CFMWS Productivity Workshop: The Resource Page
This page features some elements of the workshop given in May 2014, including relevant links and resources you’ll want to explore further in order to take your effectiveness and efficiency to new heights. This is a living document, meaning that this page will be updated frequently (including the addition of various productivity approaches and methodologies like GTD, Agile, and so on).
Before I dive in too deep, here are 5 things you can do now and see results almost immediately:
- “Flip the switch” on email: Instead of sorting your email by having your newest email messages at the top, adjust your settings to place your oldest emails at the top. That forces you to look at the oldest messages you’ve got and get them handled sooner rather than later (or worse, when it’s too late).
- Build the capture habit: Start capturing everything that comes to mind. Keep a notebook with you to capture things quickly when needed. Build the habit of writing everything down, no matter how inane it may seem, so that you’ll never miss capturing that gem of a business idea or groundbreaking project.
- Use The Pomodoro Technique: Using this method allows you to work on actions in short bursts of time (25 minute increments) and also promotes neuroplasticity. I use The Pomodoro Technique for activities that I’m not fond of but know I need to do. You can read up on every aspect of The Pomodoro Technique here.
- Go “device/environment specific”: I use my iPhone for communication and capture. I don’t use it for reading or gaming. I use my iPad for reading, gaming, and writing. I don’t use it for social media or email. Even though these devices can do almost anything doesn’t mean that they should. By being keeping certain apps or settings off these devices, you wind up being more deliberate with them…and more focused.
- Use tools to block the web: There are tools like Cold Turkey for Windows, Self Control for Mac OS, and Freedom for both of those operating systems (and Android) that will block certain websites and applications when you need to hunker down and steer clear of online distractions. Forced discipline now can help build unforced discipline for the future.
Now let’s look at the 3 ways you can take your productivity to greater heights.
1. Focus On Task Over Time
The first way you can supercharge your productivity is by focusing on task over time. I spoke about this topic at TEDxVictoria 2013, and you can view that video here.
- Time is out of your control. It moves forward no matter what. Tasks are well within your control. They only move forward as you move them forward.
- Managing tasks means managing you and your energy. Here’s an article that explains how I use contexts (identifiers that add value and meaning to tasks) to associate my energy levels with my tasks.
- Time chunking is a valuable tool to help you focus on tasks while still giving time the attention it also deserves. Here’s a post that describes how time chunking can work.
A list of task management apps and tools can be found here. This page will be regularly updated with emerging resources for you to explore.
2. Set Email Boundaries
The second way you can supercharge your productivity is by being more mindful with email (and your communication boundaries in general).
Being mindful with email begins with not checking it first thing in the morning. Instead, deal with your most important task first (which could even be a task sent via email the night before that you put in your task management system of choice). But don’t open email first. Why? Ask Lifehacker, The Huffington Post, and a ton of other experts and they’ll tell you a ton of good reasons. My reason is this: By checking email first ting in the morning you’re saying to yourself that what you had in mind for your day is not nearly as important as what others do.
Other email management tips include:
- Build better subject lines: Enough with the “Re:” and “Fwd:” to start things off. Be more specific. Jared Goralnick of AwayFind (an excellent email auto-response solution), offers tips on this here.
- Use canned responses and text expansion whenever possible. The Mac OS application TextExpander has saved me over 43 hours of time, largely due to the fact I use it when sending emails that use the same language on a regular basis. There’s a Windows solution for this called Breevy (thanks to my friend Brooks Duncan at DocumentSnap for introducing me to that one) and you can always use Gmail Canned Responses or the solutions Outlook provides (some versions have canned responses now but you can use signatures for the same purpose if need be).
A list of email management apps and tools can be found here. This page will be regularly updated with emerging resources for you to explore.
3. Treat Your Calendar Better
The third way you can supercharge your productivity is through better calendar management practices.
An effective calendar is versatile, easily referenced, ubiquitous, and comfortable to use. So if you’re a paper calendar type of person, then you’re fine. Just as long as you use it properly, that is.
David Allen, author of the great productivity book Getting Things Done, has said that the only things that go on a calendar are “date-specific appointments” and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re putting tasks on your calendar, that’s not ideal. I go through a slew of calendar management tips in my book The NOW Year, but here are 5 key bullet points to keep in mind:
- Use different calendar views (day, week, month): Don’t limit your planning to one type of view. Play with them and then capture what works best for you during specific times. Having the right view when mapping out your day, week, month, and year can make a world of difference in how those time periods go.
- Schedule appointments with yourself: If you’ve got a big project that needs attention or you simply want to get a regular break in, schedule time with yourself on your calendar. For tasks this should be more the exception than the rule, but if you block out time sparingly you’ll use it when you do because it’ll stand out as opposed to blending in with the rest of what you’ve got going on.
- Schedule a Weekly Review: This is a big one. David Allen goes over The Weekly Review in length in his book, and you can get a copy of the entire process involved for free here.
- Colour-code where possible: Things tend to stand out with colour-coded, so use colour that mean something (i.e., add context) so that you can see where you attention (and intention) needs to be during specific times of the day, week, month, and so on.
- Don’t marry yourself to the Gregorian Calendar: Just because January 1st is the start of the new year doesn’t mean it has to be the start of your new year. I’ve written an entire book about this idea, and if you want to dive deeper into it then you can get The Front Nine: How to Start The Year You Want Anytime You Want here.
A list of calendar management apps and tools can be found here. This page will be regularly updated with emerging resources for you to explore.
I appreciate you taking the time to review these session notes and hope that — whether you attended this workshop in person, online, or are simply gleaning what you can from these notes — these 3 ways to supercharge your productivity will help you stop doing productive and start being productive.
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