July  2021     Edition 157
Three Steps to be "More Productive"

A common headscratcher we see is

How can I be more productive?


Productivity defined as getting more things done in a given amount of time.   I don
t know anyone who, at the end of the day says,
Gee, I have absolutely nothing to do
.  We all have more to do.  So even if you figured out how to be more productive (do more in a given amount of time), you
re still going to have things to do that you don
t have time for.  Being "more productive" isn't really the headscratcher.


Here are three steps to help in the quest to be

More Productive

and accomplishing the real goal.


Step 1: Ask yourself WHY?  

Why do you want to be more productive?  Is it to impress the boss and get a raise?  Is it because your closet / basement / garage is so messy it takes you forever to find things?  Is it to spend time to repair something?  Is it to plan a vacation or get back to a hobby?   Is it to spend more time with your spouse or kids or friends? Companies want employees to be
more productive
to reduce costs, or accomplish something faster. 

What problem or task do you want to tackle that you think will be addressed by being more productive?  This is the headscratcher, the goal. 


Step 2: Estimate

How much time do you need to accomplish the goal from Step 1

.  Make a realistic estimate.  If it
s a repetitive task, it may look like X hours / week.  Don
t over analyze this, just think about and be realistic and use your experience to guide you.  (I always double, sometimes triple the time I think a repair job will take based on my experience).  


Rewrite the headscratcher

How can I be more productive?
, to,

How can I find X hours to accomplish __________


e.g.,   How can I find 1 hour a week to work on my hobby?  How can I find 2 hours a week to spend with my kids?   How can I find 4 hours in the next three weeks to organize the garage / basement / closet?  How can I spend 30 minutes a week reviewing our product strategy?


In doing this, you
ll be focused on the goal of achieving something as opposed to the general concept of productive.


Step 3:  Where you spend your time

. [You might want to keep a log for a week or so].  If you've ever created a financial budget, it's just like that, but instead of money, it's time.
  • Make a list of the tasks that have a

    fixed time duration

    such as average time for Sleeping, Eating, Hygiene related items, paying bills, getting dressed/undressed, commuting, laundry, cleaning, food shopping, Kid / Parent, related necessities, etc.   These are fixed, non-discretionary items that you must do.  Be honest and thorough here.  Sleeping means; getting ready for bed, actually sleeping, staying in bed not sleeping, getting up and about.  Do this for both home and work.  This takes some thought.  Use averages.  We do a lot of daily and weekly things that are necessary and take time.
  • List all the other things that are


    such as watching TV, chat, phone calls, travel, reading, baseball games, work related items that are not fixed.  Be honest, most people watch TV or on cell phones more than they realize.
  • List the

    occasional random items

    that you can
    t plan for; e.g. sudden trip to the doctor, travel delays, pipe leaks, equipment failure, etc.   Think back over a period of time and list out those things and the time they took then take an average hours per day or week.
  • Add a+b+c

    .  This should be 24 hours a day.  If not, then you haven
    t completed the list.  Add in things like organizing, goofing off, snoozing, meetings, status reports, daydreaming, browsing on Amazon, walking dog, and more.  Get to understand where you really spend your time.


Revisit your Headscratcher

to look like

How can I reduce or eliminate time from the items in Step 3 (mostly from 3b) so that I accomplish the Headscratcher from Step 2

.  Now you have a definitive goal and a list of places you can consider finding the time to accomplish it.  For example;
What can I reduce from the list of discretionary things I do, that will allow me to spend 2 hours a week on my hobby?



The Takeaway
:  By being "more productive" we hope we'll be able to accomplish the things we don't have time for.  Instead of the generic "more productive", identify those "things", understand how much time you need to accomplish those, understand where you spend your time now and then you can identify where you can find the time to accomplish the tasks you don't have time for now.  Start with just one "to-do" and see how this works, then go on to the next one.

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