Skills for Productivity

3 09 2008

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Image by bourgeoisbee on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by bourgeoisbee on Flickr via Creative Commons

“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” Larry Bird

In the 3 Ts (and an S) of Productivity Series, I am looking at the Tools, Techniques, Tips and Skills for being Productive.

I always want to be able to achieve the most possible, whilst doing the least possible (or spending the least time doing it). Therefore I’ve always tried to find systems or procedures to help me with my pursuit of this goal. I do however have to balance this with my, not perfectionist side, but my quality control which requires me to accept when ‘good is good enough’ and to be of a reasonable standard. These topics will be explored in later posts.

So here are the skills that I think you need to master in order to be productive. How are you getting on with these?

Objectives / Planning / End In Mind
I guess that this is a good place to start! Unless you have objectives for the task you are going to undertake and know what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there, then how can you be effective? If you are not clear on what you want or need to end up with then how can you find the best route to get there?

Know your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
SWOT is a simple way of illustrating that unless you know (or at least admit) your SWOT in achievements how can you carry out tasks effectively? Know what you are good at and focus on that, delegate other stuff you are not good at. You can change or influence your SWOT but it takes work and planning. Maybe these could be linked to your goals. See my post on SWOT analysis here.

Keep it Simple Stupid KISS.
This is an area that I am both good and bad at. I do enjoy keeping things simple, but I also am always seeking more knowledge on the subject at hand. Whilst a thirst for knowledge is by no means a bad thing, it is only seeking and acquiring the relevant knowledge to achieve a specific ends that is the skill of being effective. Constantly seeking new systems is actually not effective, you’ll probably revert to what you already know anyway.

Know when it is ‘good enough’ is Good Enough
I’m not saying that you should compromise quality to finish a job. Knowing what level of quality is required and when ‘good enough’ is Good Enough is a skill for productivity and knowing the correct level of standards for what you want to achieve.

Single Tasking (Multi-tasking is for whimps)
In modern workplaces many people think it is good to multi-task. This is the whimps way. Single tasking is the key. Remember the times when you were allowed to concentrate on just one thing? Without the constant distractions of the phone email, IM etc. chances are that you probably achieve more in less actual and elapsed time and it was probably better output. You probably created your own distractions and procrastination activities. Focus – find your zone.

Eliminate
There are several things you need to eliminate in order to use these principles.

  • Distractions
  • Unnecessary work
  • Unneeded work
  • Manufactured Emergencies

Become a master eliminator and learn to say NO!

Simplify
Is everything you are doing necessary? Are you taking the simplest route from A to B using the simplest method? The less complex you make things for yourself the more likely you are to achieve your objectives.

Quality over Quantity
This really applies to the amount and quality of work that you do rather than the individual tasks so it is the quality (using above points) of work that you do over the quantity (less hours) that is most important. Measure your results not the time you have spent on a particular activity. Eliminate to find that correct quality. Also know what is good enough.

This post is very much about what I have understood as skills for productivity so far. There is a lot of interrelation between the points and more detail behind all of them. There may also be other ones but these are what I came up with so far in a bid to keep it simple.

My idea for this post came from trying to design (based on research) my own principles for how to be productive. These are more habits/skills for to consciously work on, whilst Covey’s 7 habits are more characteristics. i.e. you either are or aren’t proactive.

What skills do you think are needed to be productive?

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Avoid the Hot Air and Get Stuff Done

6 08 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Image by TKelly on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by TKelly on Flickr via Creative Commons

“I think people talk too much anyway. Sometimes people are talking to me and in my mind I’m just like “shut up, shut up, shut up…blah blah blah blah blaaaaah.” Ellen Degeneres

On a recent trip to my head office, I really began to notice the amount of Hot Air that spouts from the mouths of the people I work with. They are people with all talk and no action. Since I joined the company over two years ago, a lot has been talked about to do with strategy, change and improvement. However, I have not seen any change. It is all Hot Air, and this is now ingrained in the company to the point where I think that all employees spend more time talking about doing things than actually getting things done. I’m glad that I have bought this observation to my conscious mind so that I can work on it personally so that I don’t sucked in to the same culture.

