The Productivityist Podcast

I recently came across an engaging podcast from a company called the Productivityist.  According to their web site, they are:

“A company built with the quest to help people stop “doing” productive and start “being” productive through developing practical and tactical approaches to their work and lives.”

productivityistThe host is Mike Vardy, the President of the company.  So, what exactly is a productivityist?  Mike offers us this description:

“A productivityist is a productivity enthusiast. They are someone who studies productivity, be it the tools or habits. They dive deeper into the realm than most people. Just like a comedian looks at the world differently, so does the productivityist. Productivityists, like other enthusiasts, like to go further in their craft and push boundaries. They like to explore new processes, new ideas, new ways to get things done.”

The podcast is worth a listen and it can be found on the Productivityist web site or through the Apple Podcast app.  In future blog posts, I’ll explore the thoughts and ideas of some of the podcast’s unique guests.



The Weekly Review – A Time for Perspective

person holding turned on laptop

Weekly Review

For most people the world of work is fast paced.  Between meetings, deadlines, email, interruptions and more meetings, it seems like everything and everyone is vying for our attention.  It is like a roller coaster that never stops – leaving its riders dizzy and sick to their stomachs.  Thankfully, there is an antidote to this fast pace; one that is within anybody’s grasp.  It is called the Weekly Review.

In GTD, the Weekly Review a fundamental practice.  It is dedicated time to gain perspective.  In order for a knowledge worker to take advantage of the review, they must shut out the world for a few hours.  For many of us, this may seem like a tall order.  However, there are natural ebbs and flows to the week.  Typically, Friday afternoon is when most workplaces slow down and presents an opportunity to claim quiet time.

If you don’t think the Weekly Review is important, here is what David Allen himself says about the practice:  “Honestly, this is what I do to keep myself sane and in control. … It is the one factor upon which your success with Mind Like Water technology hinges.”

For the complete steps to the Weekly Review simply download this handy guide.


Why does Inbox Zero Matter?

inbox-zero“Why should I go to all the trouble to empty my email inbox?”

This is a question that I am sometimes asked during the Efficient Librarian seminars.  On the surface, all this fussing about with the “action” and “waiting for” folders seem like extra work, especially when the inbox is overflowing.  Participants want assurances that working towards Inbox Zero is not a futile endeavor.

I believe that the labor needed to reach Inbox Zero, as popularized by Merlin Mann, is exceeded by the rewards.  Off the top of my head, here are three reasons to live at Inbox Zero:

  1. An empty inbox clears the mind from reprocessing older messages to determine their value every time the inbox is viewed. The functional folders like “action” provide clarity and ease to workflow.
  2. Achieving Inbox Zero means that you are caught up on new input. This signals to the mind that it can move from processing to acting without worry that something important was missed.
  3. Emptying the inbox is a well-earned and clearly defined win. In the game of knowledge work we need to craft all the wins we can find.  Inbox Zero is a win that renews constantly!

If you have never seen your email inbox at zero, I challenge you to dig down and empty it out.  I expect it will be a victory you will savoir.  If you don’t believe me, listen to librarian Patrick Hoecherl of the Salt Lake City Library.  Upon reaching Inbox Zero last week he wrote to report that, “It feels even better than I thought it would!”  So go ahead, take the Inbox Zero challenge!

The Resistance to To-Do Lists

The to-do list has been a knowledge worker staple for ages.  Almost everyone has a version of one in their smart phone or paper planner.  Despite their usefulness, many people have a strong aversion to using their to-do list to its fullest capacity.  These people often seem to live in a limbo state between maintaining some items on the list while also trying to remember other items only in their head.

David Allen understands the challenges of doing the to-do list right.  He had a lot to say on this topic in a recent blog post.

DA-Small“I understand the resistance to to-do lists, and the complaints about keeping them. I’ve noticed a couple of reasons for this. The main one is that most to-do lists are incomplete lists of still un-clarified “stuff.” Looking at them creates as much stress as they might have relieved in the first place. Typically, what people have on their lists (if they have them at all) are things like “Mom,” and “bank,” and “marketing VP.” It’s great that they have captured something that has their attention, but there are still critical decisions to make with some critical thinking about that content.”

Read the rest of the blog post at the Getting Things Done web site.

Cleaning vs Tidying

cleandeskFor most people cleaning and tidying mean the same thing.  Both are about bringing order to a space.  However, there is a subtle but important difference between the words that can be transformational.  In fact, it is not possible to clean successfully without tidying first!

Let’s break it down.  Cleaning in one context simply means to remove dirt, dust, and other grime.  The other definition is that cleaning means to put objects back into drawers, closets, or other designated areas when we are done using them.  Unfortunately, if the objects do not have a designated storage space they will be placed in the first available space.  This can create an ongoing underlying tension as the items are never truly cleaned up, only constantly rearranged.

Tidying happens when a space is cleared of clutter and the remaining objects are assigned a designated place.  Once a place is assigned for each item the act of cleaning simply returns them to their proper home.   This understanding is important to the secret of successful implementation of any organization system, whether it be GTD in the office or Konmari at home.  The act of tidying is a conscious and deliberate effort to set up a space and everything in it.  After that is done, all that remains is to maintain it at that standard.

So, remember this simple formula to success in organization: tidy once – clean regularly.

How Disney Trash Cans Relate to Efficiency

disneyLiving in Florida means that I occasionally visit Disney World.  If you have been to a Disney park, there is something that you might not have noticed, mostly because it is not there – TRASH!  Disney parks are kept to a very high cleanliness standard.  Walt Disney himself observed that if trash is left accumulate, it will quickly sour the experience.  He figured out that by keeping garbage cans no more than 30 feet apart, the public would naturally throw out their trash.

So, what does this have to do with efficiency?  David Allen used this fact as a jumping off point for an observation on his blog about how keeping a high standard is actually easier to maintain than it would first seem.

“That’s true around our houses and offices, too. If you’ve already broken the code, and left unclarified, unorganized “stuff” lying around, you’ll easily (let’s say even automatically and unconsciously) leave more of it.

“When my inbox is at zero, it’s so much easier to keep it cleaned up. As soon as it starts to get semi-out-of-control, the chaos seems to speed up exponentially. …

“Keeping things sorted makes it a heck of a lot easier to keep on keeping things sorted.”

Read the rest on the Getting Things Done blog.

WorkLife with Adam Grant: A TED original podcast

How come every office environment seems to run in the same routine patterns?  Is there any innovation out there designed to make our work lives more rewarding and enjoyable?  There certainly is! I have been listening to a very entertaining podcast that explores the  horizons made possible when people re-imagine the office.  It is presented by Professor Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give & Take.  The podcast is called WorkLife and it mission is as follows:

AdamGrant_2016-headshot_preview“You spend a quarter of your life at work, so shouldn’t you enjoy it? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant takes you inside some of the world’s most unusual workplaces to discover the keys to better work. Whether you’re learning how to love criticism or trust a co-worker you can’t stand, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never see your job the same way again.”

In brisk episodes of about 30 minutes in length, Grant’s podcast made for easy and inviting listening.  In particular I enjoyed the episode exploring how introverts and extroverts can function successfully in the workplace, which featured an interview with Susan Cain, author of Quiet.  Visit the TED website to learn more about the series and download episodes.