Google analytics for my most popular posts to decide which ideas will go forward.

#5 Choose a small number of finalists after yet another audition

AGT will continue having auditions and votes and judge input until a small pool of finalists is chosen. With time, more opportunities to see the acts, and a limited number of finalist spots, choosing often seems easier.

My week seems to have plenty of time, but my days–not so much. I plan my day each morning and often decide that the task I added to DayMap for the day isn’t going through. Like the AGT judges, I would love to keep so many of these options, but there isn’t room for them all in my life. I limit tasks using a scheduling app that I will tell you about soon. The winners are the tasks I actually do, with most of them hopefully helping me reach my goals.

#6 Let tasks audition again in the future

A number of acts that make it through in AGT were cut in previous seasons. Either the time wasn’t right, the act wasn’t, or the judging was different.

Cutting tasks from our list doesn’t mean they’ll never be winners. That’s what a Someday/Maybe list is for. I keep the tasks that didn’t make it in Evernote. There are too many of them to review every week, but I can easily add a tickler date to them so they can audition for my attention again.

Consider which of these lessons has the most potential to increase your productivity and put it into practice this week. Let me know how it goes! 

If you enjoyed this post, follow me on Google+ and subscribe to productivity posts so we can get more done together.

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How You Can Really Get Things Done

How You Can Really Get Things Done

In a year of testing productivity methods, what worked best?

I am still working on an ebook about my experiments in a Year of Living Productively. While you’re waiting on that, I thought you would enjoy Francis Wade’s take on the process.

I will warn you that I am not the productivity queen Francis makes me out to be in his post and in the podcast interview he did with me. But he is a very engaging writer and podcaster! Among the things he wanted to know were what worked and what didn’t in this year-long process. I hope something I share will inspire you to find what works for you.

Francis also wrote a popular guest post here titled, Why CEO’s and College Students Manage Their Time the Same Way, and a productivity novel that you’ll want to read.

 

 

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Can You Really Write a Nonfiction Ebook in 21 Days?

Can You Really Write a Nonfiction Ebook in 21 Days?

Can you really write an ebook in 21 days?This is Week 47-52 of a Year of Living Productively

These last six weeks I tested whether I could write a nonfiction ebook in 21 days. I wanted to summarize my findings in a Year of Living Productively in ebook form and used the ebook by Steve Scott to do so as described in my last post. While I was working, I shared some amazing guest posts with you that I felt added to my investigations. They are listed at the end of this post.

How Writing an Ebook This Way Saved My Sanity

  • Gave me the opportunity to assess the past year. I have learned so much doing these experiments and writing about them. If I hadn’t worked on an ebook, I don’t know that I would have gleaned as much as I did from the process.
  • Enabled me to quickly outline a book. Steve Scott’s approach to outlining a nonfiction ebook is a good one. I really enjoyed using note cards to do it — something I haven’t used in writing for years. My outline was finished right on time.
  • Enabled me to quickly write a first draft. Steve’s admonition to write quickly got me into a Nanowrimo frame of mind and I was able to produce the first draft in a little more than 8 hours.

How Writing an Ebook This Way Made Me Crazy

  • Required too much time. Steve Scott recommends writing for two hours a day to finish the book in 21 days. I thought I would have more than enough time to start the book before I left for vacation the second week of January. Not so much. Then I thought I would have plenty of time to write on vacation. I did have some time, but not nearly the amount I anticipated. I planned to write the book in a two-hour time block each evening when I returned. When that didn’t work, I gave up, rather than using the little-and-often approach that had worked so well for me. I also struggled to find the time for editing the book because…
  • I was confused about my purpose. Steve suggests writing to answer people’s questions, but that felt like I was writing this book to tell people how to be productive. That’s the opposite of my purpose in writing this series! Once I figured that out, I was able to finish the first draft. But I was still confused. I wondered if the book would really be valuable to readers. I wondered if it was worth putting on Amazon, instead of just making it a blog freebie. I wondered if it was worth the sacrifice of time. And I wondered if I could really do the book justice in just 21 days. Now I wonder if I had written a weekly update during the process if I would have gotten more clarity.
  • I had competing priorities. I foolishly over-committed these past weeks and tried to write the ebook while going on vacation, starting a new weekly series on organization for homeschoolers, and more stuff that would just bore you (you may be thinking “too late!”). I had to reread a post I wrote on the high cost of over-commitment and how to avoid it. I realized that I succeeded writing 50,000 words in a month for Nanowrimo when it was my only extra commitment. Throw in a lot of unexpected and emotional events this month and I’m amazed I finished the first draft. That’s as far as I got.

Can I really write a nonfiction ebook in 21 days?

