Tag Archives: productivity

Back To The Drawing Board

Okay. You reviewed your performance for last year. You went over what planned changes went right,  which ones fell through, what surprises happened, how you handled them, and worked through the new things and experiences you were presented.  You want to do a better job this year. Going from the top-most level and branching down (and outward):

What are your core goals?
Where do you intend to focus on personally and professionally? Think of the “Four Burners theory.” There are things you can only do yourself if they are to be done, and if you want them done, then they have to be high priority, e.g, you must willingly give these items the attention, actions, and time they demand.

Then there are things a little lower on the list and stuff you can push around, delegate, or outsource. These are the items you fit around your Very Important Priorities.

Think about how you handled things last year. Where did you experience the most discomfort? How were you surprised? What are you going to do with the new layers of experience you gained getting through these rough spots? How are you moving forward?

How do you want these core goals done?
What are your standards for “done?” Your answers determine when and how will you know to stop working, which are very important factors in making consistent, sustainable progress. Being stubborn about ‘how’ can act as a straight-jacket for when life throws you into a corner. When you build some margin into your plans, and have back-up options in place,  the peace of mind this  gives helps you recover faster when you encounter delays and sudden changes of circumstance on the way.
Continue reading Back To The Drawing Board

The Case For Not Doing Everything

There are things you do as a matter of necessity when you run a business. Things like filing and paying business taxes, following up with clients, networking with peers, renewing licenses, ensuring your data is backed up and your website is running optimally, and so on.

Then there are things you do as a matter of preference. Stuff like checking email first thing, or scheduling calls at particular blocks of time,  or putting in brainstorming sessions in at a coffee-shop just to get out of the office mindset. Maybe you shifted to a dual monitor set-up, and it worked wonders with your coding, or perhaps you made your own hotkeys to save time on repetitive tasks.

Whatever tweaks or set-ups you make to make your life run more smoothly,  you  know you’re not alone in looking for the sweet spot. An entire industry has grown out of the productivity movement. Life-hacks, apps, methods — whether you use bullet journals, kanban,  the urgent/important  matrix, GTD — all of these things grew out of the need to determine and make the most productive use of our time. It’s our modern way to take control and make sense of all the stuff that goes on in our lives.

Not all methods work right on the first go though, which is why we can take a lot of time tailoring and testing them to fit our own needs and circumstances. Part of the problem stems from mixing up our goals with the various set-ups we use to get to them.

Helpful article: “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.”James Clear

Just as one size doesn’t fit all, chosen methods won’t mean squat if they don’t help make measurable positive changes in our work flow.  With testing and tweaking, we can use an assembly of specific practices swiped from various methods — as long as they work. And work well. Continue reading The Case For Not Doing Everything

Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Whether your business is big or small, there are some things that will remain the same:  One, in running it, you’ll need access  to a large amount of various information and electronic data. Two, you need help in staying on top of the data you already have and handle what keeps coming in. Three, you can have trouble getting rid of data that you don’t or can’t find useful.

Here’s the background to why even the thought of getting rid of things (including data) hurts, and a few suggestions on how to handle too much information. Continue reading Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Get Your Product Out The Door

When you’ve been an entrepreneur long enough, one thing is for sure:  you have to ship or die. Whatever product or service you offer, as long as there’s a viable market for it, you’re in business.

You stay in business as long as you keep producing or serving to meet the demand that identifies your particular market, whether it’s left-handed scissors, specialty wax seals, or antique car detailing. And if you truly are fully engaged with these things, and get to make a living out of that engagement, then more power to you.

There is a caveat, though.

“Follow your passion,” overlooks the goal of your work.
It’s easy to overlook that the root word of ‘passion‘ comes from the Latin for ‘suffering.’ Following your passion is easy to say; it’s just three words anyway, but the sentence doesn’t cover  what happens after, and that’s where many people stumble. Pipe dreams die easily when you apply hard logic to them, and for many who prefer the dream, they can come unprepared for the hard work of making it into a reality.

See, the hard part is that some parts of the dream won’t make it, so you need to let them go.

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” – Erica Jong, author

 

Now, let’s take about productivity, and how it ties in to “ship or die.”

