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April 20, 2009

Productivity in 3 easy steps…

flies - very focussed little guys!

flies - very focussed little guys!

One of the major problems I have with the self help industry (yes, its an industry now) is once you`ve read 7 books, filled your Google Reader with useful blogs and sites, and gone for breathing classes and yoga, its quite time consuming and very complicated to help yourself…

Which defeats the point totally. In my opinion, they are missing the toilet seat totally and the answer to all this is so simple its silly. Which is probably the reason it was overlooked in the first place.
While there are many great systems out there — GTD, Zen To Done, Extreme GTD, The Power of Less, and more — it always takes a lot of work. You want to focus on the doing, not the upkeep of your productivity system. I don’t want you to be focusing on hitting goals for every minute of the day, and the day totally runs away from you.

Look no more. I have come up with the holy grail of all this productivity, self improvement and (insert stoned capetonian accent here) like deep spiritual self awareness bru…

This is all you need to know about productivity, all you need to know about getting amazing things done, doing important work … in three simple steps.

Now, I am so full of belief of this system, that I will wager a lunch on it. The secret to being busy and finding the motivation to hustle all day is done in these three easy, simple, failsafe steps:

1. Find Something Amazing to work on. Seriously — amazing. Not just regular tasks, but something that you’ll feel good about, that excites you, that will have a high impact on your job and goals and life, that will make a difference. Do this at the beginning of each day, or even at the end of each day so that you don’t have to think about it the next morning — you already know what you’ll be working on. If you do this, at the end of the day, you can even prepare all the materials and tools you’ll need first thing in the morning, and clear your desk so you’ll be ready to go. Google do this successfully by implementing the 4 day work week, with Fridays being allocated as time for work on “pet projects”. This gets employees motivated to do things properly Monday through Thursday, so that they can work hard on Friday on their pet project.

Get excited about this work. You’re going to accomplish great things with this part of your work. This is your future.

2. Hole yourself up and just work on the Something Amazing. Focus on it and think only of it while you work on it. This is the key. Well, aside from the first step, because if you don’t do the first step, this step isn’t going to work as well. And also the third step (below) is incredibly important, more than you might think, so don’t skip that one. But aside from the first and third step, this is the most important step in the system.

Here’s how it works: clear your schedule for a good chunk of time — maybe 30 minutes if that’s all you can spare, an hour is better, and 2-3 hours or more are even better than that. Schedule this chunk of time first thing in the morning, or at least early in the morning, if you can, so it doesn’t get pushed back by other things during the day. This is your time to singletask.

Then clear away ALL distractions: notifications for email, IM, Twitter, and anything else that might pop up or make a noise, your phones, all mobile devices any clutter in front of you (just shove it in a drawer or put it on the floor to clear away later), and most importantly, The Internet. Yes, turn off the Internet. Well, not the whole Internet, as other people might be using it, but just your connection to it. If possible, go somewhere where there are no distractions and no Internet connection. Tell everyone you work with that you will be incommunicado for an hour or three working on an important project. If you can, make this a regular thing on your schedule — 2-3 hours in the morning every day, when people know you can’t be disturbed.

Once you’ve holed yourself up, don’t work on anything except the Something Amazing. Seriously. Resist any urges to switch tasks or check on something or get up and talk to someone. Those urges will come up, trust me. It’s like an addiction — you just have to get through them. Steel yourself, and just sit there breathing deeply (with your head between your legs, if that helps) until the urge passes. Then get back to work on the Something Amazing.

Focus on that one thing until you’re done. Really, just the one thing. There is no other thing in your life right now. Your girlfriend – she can’t wait. If she supports you and believes in you – she can shut up and cope for 3 hours without an sms.

3. Take a nap. Or reward yourself some other way — take a break and walk outside, or play WII, or check the email you’ve been itching to check, or read through your brilliant Twitter messages, or go for a run (not everyone’s idea of a reward, perhaps, but I love it because its quick, easy and leaves me with a high – especially with a trail or two involved.). And celebrate your accomplishment! You’ve gotten something amazing done.

Now repeat Steps 1-3 until your workday is over.

But … what about all the other tasks and things I need to do? How do I track them and get them done? What if I don’t get to them all?

Unless your name is Barrack and your minor tasks include “The Nuclear Problem in Korea” the world will probably not even notice if your small tasks don’t get done. Its nothing personal and its not that the world doesn’t see you or your efforts, its just that they don’t make a measurable difference to the overall big picture, and most people only care about their personal big picture. Keep on trucking big guy.

Second, keep a running list of every task you think of (if you are swiss, a Excel spreadsheet is recommended as it gives you endless opportunities). When you’re done doing your Something Amazing, take a look at the list and see what really needs to be done. Maybe it’s another Something Amazing, maybe it’s just a routine task that needs to get done. Maybe it’s a bunch of smaller tasks that you can get done all at once before moving on to the next Something Amazing. Also look through the list and cross off things that don’t really need to get done — usually things you’ve been procrastinating on for awhile.

This system isn’t as comprehensive as other, more complicated, productivity systems, I’ll grant you. But it’s simple, and it works. Try it today, and let me know if it doesn’t make a difference. Remember – I bet a lunch that it does.

One Comment on “Productivity in 3 easy steps…

Paul
May 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Interesting post : ) I think people need to design and live their life more and more like this. I love the idea of totally immersing yourself in some project – and I reckon very often the (good) result takes care of itself.

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