I don’t know. If I had invested the full 42 hours, I could answer that question, but I didn’t. I really wanted to, but if I had been miserable pushing myself to get the book done, I don’t think it would have been as helpful as honestly telling you that I couldn’t do it. At least not this last month.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using Going Forward

I am going to finish the ebook using Little and Often. I want to finish the book because I think I will get a deeper understanding of how I work best as I refine it. I also want to bring closure to this series for faithful readers. I will still work through the steps that Steve Scott clearly explains, but I am not going to block time and promise it on a deadline. I have succeeded using writing deadlines in the past, but I am experiencing some obligation-based procrastination now. I think it will be interesting to see how long it takes to finish the book using little and often. Of course, I will post to let you know when the book is available!

Following the publication of the book, I will be posting about productivity hacks, books, apps, or ideas that catch my fancy as I’m inspired. Originally, I thought I would do that weekly. But one of the important things I learned from trying to finish this ebook is not to obligate myself to too much. I love the friends I’ve made through this series, but I love my family more. That’s as it should be.

If you’d like to join me going forward, here’s what you do. Write your ebook using a Little-and-Often approach. Keep reading, trying new things, and sharing what you learn about yourself with others. I would love to hear about what’s working for you!

**UPDATE**

I made the very difficult choice NOT to write a productivity ebook, not because I couldn’t, but because I was putting off what I REALLY wanted to do until I wrote the ebook. Instead, I am close to publishing my dream book–a language arts curriculum for elementary students. As an alternative, I’ve created a landing page and updates for all the productivity posts I’ve written. My desire is that this series benefits you the way it has me.

I have written and spoken about what I’ve learned in this series here:

6 Important Habits for Getting More Done

Interview with Francis Wade

Productivity Posts That Followed the Series

Motivation to Do What’s Most Important Today

A Better Daily / Weekly / Monthly To-Do List

Automatic Scheduling for Busy People

Get More Done with a 1-Thing To-Do List

5 Days of Productivity Favorites

 

The posts in A Year of Living Productively:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

Week 42: Inbox Zero

Week 43: Resistance List

Week 44: Time Tracking

Week 45: No To-Do List

Week 46: Delegating

Why College Students & CEOs Manage Time the Same Way

How to Set Goals That Work

How to Get Things Done Regardless of Your App or System

The Real Cure for Time Management Anxiety

Roles & Goals: Lessons in Productivity from the 7 Habits

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Can Delegating Help You Get More Done?

Can Delegating Help You Get More Done?

delegating, productivity, GTD, organizedThis is Week 46 of a Year of Living Productively

This week (and weeks prior) I tested whether delegating tasks to my family could help me get more done. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for more on the concept.

How Delegating Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Allowed me to really rest. I am still stunned that my children did all of the clean-up after our Thanksgiving dinner last month. I was really able to sit and relax after a busy day of cooking. No, that’s never happened before! My son who has his driver’s license ran to the grocery store for me. My second oldest put together my daughter’s new bookcase. My husband did more cooking and errands for me than he has, too. I had the kids doing a lot of Christmas tasks I normally handle myself. It was great timing, because as I mentioned last week, I’ve been a little burned out.
  • Allowed me to let things go. When I saw that the world didn’t come to an end when I delegated, I also realized that there were some things I planned on doing that just didn’t need to be done or at least not now.

How Delegating Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Made me confront my anxiety. In allowing my children to do more, I realized how uptight I get about the silliest little things. I am just sure that the kids are going to knock the glass bowl off the counter when they’re mixing ingredients or will burn themselves on the oven. I’m not sure where this is coming from, but this is a productivity series of posts, not psychoanalysis. 🙂
  • Demonstrated the need to plan ahead. If you save tasks for the last minute, you can’t afford to teach a child how to do them or even have a husband pick up the wrong things from the store. Even though I have taught my kids to do a lot, I realized that this is why I haven’t taught them to do everything I could.

Did Delegating Help Me Get More Done?

Yes.  And I received no complaints. On the contrary, everyone seemed happy to help. I think it’s possible that I am this tornado whizzing by and when I stopped long enough to teach, share responsibilities, and explain what I needed, everyone was relieved. My intention is to continue delegating because it prepares my kids for adulthood, while at the same time giving me some downtime.

**UPDATE**

Delegating is still helping me get more done. I aspire to do more in this area, because I know it’s such a powerful strategy.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for the Rest of the Year

This month I’ll be testing whether I can write an ebook in 21 days. I will be using the schedule in Steve Scott’s book, How to Write a Nonfiction eBook in 21 Days.

The concept. Many of us dream of writing a book, but we struggle to find the time. I have seen and read a number of these formulaic write-a-book-in-x-days books, but I’ve never actually tested them out. Because I want to summarize my findings over the past year in a Kindle ebook, I thought this would be a perfect test to round out the year.

I have so enjoyed writing this series, but I have more to say than the post format allows. For example, I have had a change of heart about many of the various approaches I’ve tried and also have some ideas about how to bring the best ideas together in a way that works for me. When I am back in February, I hope to have a book on Amazon for you that will share that information. The book will be free in the short-term as a thank you to my readers who have made this such a rewarding year.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Buy and read How to Read a Nonfiction eBook in 21 Days (It’s just $2.99 on Kindle). Do the tasks according to the schedule. I would love to hear if you have a book in February! 

