Reflections of a productivity seeker

refletctionsOver the Christmas holidays I took the opportunity to increase my productivity in a way I never expected.  I took a full week off so that my family could travel 5 hours away to see more family and I had all intentions of listening to my iPod on the way down, learning more about ways to increase my productivity.  I was going to take my index cards with me, my Moleskine in hand, and I was planning on dumping my mind of all undone tasks.  I was going to do a lot more reading of Joseph Jaffe’s ‘Join the Conversation.’  I had it all planned out.In the event you haven’t guessed the plot…I did little to none of the above listed tasks.  But I was as productive as anyone could be – just in a different way.  I stepped back.  I allowed myself a break.  I watched people.  I listened.  I breathed.  And I worried less.  I quickly realized that in my world of productivity and social media education that I was letting other things pass me by.  So I took more time than usual with my children, with my wife and less time working.  I “unplugged.”  The Mac was fired up on brief occasions to check personal emails and that was about it.  In the end I learned a basic lesson.  There is a need, a real need for each of us to breathe a little deeper, to step back, to really look at the big picture and to put some priorities in check.  Best of all, I was able to put my GTD system to task and I found that as I listed my top of mind projects on an index card, they matched up on my iGTD list as well.  Allow yourself the time to reflect and the hands of time will smile upon you.  And so will your family. 

How 4 Hours of Work Can Make up for a Week of Vacation

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How 4 Hours of Work Can Make Up for a Week of Vacation 

One of my favorite sites, The Daily Saint, posted a great subject– especially for me since I’m on vacation.  Thanks Mike for providing this timely idea:  Most of us like vacation.  Most of us do not like the volume of work that greets us upon return from vacation.  It might explain whyAmericans take less vacation time than those in other developing countries.  Consider the post-vacation greeting from:

  • Hundreds of emails…waiting for your reply.
  • Dozens of voice mails…demanding some resolution.
  • Tens of projects…each needing attention.
  • Piles of paperwork…all arguing for space on your desk.

All of this can be pretty daunting but four simple hours of work can make up for it all.   Here’s a plan for tackling your work and still enjoying vacation:

  1. Go into work for one morning during your vacation.  I suggest a mid-vacation time (Wednesdays are perfect).
  2. Dress casual. It will feel exotic and why not?  Enjoy the moment.
  3. Bring some java.  I know, you’d rather cash in on the free coffee that work provides but go ahead and treat yourself to an expensive cup of tea of coffee.  Look at it as an enhancement to your work-flow. 
  4. Process your work.  Plain and simple- dive in and get into the zone.

What are the effects of this simple, four hour blitz of work?  First, your vacation will thank you for it because you won’t be stressing over the work you imagine piling up.  Second, your work will thank you for it when you return.  Third and most importantly, you know that you’ll be working smarter than the rest of the bunch.  This is not so much about competition but about finding a way to ease stress and capitalize on down time.  Go for it!

 

Email, Gmail, and other Focus Issues

Gmail

Last week I responded to a post from Mike St. Pierre at The Daily Saint.  I was honored when I found the next day his follow-up post was in response to my comment.   “The best of intentions leave many of us guilty of over-socializing. Before you know it the next actions you had scheduled to complete that day were cut in half and all because you simply lost focus. So, how can we maintain focus during the day?”And his response post is here to that question.  Thanks Mike!   On another note – what do those of you use at work vs. home – are you able to sync up your Outlook with Gmail successfully?  And what do you do to keep the focus away from putting out fires on email all day? 

 

Put off today what you can do tomorrow…

Email inboxIf you look around the GTD world, if you listen in to board rooms, conference rooms, at the water cooler, on phone conversations to spouses and on and on you’ll hear the same groan – email.  Email hell, email jail, inbox/sinbox; it’s all the same.  Email is the new voicemail.  We’ve made ourselves available in an all too easy fashion.  Despite our best attempts at a great day, email is there waiting for us at work in the morning with an evil grin.  During the day, best laid plans to keep the inbox clean never come to fruition (save for an issue with your IT/IS department).  We can obsess about keeping the inbox at zero all we want but the fact remains it is a futile fight. I am happy to report that on numerous occasions while implementing GTD that I have been able to put things into context and I have been able to clean out my inbox on a Friday afternoon (and sometimes other days as well).  But the best of us still back slide at times.  It’s inevitable.Numerous websites have offered up a few tips like answering your email 2 times a day and actually auto-replying to all emails that you only answer at this time or that time.  That’s a difficult proposition for those who don’t have laid out schedules that start and end at the same time each day.  It may work for some – it just doesn’t work for me.Over the weekend I came across another thought about email.  Actually it’s part of a 32 page e-book from Mark McGuinness called Time Management for Creative People.   Mark has many great thoughts adapted from Getting Things Done, but he adds his own including how to focus better at work and how to “ring-fence” your creative time so that you save a special time of the day for when your creative juices are at their highest.  But one of my favorite points is simply this – don’t answer your email until the following day.  By waiting one day you allow yourself the luxury of not becoming a slave to email.  By waiting one day you know the next day how much email you need to reply to and can schedule yourself accordingly.  When you have answered that last email a sense of accomplishment should reside within you for the day’s achievements regardless of how many emails you may need to answer the next day.  Mark does point out the need to talk with your boss about this, but for those who have understanding employers this may make you not only a creative individual, but an accomplished one as well.