Brutal Truths About Productivity

The feeling of being productive is awesome. There is a deep satisfaction in checking stuff off our to-do lists. However, there is a difference between being productive with simple tasks versus complicated projects. In the book Joy at Work, which I summarized last week, Marie Kondo makes a distinction between the urgent and the important. Urgent things are usually the small tasks that are easy to do but ultimately make little difference to our lives. The important tasks are hard to do, but make the most impact towards our larger goals and objectives. True productivity comes down to focusing on the latter and not the former. But how do we do this?

In an article in the Pocket web site, Thomas Oppong share 6 Brutal Truths about Productivity that can help people focus on what is truly important. For example, one of the six truths has to do with power of getting started.

The biggest hurdle for many of us is simply getting started. Making that important decision to take a step. You can be as big and successful as you can possibly imagine if you build that mindset you need to push yourself to make that all important decision to just start.

You have everything you need to make an impact in the world if you can get past the many reasons why should postpone that task. Don’t think too far into the future.

Use what you have right now at where you are and witness the magic of getting things done.

Read the other five truths on the Pocket web site.

The Ninety Minute Self Help Book Challenge

Below is the opening of a new article that can be found on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Last month I highlighted a strategy by Darius Foroux. He claimed a reader could get just about everything useful out of a self help book in only ninety minutes.  To explore his technique I tested it out on Joy at Work by Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein.  Here’s what I found.

Step One in Foroux’s method was to pick the book wisely.  I choose Joy at Work. It is a follow-up to Marie Kondo’s best selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up which focused on the home. My family had fun applying the Konmari principles to our house last summer, so I was curious to see how the philosophy could be transferred to the workplace. Given that I am a firm believer in GTD, I was also interested in learning how her techniques complimented and contrasted David Allen’s classic approach to getting things done. 

Learn what happened in Steps Two, Three and Four by reading the rest of the article at the Efficient Librarian web site.

What is Killing Your Focus?

Have you ever been distracted?

We are often our own worst enemy, as it is very easy to be enthralled by the next shiny bauble. However, sometimes it is other who distract us. The ability to focus is key to getting anything done well. There are many possible reasons for our inability to focus. In his recent article The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus published in the Harvard Business Review, writer William Treseder narrows down the culprits to two specific causes, our electronic devices and meetings.

First, we increasingly are overwhelmed with distractions flying at us from various connected devices. Smartphone and tablet use is spiking, and we now use digital media for an average of over 12 hours per day. This hyper-connected state does not allow us to process, recharge, and refocus.

Second, we rely excessively on meetings as the default form of interaction with other people at work. Studies indicate that we spend anywhere from 35–55 percent of our time, and sometimes much more, in meetings. If we want to stay focused on truly meaningful activity, something has to change.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

How do we get around these obstacles in order to better focus? Treseder suggests several approaches. For example, to make meetings more useful he suggests we shrink the number of people in attendance.

Countless studies, starting with this 2015 HBR research, have shown the benefits of smaller teams. Focus and responsibility are more challenging with too many people — which is how you end up with folks staring down silently at their laptops for an entire meeting. To stay focused, keep your team focused. Limit the number of people in any meeting to eight or fewer unless it is a meeting that is purely informational.

Read the full article to learn the other suggestions that will

Speed Reading Self Help Books

Even though I am a librarian, it has been a struggle lately to read books cover to cover. Perhaps it is due to age, or the pandemic stress, or simply competing demands on my time, but sitting down with a book is not simple anymore. Yet there are still many titles I want to read for self development. What can I do?

The answer might be to follow the advice in the article How To Read A Self-Help Book In 90 Minutes by Darius Foroux. He outlines a simple four step plan to quickly identify and deploy the most useful pieces of advice from any book. For example the first step is to choose wisely:

Why do you read a book? Is it because someone recommends it? Or because it’s an NYT bestseller? Those are lousy reasons to pick up a book and invest your time in reading it.I have only 1 question that helps me to decide reading a book: Is this book currently relevant to me? In other words: Will this book help me now? If the answer is no, I don’t read it. … You can’t expect to retain the information you read forever. That’s why you want to read books that are relevant to you.

Darius Foroux

I am going to use his approach to tackle Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein. In a future article I’ll share my summary of the key points and my experience using Foroux’s system.

The Art of Stress Free Productivity

Today I want to share a classic David Allen video.

When I first discovered GTD back in 2011 I searched for anything related to David Allen and his teachings. One of the most impactful pieces was a video of his first TEDx talk from Claremont College. I have lost track of the number of times I have watched it, but it always yields something new on repeat viewings.

Right off the top, David shares a central theme of GTD. It is the idea of appropriate engagement:

“Getting things done is not about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with what’s going on. Appropriate engagement is the real key here. Many times not getting something done is the way to appropriately engage with it. … There is some key, something unique about being appropriately engaged. Why does a crisis get us there? Because it forces us to do the behaviors that get us there.”

The video is twenty two minutes, but it is time well spent. Share in the comments your biggest insight from watching it.