To see how writing a nonfiction book in 21 Days went, click here.

Be sure to check here each week in January for a fantastic guest post. I’m very excited about the writers who have agreed to share on topics I haven’t been able to delve into.

To read the January guest posts, click here:

Why CEOs and College Students Manage Time the Same Way

How to Set Goals That Work

The Real Cure for Time Management Anxiety

How to Get Things Done Regardless of Your App or System

Roles & Goals: Lessons in Productivity from the 7 Habits

Previous Week’s Tests

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

Week 42: Inbox Zero

Week 43: Resistance List

Week 44: Time Tracking

Week 45: No To-Do List

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How to Super Charge Your Productivity in Just 5 Minutes (Really)

How to Super Charge Your Productivity in Just 5 Minutes (Really)

If you know me at all,  you know that I’m like a QVC host when it comes to talking about productivity and time management. After talking about something nonstop for a short time, something else becomes the latest and greatest thing that you just HAVE to try. I’m getting a headache just thinking about listing them all with links, so I’ll skip doing that.

The last couple of days I’ve noticed the signs that I was about to start looking for a new product to pitch. I was reading about methods I’d already tried and discarded (GTD and Toodledo) as well as a method of phone automation that would require me to get a degree in engineering to set up. I first noticed my own tendency to perpetually seek out new methods of managing tasks when I hung out on Mark Forster’s forum. Every couple of weeks there, I would post about the latest tweak or software program I was using. What’s more, the psychologist in me was fascinated by the number of people (including Forster himself) who did the same.

What’s Wrong With Me?

I’ve spent years in personal productivity “psychoanalysis” and plenty of time diagnosing others’ time management woes. Some of the factors that lead to serial program addiction include:

  • Overcommitment – We often switch programs to avoid dealing with the fact that we simply can’t do everything
  • Perfectionism – We sometimes believe (against better judgment that the right program would allow us to get everything done every day)
  • Comparison – We may believe that others are getting more (or more important) things done because of the approach they are using
  • Discontentment – We think that somehow we can have more time to do what we want if we change programs
  • Boredom – We may recall the last little bit of excitement we had when changing approaches to getting things done and switch gears for a pick-me-up

The Real Reason We Change our Task Management Approach

Those insights haven’t kept me from once again going down the slow road to sloth. So I asked myself WHY once again.

I immediately thought, “I need to get motivated.”

A reasonable rationale, for sure. After all, I had a whole blog devoted to motivating homeschoolers. A desire for motivation underlies all the other factors that lead to problems with our current approach. If we’re overcommitted, we feel we need to get motivated to get more done or drop some commitments. If we’re perfectionistic or comparing, we think motivation is just what we need to get our time management up to standard. If we’re discontented or bored, we believe that a good shot of motivation will be a cure-all. But for the first time, I questioned the premise. Do I really need to get motivated?

The Charles (Pa) Ingalls Productivity Approach

One of my heroes is Charles Ingalls, Pa from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I would love to know if he was really the incredible dad and man Laura made him out to be. I hope so! A model of productivity, he built homes and fences, farmed, hunted, traded, parented, helped his neighbors, and played the violin. Along the way, he seemed to have a lot of fun. I can’t imagine this productivity hero of mine ever saying, “I need to get motivated.” Pa saying he needed to get motivated to build furniture, make the long, cold trip to buy supplies, or harvest the hay? Laughable.

Was Pa just naturally motivated, I wondered? Perhaps he got more of the motivation gene than the average person. Maybe that was my problem. I just lack the super charge I need to get things done and it isn’t my fault; I wasn’t born with the gene.

Nah.

Like romantic love, motivation wasn’t considered necessary to be faithful in times past. Pa didn’t need motivation to do what needed to be done and neither did Ma. They didn’t read about every conceivable way to achieve their goals; they just got busy and didn’t worry about the rest. Believing that we need motivation is like thinking we need a smart phone to get things done. It’s nice, but NOT necessary.

Christians aren’t commanded to have the mind of Pa Ingalls, but the mind of Christ. What if Jesus had thought, “I need to get motivated before I feed these people, heal this man, go to the cross”? Thank God, He didn’t.

Why It Only Takes 5 Minutes to Super Charge Your Productivity

In the time it’s taken you to read (or skim) this post, you have exactly what you need to have super-powered productivity: Recognize that you do NOT need to be motivated. Nike was right: Just DO it.

If you’re still here:

  • Close the app store window (you don’t need a new productivity app)
  • Stop reorganizing your to-do list
  • Do just one thing and repeat
I’d ask a question to get comments going, but I bet we both have something more important to do. God bless your day!

 

 

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