Here’s my 5 point Plan to cut the crap and get stuff done with other people:

  1. Only talk to people at work when you need something from them. This is like my previous post about only going on to the computer when I need to do something. We all spend hours at work talking about how the company should be run, gossiping etc. I’d much rather get my work done and get out of there. An hour spent talking to my girlfriend is a much better use of my time than an hour spent talking about the same old stuff with a colleague.
  2. Say No, mean no and don’t do it. It is one thing to say no to things, and another to mean it and stick to your work. This is a skill I am still developing but if you master it in the right way you can eliminate the crap and get on with what is going to make a difference.
  3. Cut the Crap. When talking to people or trying to get your work done, cut the crap. Eliminate what you don’t need, get to the point, get it done and move on.
  4. A lot of hot air comes from a group of people ‘Brainstorming’ ideas. Often I find that they go round in circles and the logical conclusion is inevitable 90% of the time. Cut the crap here too, get straight to the point “We WILL do this”, “I’ll get this actioned NOW”. I’ve found that when you are in a position to make decisions, then make them and do it. People will step in quicker if the action you have taken is wrong, whereas if you don’t take the action it could be hours or dozens of CC’d emails later before the a decision is made.
  5. Avoid meetings like the plague. Most meetings are, lets face it, a waste of time. Always ask why a meeting is being held. Ask for an agenda and timescale up front and try and schedule meetings back to back to get them all out of the way at once and avoid overruns “Sorry I can’t stay I have another meeting on the hour.”

Some people may worry that they could give the wrong impression to their peers and superiors with this approach. Remember the goal is to the get stuff done. You will (and should) be measured by your results. You are aiming for a work:life balance and being productive at work is not about doing more, it is about doing what is needed (and only what is needed) better and faster.

If your company doesn’t operate a Results-Only Work Environment, then don’t worry. Just make it your own personal ‘culture’ to work like that and see the results. You should work better and live better.

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Eliminate Distractions to Get Things Done

2 08 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Image by Chris Campbell on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Chris Campbell on Flickr via Creative Commons

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination” Christopher Columbus

I’ve just finished a swim at down at my gym, and see as it is the start of my ‘cheat day’ (more to come about my diet plan in the future), I am relaxing in the cafe with an fresh orange.

I’ve decided that I’ll write a post about elimating distractions to get things done. As I sit here there are actually quite a few distractions but they are different to what I would have at my office at home (where there is guitars, a Wii, the internet, TV and always cleaning to do). Here in the cafe there is the noise of the coffee machine, and people having conversations around me, however the change of scenery does enable me to focus on what I am doing for at least as long as the OJ takes me to finish and to write the post.

So here are my ‘Top Top Tips’ for eliminating distractions:

  1. Only check emails at set times in the day.
  2. Turn off IM.
  3. Turn off your phone or at least divert to voicemail.
  4. Schedule a meeting with yourself where you can elimate all other distractions and get done what you need to.
  5. Do the most important thing you need to do first thing in the morning (and before you check that email).
  6. Say NO, to meetings, interruptions etc.
  7. Change your work location – like I am doing now.
  8. Listen to music (so you can block out distractions. I find music the has a medium or lower tempo with little lyrics the best for this).
  9. Turn off the Internet. This is what I struggle with the most. Make a set time when you can go on the internet.
  10. Work from Home. I find that I get more done in the first 2 hours of the day working from home than I probably manage in a whole day in the office.

So there are some top tips for you. Personally I find the Internet my biggest distractions. I have worked hard on not letting email be too much of a distraction for me, but I need to work on stopping the Internet being such a distraction for me.

When I find something I think I need to improve on, I make it a mini goal and plan it. Here’s my plan therefore on how I am going to elimate the Internet attention grabber:

  1. Only go on to the Internet when I need to find out certain information. Therefore I will going on to the internet with a purpose rather than just dor the sake of it which leads to me spending hours on there.
  2. Only go on to the internet at set times. Certainly at home I’m going as far as sticking a note on the iMac saying “Why are you going on the Internet?”
  3. As I find that the Internet makes it so easy to find information I always jump on to Google whenever something pops in to my head. I’ll keep a list on my desk of things to look at then I can batch them altogether and blast through them all in one sitting.
  4. Have at least one, if not two unplugged days per week.

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I hope you find this post interesting. I’m trying to get more content on to the site, so I’m experimenting with my best flow for writing. I’ve produced this flow fairly quickly (after having thought about it whilst in the Sauna), and hope that I can find the right balance between post quality, content and time management. From start to finish (at the computer) this post took 35 minutes, and that included a slowish internet connection and over 10 minutes trying to find an image!

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Thanks for reading.

I hope you enjoyed my post. I’d love to hear your comments below or get a Digg or Stumble!