April 27, 2006
“Personal” of Personal Productivity…
Personal Productivity. Only two words here; however, the concepts and scope are quite large. At its simplest, are the two words in the phrase: Personal… and Productivity. (Sorry, I know we're not in elementary school here.) Let's simplify here for a moment… For me, often the most important issue, in terms of improvement begins with the "Personal." This is where growth and psychology meet the world of personal productivity.
As mentioned below in the blog, I've read a *bit* of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled. While this is *not* a productivity book, it is a personal growth book. To me, becoming productive can only be successful when one follows general basic psychology and self-improvement practices. To highlight this for you, let's look at your New Year's Resolutions. How many of us have made resolutions, only to never keep them? This is a prime example of how successful self-motivated changes to your productivity will be- or not so much. Unfortunately, most of us are very unsuccessful.
Steve Pavlina's blog discussions on Self-Discipline merged with Peck for me in numerous ways. At the heart of these types of discussions is personal truthfulness, or accountability, and change in our own personal action based on these truths. This is critical to moving oneself forward. If we can't be truthful with ourselves about our ability to accomplish the tasks we set for ourselves, we will always find ourselves losing the personal productivity battle. I don't care how many productivity systems or packets or 3×5 cards you shove in your back-pocket… unless you are truthful and mindful of your actions in these areas, you're bound to have a rough time of things.
Recently, I've begun a small little list of the day's accomplishments. What I am trying to do is highlight what's been done on any particular day so that I can be honest with myself about what is not getting done, and if I'm falling short in my time spent on particular work. I don't know how successful this will be, but I feel that if I can shed some sort of light upon my work ethic, instead of fooling myself internally, I will be forced to be honest with myself about how I'm falling short and where I'm falling short. Then, when I can see the dirty grubby underneath of things, I'll be able to properly motivate myself into action. Truth will only help to motivate ourselves.
For me, this step is personal. Don't share it with the boss, or with anyone else… it may hurt your truthfulness level. Share it only with yourself. You are the one micro-managing yourself… no one else is. To be a proper self-manager, you must properly evaluate yourself and your abilities here. Once you highlight areas that are problems, then you can move forward with goals which are reasonably achievable, and then reward yourself when you accomplish them. [This reward step is very critical.] For some of us, the procrastinators, this may be as simple as the (10+2)*5 hack or the dash… essentially, you want to ultra-focus on one task on your to-do-list, for 10 or 20 minutes. No other distractions, no e-mails replied to, no phone-calls accepted. You're there to accomplish your task. [Set a timer.] Then, when you've worked 10/20 minutes, and the buzzer goes off, chill out… take 5 (or 2), and surf away to a cute website or run down the hall to grab a pop, or a bit of a nice pipe and tobacco.* The point is essentially to know you're going to get a break. It's not the 10 hours of work you know you need to get done this very second… it's the 10 or 20 minutes of starting the work with a predetermined break close at hand, that will help remove the scary frustration of how much you have to get done. So, when that timer hits, take a small break. [If you don't feel like breaking, that's ok... but be honest with yourself... if the task at hand is extremely frustrating, it might be better to take a break before you burn out... then you'll be able to keep going for longer periods of time...]
So, start with honesty. Be honest with yourself. Where are you in your work? How well are you doing at staying on task, and hashing out the plans you've set for yourself? "To Do" lists will only be lists until you actually use them! [To improve your success with ToDo's and day to day ability to accomplish your tasks, I highly recommend David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD).- more on this in future posts] A small aside: Stephen Covey's mission-statements are really an attempt for you to highlight where you want your life to be headed… and in a not so obvious way, to be honest with yourself about where you're headed. Reviewing your goals will help you to keep your mind on task, and help you to be honest about whether or not you're doing what you wish you were doing. – You do wish you were doing it, right? Then why hasn't it been crossed off your list recently?
Wishing you all a productive week's end!
[*- May I recommend Russ Oulette's Louisanna Red? Or, if you're an English/Balkan smoker, try some of Russ's Namasté, a bit like Dunhill EMP (Murray's version), but crossed with a wonderful balkan for some citrusy, light and sweet overtones. It truly is a fantastic all-day blend.]