As part of my overall plan to improve my life, I've been paying more attention to my productivity--or my lack thereof at times. Mind you, I'm a believer in leaving time for doing nothing. Like Andrew McAfee, I think that we lose a lot in the pursuit of busyness . In fact my best thinking and most creative solutions have often occurred in the shower. But to really do anything creative, you have to create the space for it. I know that I'm not alone in seeking tips for a more productive life, so here are five that I've found help me.
1. Define Outcomes for Everything You Do
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says, "Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined." He suggests that when faced with any task or project, you must first ask why you are doing it. Then you must ask yourself what you hope to achieve. By being clear about the purpose of activity, you can get clearer about next steps.
2. Learn to Say No
I think that in the helping professions, we are particularly bad at boundaries. We want to say yes to everything and find it difficult to set priorities as a result. This Lifehack article on The Gentle Art of Saying No is a good start to breaking yourself of the "yes" habit.
3. Trim Your Attention Sails
Brian Oberkirch has a great article on strategies he's taken to keep his work and attention focused. His ideas on how to manage email and meetings are particularly good.
4. Wikify Your Life
This is one that I've just started doing, thanks to another Lifehack article on organizing yourself with wikis. From To-Do Lists to life goals, wikis lend themselves perfectly to keeping you organized. I've already been using a wiki to keep organized with my work life, but this also takes the idea into the personal realm where I can share it with my husband and daughters. Not that they'll actually DO anything as a result.
5. Get to Zero
We live in a world where we're bombarded by bits and bytes of information. Managing those bits is the topic of Mark Hurst's book Bit Literacy, which suggests ways to be productive in the information age. He says:
When bits are infinite, the only way to thrive is to pick up the eraser. This is letting the bits go: always looking for reasons to delete, defer, or filter bits that come our way. Anything else allow the bits to pile up…Bit literacy is the constant attempt, in a world of bits, to achieve emptiness.
Emptiness is at the heart of bit literacy, and that may be an unsettling idea. Emptiness often has negative connotations…We prefer to have something. We live in a culture, after all, where more is better. The symbol of success is abundance…Things are different in the bit world, where size and quantity don’t mean much. Bits are abundantly available to anyone with Internet access…The challenge isn’t getting more; it’s making sense of it all, in spite of the glut. The scarce resource is not the bits but our time and attention to deal with them.
So our goal in this technology-enabled world is to get to zero as frequently as possible. We have to create space for creativity and ideas to flow.
Now let's see how successful I am in implementation.