Extreme Productivity practically speaking.
I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk. I started out the year strong, but this past month, I’ve felt myself drifting and uninspired. As a software developer, I have this weird sense of productivity where if I have a program running in the background and if I do something else at the same time, I feel very productive — and happy! So, I looked for a program that I could write and I found one and during the same 15-minute interval while my program is running, I’m listening to a book summary from Blinkist available on Linkedin Learning, and then writing a blog post about it (see more details in productivity tip #2 below). If two things make me happy, well with three things, I’m ecstatic! If I can keep this up, then I can post several times a day and for the month of May I can write over 30 blog posts!
“The more productive you are, the faster you can finish your work. That means more time to do the things that matter to you, and as a consequence, you will be happier and refreshed, which will make you even more productive. So how can we enter this positive cycle?“ (“Extreme Productivity” by Robert C. Posen)
Don’t have time to read this 1400 word post? Check out this video summarizing the book in just 60 seconds:
Productivity is essentially the ability to expend minimal effort for maximum results.
Here are the 6 productivity tips shared in the book summary by Blinklist (quotes below are from this book summary):
- Prioritize your tasks and invest your time accordingly – “Split up tasks into aims, objectives, and targets, so that you can begin to prioritize. A good strategy is to divide tasks according to how long they take to accomplish. ” Career Aims are long term goals of 5 years or more. Objectives are intermediate goals of 2 years. Targets are short term goals that will take 3 months or less. KEY: “But it’s also important to prioritize aims, objectives, and targets that both you and your employer are on board with”. Don’t just focus on your own pet projects at the expense of what your employer wants to accomplish. After all, they are paying your salary!
- Fight Procrastination with deadlines – “One approach is to break your projects down into smaller targets for which you can set mini-deadlines. After all, if you’re like most people you’ll only start working when the pressure begins to build”. I have found this very helpful to create challenges and measurable goals that you can reach each day. I also like to try to multitask. I actually have three tasks running while writing this blog post. I’m listening to an audio book summary. I’m writing down what I’m learning from this audiobook summary. I’m also running a program I wrote in the background analyzing most frequently blogged about topics. My goal is to write a 500-word blog post at least once per day. KEY: “For instance, say you have to write a 6,000-word report in four weeks. Your deadlines could be to write 2,000 words every week for the first three weeks and to spend the final week proofreading and adjusting. ” BONUS: Make sure to reward yourself when you’ve met your deadline. As an example, treat yourself to a nice meal or other rewards that you will look forward to. See also: “Learning how to Learn“
- Keep your Perfectionism at Bay – “Spending too much time on a small, low priority task will waste both your time and your patience so instead of allocating a lot of time to work that’s not super important, do the simple things quickly to free up more time for the meatier tasks”. I’m not a perfectionist, so I can’t relate to this fully, but I understand it. I like to crank work out and meet deadlines and I can sometimes deliver work that isn’t up to perfectionists standards. KEY: “A good approach here is to apply the OHIO principle, also known as Only Handle It Once” and “Another way to move forward with your work is to fight the temptation to be perfect when it comes to your low priority tasks. Remember that not everything needs to be done flawlessly”. Tim Ferris talks about this in his book, “The Four Hour Work Week“. Specifically, he talks about time blocking. For example, reading emails can be a big time waster if you read your emails throughout your day. Tim recommends just setting aside 30 minutes per day to read and respond to your emails, for example at 4 pm every day. He also sets up an auto-responder in his email, so that when he receives an email it lets people know that their email will be answered later on in the day.
- Write with Efficiency – “To improve the efficiency and quality of your writing, you need to add structure to the process. You can do this by brainstorming, categorizing, and then outlining”. KEY: I’ve also found that mind mapping is a great way to organize my thoughts. This process of brainstorming and then categorizing my thoughts is very helpful to present clear ideas to my readers. This is especially helpful during the brainstorming process. There are several great mind mapping programs and online tools to create your mindmaps. Freemind is a great open source tool to download and install on your computer. Mindmup is an online tool that allows you to share your mindmap through the web browser. As an example, I created this online mindmap using Mindmup on the different badges you can earn here: https://bit.ly/uc-mindmap.
- The Product matters more than the Time spent on it – Results are what count. If you spend twice as many hours on one report over another, but the quality is bad on the report you spent the most time on, does it really matter how much time you spent on it? Quality should be your focus. KEY: Sometimes managers value the hours put in versus the quality. Accounting for your hours through work management systems like JIRA or Trello can only exacerbate this perception. Do managers really value employees who deliver results or just those employees that put in a lot of hours? Additionally, how many hours do you spend thinking about a project or report versus actually typing? Should the time spent thinking really be discounted because there isn’t much work product to show for it? With such a glut of information available on the Internet, a well thought out shorter insightful piece of writing is more desirable than a voluminous blob of words.
- Prioritize your Private Life – Your life is so much more than only your work. Your time spent nurturing your internal relationship with yourself and your external relationships with friends and family outside of work will help you be a more productive employee. Your company may decide to let you go at some point. If you have only invested yourself in your job, you will be empty if the company lets you go. In fact, you should plan on life outside of your company. Ask yourself, “If my company were to lay me off in 6 months, how should I prepare today for that eventuality?”. KEY: Keeping your professional network outside of work active and engaged makes good sense, just like keeping your personal network active and engaged. I would also recommend having multiple streams of income so that if your main source of income goes away in the form of a company layoff, you will be able to recover more quickly and wait for the job that you really want versus taking a job just because it pays you a salary.
One final word on creating quality versus quantity. Thomas J. Watson, the founding CEO of IBM said, “All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to THINK. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think because thinking is such hard work”. Invest enough time into thinking and the resulting work product will yield far better results. And, one way to THINK, is to till the soil of your mind with books. Choose whatever format works best for you – the written word, audiobook or as I’d like to recommend book summaries.
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