One idea  you have to learn to relinquish is the thought of a perfect product. If you have trouble releasing a product to face the public, have you ever really tried to answer the question, “When will it be good enough?” definitively? Do you have a protocol for bug fixes and releases, but have a habit of  being slow on the actual launching? Continue reading Get Your Product Out The Door

Get Rid Of Red Tape

We all have our own war-stories about red tape and  bureaucracy, but  if you’re an entrepreneur or run your own business, have you ever stopped to think that you may also be a source? Factors that can contribute to red tape are unnecessarily complicated procedures,  unwarranted redundancies, and having too many people in control over too few points of control. Red tape drags on, and it is not limited to the government. Companies have red tape too, which means businesses aren’t immune.

“Red tape” is used to describe bureaucratic policies, procedures and forms that are “excessively complex and time-consuming” in nature.

The term comes from when  Henry VIII bombarded the Pope with around eighty petitions to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife (In his lifetime, Henry had six wives, and Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s widow.) Anyway, the court documentation was collected and sealed  up in red ribbons, which was the custom at the time for official state documentation.

In time, people started using the term ‘red tape’ to describe slow, unnecessarily complicated, and time-consuming filing, forms, and procedures.

Turning the focus on your own work now, have you ever encountered problem in your work flow due to  ‘internal policies’ you follow in running your business? When was the last time you updated your procedures and protocols? Have you reviews your ops manual lately? Continue reading Get Rid Of Red Tape

Back-Planning and Pre-Planning: Small Moves, Big Results

Think back to your childhood. Before going to bed, what did you do?  In getting up and getting ready for school, what did you do? What about preparing to eat? What about the chores you were given?

Maybe you didn’t like the rules that your parents laid down about school and nap-times, and clean-up and homework, and about eating your vegetable and picking up your toys when you were done playing. But all that training served a purpose: you were being taught to think ahead and prepare the things you need ahead of time.

You were shown a model of behavior to copy when you were young, so that when you grew older, you would know what to do and do it by yourself, on your own and of your own volition. Most importantly, you were shown that you can do things even if you don’t feel like doing them. This installed a sense of discipline, self-regulation, and self-care for you. And bringing that all together is the fact that all of it is meant to instill a sense of organization meant to help you throughout your life.

Why are you organized?
To get what you need when you need it– no scrabbling around, no going on an expedition to find it.
To move efficiently and effectively,  saving time, energy, and effort.
To have order in your life — and structure too.

When we talk about productivity, there are certain key areas which where we need to be clear about because of the challenges we face today: Continue reading Back-Planning and Pre-Planning: Small Moves, Big Results

Just Start: How To Keep Going On Off-days

There’s this popular image shared on social media depicting an iceberg and having it explain success. The visible part  of the iceberg (what people see) is labelled “Success.”  The part under the water is labelled “What really happens.” : Hard work, struggles, discipline, sacrifices, late nights, persistence, failures, and many more.

We often take the surface impression as the whole thing, and not look at the years of work and struggle behind the success stories that make the front-pages.  Even with ourselves, we tend to do this. What’s worse, we can be much harsher on ourselves than necessary. We have this image of what we should be and have to be, and measure ourselves by those images. And when we have bad days or off days, we can make it even worse by feeling disappointed in ourselves for not measuring up.

For entrepreneurs who have built themselves strong habits and put good support systems in place, it can be much easier to get through those off days. What follows are simple things you can do to ensure that you get through days like those without unnecessarily having to suffer more that the situation would warrant. Continue reading Just Start: How To Keep Going On Off-days

Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility

With all the important plans you made to make you this your best year yet,  one of the most effective ways you can help to realize your goals is to have built-in, supportive flexibility in your life.

Think of this familiar scenario: Most gyms see a lot of money come in during the first month of the  year, because a lot of people sign up to lose weight and get fit at part of their resolutions. Those aren’t bad goals at all,  but a common observation shows that most enrollees peter out over the first eight weeks of their membership.  Many sign up, but not all follow-through.

There could be all sorts of reasons for dropping out: People couldn’t adjust to the regimen they picked for themselves. They develop an injury from over-training. They get discouraged. There is a conflict in their schedules and they can’t keep up regular visits… so they do a slow fade.

