Tag Archives: Productivity

Teach Something

I’m taking a few minutes to catch up on some online reading, and came across this gem from the Angry Coach at EliteFTS.

In other words, don’t just tell me I have to manage my time effectively. I’ve bought your book or clicked on your article because I want to hear how you, the guy who supposedly knows how to do it better than me, manage your time. Do you wear a watch? Do you have an alarm clock, or do you use the one on your phone? What kind of phone do you have? What do you use it for? Do you keep a calendar? If so, is it a written datebook? Or do you use an online service like Google Calendar? If so, which one do you use, and how do you use it? Do you color code things? If so, what colors do you use, and for what categories?

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Several years ago, when I was transitioning out of non-desk job into a career that required me to sit in an office all day, I wanted to know how successful people set up their offices and their desks. I wanted to see what kinds of computers they used, where they put their keyboards and monitors, what kinds of pens they used, and where on their desks they put them. I wanted to see what type of lighting they preferred, and I wanted to see how organized they were, what types of filing systems they used, and where they put stuff. I wanted to know everything about the office logistics of successful people.

This is so true, and so very frustrating.  There are hundreds of self-help, productivity, and time management blogs and sites out there, all posting exactly the same things:

  • Get up early
  • Use Google Calendar
  • Use Evernote
  • Hustle!

They post lists, and they post tools, and they post photos of their awesome desks with nothing on them but their Apple computers.  But the majority of them never say how.  They never say why.


Any thoughts on good resources?  Who does this well, in any field?


Looking for the bag

Dave Tate shares a couple of things he does when deciding to work with a vendor.

I look in the trash can. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but if the can is empty with no liner – I’m not doing business with them EVER. This can mean only a few things.

1. The don’t complete their work.

2. They get distracted easy.

3. They are not detail oriented.

4. If it isn’t their job, then they don’t check the details of their staff’s or custodial service work.

5. If they ran out of bags, they don’t know how to plan ahead.

There are some other things I think it can mean but the important part is that there’s nothing that can be good about this.

The one thing I always look for is if they have a BAG. If so, THEN I look for the balls to go with it.

Last week I was in an Operational Effectiveness workshop at one of the vendors working with me.  (My role is to both manage the relationship between my company and the vendors doing service work for us, as well as support those vendors to ensure they are profitable and effective.)  We were working on a process that is so screwed up we don’t even know if we have a problem.  Anyway, the Director of OE at the vendor noticed the Director of Service Operations always parks his car next to the door of the warehouse in an area clearly marked as a no parking zone.  The OE guy rightly called him out, saying that if the Director doesn’t follow the posted rules, why should anyone else?

Solution:  if you want to park in the no parking zone, make it a parking spot.  Otherwise, don’t park there.  Likewise, when you see trash piled up somewhere instead of where you say it belongs, maybe where you need to move the trash can.

These little things say a lot.  I know the guy who parks in the no parking zone is working hard and does a great job; but his entire organization disregards no parking zones.  Which leads to things  so out of control you don’t even know if you have a problem, much less what to do to make the business better.

Real Resolution

It’s December 26, and we’re all just winding down from the holiday; many of us have another short (or no) work week in front of us. Lots of folks take this time to do planning and goal setting for the new year. Perhaps they ‘make resolutions.’

I have a challenge for everyone. Today, take one of those things, one thing on your list of things to do or start in 2010, and do it. Now.

Planning to start a diet next year to lose some weight? Why wait? Start today. If you’ve got a party on New Year’s Eve, go and enjoy it! You’ll still be a week ahead of the game. Want to start hitting the gym in the new year? Why wait?! Go today and sign up and get started.

Want to sign up for a class, or start saving more money, quit smoking, or buy that pair of shoes? Do it today. There’s nothing special about next weekend, other than a number on a calendar.

Catagorzing ToDo Lists (GTD)

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s GTD, and apply much of the GTD approach to maximizing productivity, time management, and organization. I highly suggest reading both Getting Things Done and Making It All Work.

This post would make more sense if you are familiar with the ideas in these books. (I’m also a big fan of Merlin Mann’s ‘Inbox Zero‘, which is highly related to GTD).

I use Lotus Notes and a Blackberry for work, so I fit the system to those.  Works pretty well.

My To Do Categories

Phone Calls
Waiting For

The system is set up to categorize To Do lists in context, not by priority.  That way, when I’m in the office, I can look at the list of things I have to do while in the office; when I’m at home, I can see the things I can only do at home. The system also gives me the freedom to do things when time and energy are appropriate; it eliminates the stress caused when the next most important task is something I don’t have the energy or am not in the right place to complete.

I’ve recently added additional categories based on an estimated time to complete. I have 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 minutes, then 2, 4, and 8 hours. That way, I can quickly find things that match up with the amount of time I may have, or the amount of energy and focus I have.

At 4pm on a Friday, I’m probably busting out a couple of 15 minute phone calls, not a 4 hour analysis.

It’s working great, and coupled with keeping my inboxes empty, I’m even more productive.

Urgent vs. Important

One of the new directions I’d like to take with my blog is to include posts on productivity, time management, and personal development.  This is one of those posts.

I’ve got a job that by it’s nature is reactive.  I’m in customer service operations, and a big part of my job is reacting to things that haven’t gone as planned.  The trick to time management is balancing the firefighting with the really important stuff you need to get done.

Gina Tripani from Lifehacker.com has a blog post up today with a couple of tips for mitigating the urgent, and I would like to add a few of my own (and maybe repeat one of hers that’s one of my keys to success.

Prioritize.  I use Covey’s 4 quadrants (High, low, urgent, not urgent).  Do the most important thing that is the most time sensitive first.  Then do the things that are most important, but not time sensitive (that’s the key!)  Just because something is important to someone else doesn’t mean it should be the most important thing for you.

Minimize email interruptions.  Email is a distraction.  You wouldn’t send the fire department an email that your house was burning down, so don’t send something via email that needs a response in the next 10 minutes.  Conversely, don’t check your email ever 5 minutes.  I process my email in box (to empty – everything goes in a to do, to read, or calendar entry if I can’t take care of it in 5 minutes) 4-5 times a day.  First thing in the morning, then mid morning, lunchtime, mid afternoon, and at the end of the day.  I like to end the day with an empty in box.  (On days I’m not in front of my computer, it’s less than that).  Turn your email notifications off, or if you have to, shut your email client down. 

Schedule and Plan.  As much as possible, schedule and plan your work.  You can’t avoid that emergency phone call, but you can control and organize all of the things coming at you.  I try to schedule time for everything, from the 30 minutes to process my in box, to an hour reading articles, to time to work on a project.  Everything I do is tracked on a to do list or in my calendar (I use Lotus Notes and a Blackberry Curve).  It’s so easy to take an email or phone call and create a new entry on a to do list.  I also schedule a weekly planning session on Friday morning (with myself) for an hour to review the previous week and set up the next week.

Start your day by completing one thing.  This may seem a little counter intuitive, but it’s worked for me.  I try to start every work day by completing one task.  It gives that feeling of accomplishment, that even if my day goes to shit, I still got one thing done.  Sometimes, given the nature of the beast, that one thing isn’t the most important or time sensitive, and maybe shouldn’t have been the first thing to do.  But I find it sets me up to be more productive and get the important stuff done.  I’d try to make it whatever is at the top of your prioritized list, though, and the less firefighting you do, the easier that is to do.

The ability to set these systems up is critical to achieving and maintaining a work life balance.

Ideas and feedback?  Well that’s what the comments are for.

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