How Leaders Make Decisions

Leadership at one of its most basic levels is the science and art of decision making. To be a leader is to be someone who makes decisions.

This past week I had the honor to present a webinar for PLAN titled “How Leaders Make Decisions.” The webinar explored ideas such as “kind” vs “wicked” environments, the dangers of decision making fallacies, and how to bring a team together around a decision. The script of the talk is available in the Articles section of my web site.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Here is a short sample of what I discussed:

We make decisions constantly ever day of our lives.  Most of our decisions are small and only affect ourselves.  However, leadership decisions directly affect others, ranging from a small few to an entire organization.  Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the art and science of decision making not only for themselves, but their colleagues and customers.

Decision making can be very challenging for leaders because of the impact.  Since leadership decisions often have public implications, leaders are subjected to second guessing regularly.  Psychologically the very act of making a decision is stressful because of the risk of making the wrong choice.  Every decision we make means all other options were rejected in favor of one choice.  This sense of finality can be scary.  Sometimes people avoid making a decision altogether.  However, not making a decision is a form of decision making with consequences in itself.  Deferring decisions may be useful at times, but often there comes a point where making a decision is unavoidable.

Read the rest of the article to learn more.

Building a Second Brain – The Podcast!

Just a quick post to share news about a new podcast from a thinker who has been featured on the Efficient Librarian. Tiago Forte has created a podcast series based on his signature work, Building a Second Brain. In the podcast, Tiago summarizes and explains important aspects of his work. Even better, the episodes are purposefully kept short for easy listening.

Here’s the official description:

Overwhelmed by consumption? The Building a Second Brain Podcast gives you the tools to thrive in the Information Age. Tiago Forte teaches you how to turn your notes, bookmarks and unread articles into completed creative works. Learn how to build your own “Second Brain” – a trusted place outside your head where you can collect your most important ideas and insights, and use them to do your best work. You’ll discover why many myths about the creative process hold us back, and how replacing them with a modern approach can unlock our true creative potential. You’ll be amazed at what you can create with the right frame of mind.

Listen to the Building a Second Brain podcast by downloading it on your favorite device.

Productivity Guilt

I have come to realize that this is a pandemic is a strange time to evaluate productivity. Our society is in a weird space were many people are over worked due to the essential nature of their jobs. Conversely, many people are now under worked due to being laid off or furloughed. It is the very few whose work continues unaffected by the disaster.

No matter where your work lies on this continuum, the changes in the world around us have an impact on our mental state. With so much of the future unknown a new definition of productive is needed. With this in mind I came across an article by Scott Young titled, “What is Productivity Guilt? (And How Can You Prevent It?)” In the piece he provides advice on how to be easier on yourself to avoid productivity guilt. For example:

Accept that you’ll always be imperfect. That’s okay. Everyone is. Nobody, including me, does everything perfectly all the time. … I go through phases where my habits evolve. Old ideas I wrote about get replaced with new ones. Not always because the new is better than the old, but because I’m always changing (as will you). If you see, instead, that everything I’ve written about is a static and permanent part of who I am, when you sum it all up, you’ll get to something that’s probably unmanageable as a whole.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Young goes on to provide the following advice when facing the specter of productivity guilt:

The real source of the guilt, however, isn’t because the standards imposed are too unrealistic or even undesirable, but because there’s always a gap between how we see ourselves and how we would like to be. The right move to make is always one that pushes you a little, but takes where you are as a starting point. That also includes your psychological strengths and weaknesses.

The rest of the article is available here.

How to Stay Positive in Stressful Times

With the daily onslaught of tough news in the midst of the pandemic, is it possible to stay positive in these down times?

Last month our regional library cooperative SEFLIN offered an answer with the help of Positivity expert Shola Richards. I had the good fortune of meeting Shola in person at the Florida Library Director’s meeting in Tallahassee. His energy and enthusiasm for making our workplaces better is refreshing and inspiring. In his webinar, Shola laid out the keys to staying positive in the face of adverse conditions. Below is my understanding of two important keys to achieve peace in this crazy world.

Shola Richards

Focus on What You Can Control

Shola suggested we let go of the things outside of our control and recognize all the things we can control. Whether it is helping others, being kind, cleaning, talking a walk, or starting a new hobby, we can always shift ourselves with the right intention. Specifically, he identified three things we have power over:

  • Our Actions – What can I do to make a difference?
  • Our Effort – Am I doing my best?
  • Our Attitude – Is what I am doing filling me up or draining me?

Practice Self Compassion

Shola encouraged participants to recognize that life is hard right now. So it is okay to lower your expectations and celebrate small wins. We simply cannot do all the things we use to do. Slowing down provides us time to be kind to ourselves and others. We can enjoy small indulgences, like that extra piece of chocolate or another episode of your favorite show, knowing that it is helping us get through another day. Self-compassion not only helps you, but also everyone you are living with as it creates a less stressful environment.

To learn more about Shola and the Positivity Solution, I encourage you to visit his web site and sign up for his weekly newsletter. While there, you can also view his TEDx Talk.