Not showing up to exercise is just an example of the ways our goals fall off to the wayside, but you can already see where the weak spots are in the previous example. An inability to adjust, failure to adapt, pushing too hard too fast, taking on too much too soon…To help your plans survive past the first month or two of the new year  and reach fruition– you need  to factor in flexibility.

Building your flexibility
Let’s go with imagery:  You need flex so you can absorb shock and bounce back. Working within too rigid a structure, you can shake apart or break down after exposure to repeated blows of  stressful events. When you are flexible, you can bend, you can lean over, you can bow– but not break or snap, right?

You anchor those flexibilities to something solid: a structure, a routine, or a schedule.  You  deliberately make space so you can move. Continue reading Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility

Break Procrastination Down By Asking Why

Procrastination is an age-old issue that has been often reduced to simple laziness, but given our insatiable human curiosity, scientists and researchers have been studying the phenomenon for a long time now, mainly attempting to fix it, and when that didn’t work, trying to understand it.

The thing is, procrastination is a fairly common trait in a lot of people who have issues with anxiety and perfectionism– long before the concepts of anxiety and perfectionism even got their names. Procrastination is actually a self-protective action; it’s a defense mechanism.

  • We procrastinate because we’re don’t feel good about the thing we’re supposed to do, so we keep pushing and putting things off.
  • We hem and haw. We do other things.
  • We do anything else except the thing, because it makes us uncomfortable to even think about it –and for the most part, we don’t even think to delve deeper into why that’s so.

Perhaps these situations seem familiar?

  • You can’t decide which task goes first, because all of these things are important and urgent.
  • You want to do the best job you can, and you know you only have so much time before the project is due.
  • You’re going to disappoint the people counting on you, you know it, and you’re avoiding the blowout for as long as you can.
  • You don’t have enough data to make a good decision, and you want to make sure it’s the best one you can make.
  • It’s been a while since you received that email, voicemail, message, etc. and you feel it’s embarrassing to only respond now.

And if that wasn’t enough, beating yourself up about putting things off only makes you feel worse. You lose you stomach for taking action, you’re downbeat because you haven’t taken action, and you have no energy to take action.

Oddly enough, procrastinators usually finish with all the easy stuff early. Like cake and frosting, we go for the surface stuff because it’s a sweet deal, so we polish it off quickly. And faced with the things that make us step back, we don’t even think to see that these things aren’t as emotionally neutral for us as the easy things are.  Thinking of  unfinished, important business things makes us feel tired. We feel ashamed of taking so long to to do or to respond to them.

We dread them. Continue reading Break Procrastination Down By Asking Why

How to Develop Ideas Productively

The drive to keep things interesting is one core business strength which comes with the goal of providing value.

When you keep looking for new ways to re-tool old concepts and current ideas you keep your brain flexible, your attitudes keen and you keep apace with the changing tides. You can innovate, evolve and thrive. To do this you need to be open to ideas: in receiving them, in connecting them and in generating them. New ideas means new life for a business, and you have to keep them flowing to keep the business going.

The goal here is to produce ideas of real value. Brainstorming can capture a lot of ideas from out of the blue and squeeze them out under pressure, but you have to filter out the viable ones from the non-viable, then the practical from the impractical.

Now think in images with this next part: The general advice it to let ideas flow. Going with that in mind, if you have writer’s block, that means your fountain of creativity may have run dry of ideas, or is stopped up in some way, and the natural flow ideas has been blocked.

Mind-mapping is a wonderful way to jump-start stalled creativity. We are a visual race, and imagery is one of the best ways we can set our imagination running smoothly again. Leave the serious edit-writing afterwards when you want to summarize or clarify what you mind-mapped, but giving yourself permission to draw and use stimulating colors and mediums in the process can slip off the automatic censor that can keep our best ideas from coming to light.

The method here is a very personal disciplined freedom. Think of it as your personal code.

For example, you can use different colors to symbolize different ideas. Depending on what each color means to you, you can connect the colors to particular subjects in a way that is personal (green for money, for example, or orange for pending, purple for creative ideas, etc.) This helps tickle the neurons into making multiple connections. If music helps you think better, set up your playlist before you mind-map. Continue reading How to Develop Ideas Productively