Only a Time Lord Has Enough Time

tardis-2311634_1280I’m a big fan of the British SF series, Doctor Who.  In the show, an alien called The Doctor flies around the universe in a time machine called the TARDIS.  While The Doctor has a deep knowledge of  temporal mechanics, alas we humans have a very poor understanding of time.  In fact, we often underestimate how much time tasks take to do even when we should know better.

In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman discusses the “planning fallacy.”  This fallacy occurs when someone routinely underestimates the amount of time it takes to do a task.  For example, if on one occasion we got all the lights and made it to work in 20 minutes, a part of our mind now believes we can always make the trip in that time.  This is despite the fact we know from our prior experience that it normally takes 30 minutes or more.

The repercussion in our daily lives is the tendency to assume we can get more done in a day than is actually possible.  This typically manifests in lengthy to do lists that never get completed.  A practical way to combat the planning fallacy is to make our to do lists shorter.  In her book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, Claire Tompkins suggests the following:

“The problem with underestimating is that you believe you have more time for those things on your list that aren’t getting done, and then you feel discouraged.  Everyone’s daily to do list needs to be a lot shorter.”

She then suggests that we time our regular tasks to determine exactly how long they take.  With this knowledge in hand, we can then carefully plan our day and combat the planning fallacy.

The other way to solve the problem is procure your own time machine, but that might be hard if you don’t have a Time Lord for a friend.

 

LLAMA – Efficient Librarian Webinar

I am proud to announce the upcoming Efficient Librarian webinar, presented in partnership with the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) of ALA.  My intention is to make this a fun, interactive, and highly practical webinar that will provide techniques that can be applied immediately.  The webinar will take place on:

Wednesday, 2/27/2019
  • 2:30 PM-4:00 PM (Eastern)
  • 1:30 PM-3:00 PM (Central)
  • 12:30 PM-2:00 PM (Mountain)
  • 11:30 AM-1:00 PM (Pacific)

LLAMA does require a paid registration for their webinars.  For more information or to register, please visit: http://www.ala.org/llama/efficient-librarian-productivity-strategies-workplace-success

llama

Can’t I Just Ignore It?

Want to guess how many unread emails sit in the average person’s inbox?

10? 20? 40? MORE?

According to a 2017 study, the actual answer is 199!

AdamGrant_2016-headshot_previewAs someone who teaches classes on email productivity, I was dismayed but not surprised by this alarming fact.  The truth is that email comes so fast and furious that it is easy for the unprepared knowledge worker to be overwhelmed.  Yet, is it alright to ignore all those messages and never respond to senders? After all, aren’t they only trying to delegate work onto your already full plate anyway?

In an article for the New York Times, Adam Grant, author of Originals, argues that failing to keep up with your inbox is not only unproductive, but unprofessional as well.  He writes:

“Volume isn’t an excuse for not replying. Ignoring email is an act of incivility.  ‘I’m too busy to answer your email’ really means ‘Your email is not a priority for me right now.’  That’s a popular justification for neglecting your inbox: It’s full of other people’s priorities. But there’s a growing body of evidence that if you care about being good at your job, your inbox should be a priority.”

Read the rest of the article at the New York Times web site.

A Few Thoughts on Procrastination

It has taken me a while, but I have finally come back to the topic of procrastination.  In the surveys for my latest Efficient Librarian workshop, several participants cite procrastination as a big productivity barrier.   After presenting the workshop, a few thoughts on the topic came to mind.

white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

In Chapter One of Getting Things Done, David Allen wrote about “Why Things are on Your Mind.”   In that section, he lists three reasons.  Any of these three in my opinion can become sources of procrastination.  Let’s look at them.

Lack of Clarity on the Intended Outcome – If we don’t have a clear outcome in mind, there will be little energy to do the work and thus procrastination will set in.

Haven’t Decided on the Next Physical Action Step – Often we don’t have the time to think clearly about our next actions.  Without pre-planned simple physical actions, it is easy to put off progress and procrastinate.

Don’t Have a Trusted System to Store Reminders – It is easy to procrastinate when you have forgotten the goals and actions previously decided.  With life moving quickly, the lack of a trusted system leads us to procrastinate on important items as we chase the latest and loudest.

One final thought on procrastination.  Even if we have clarity on the outcome, the next physical action decided and placed in our trusted system, we still may not do anything if one more detail is lacking: passion.  Quite simply, if we are no longer fired up by the purpose of the project then procrastination becomes the easy default.  Sometimes a project that inspired us in the past is only hanging on because of an internal sense of obligation to it.  Feel free to let those projects go.

Ultimately, the good news is that once we have resolved the three reasons listed above, procrastination quickly dissolves to be replaced by purposeful action and energy.  So, what are you procrastinating about today?  Best not to put it off until tomorrow.

Addressing Anxiety

DA-SmallWhen you travel home from work, do you ever feel a small sense of anxiety coming along for the trip?  With input coming fast and furious throughout the day, it is a challenge to process everything during our 9-5 day.  It is tempting to let it all pile up and resolve to handle it tomorrow.  However, when a part of your mind lingers on unprocessed work, it can be a source of deep unease at home.

In a recent blog post, David Allen shares that even a black belt GTDers like himself is not immune from this source of stress.

“I still have to work with myself to ensure I’ve captured, decided, and tracked all the commitments and creativity that happen with phone calls, meetings, social interactions, and even random communications in passing. I do know that this is one of the sources of much of the free-floating anxiety many professionals experience relative to the gnawing sense of overwhelm that is so pervasive. It seems that there is an unconscious part of us that hangs onto all of those incomplete creations. It is a part that will not let go until it can trust those agreements have been kept or re-negotiated with ourselves.”

Learn how David resolves this tension in his own life at the Getting Things Done blog.

GTD + BASB = Better Person

Personal productivity and knowledge management are related skill sets required for most of us to perform our best at work.  While they are both mostly thought of as functional efficiency tools, did you know their practice can also build virtue?

forteTiago Forte of Forte Labs recently shared his thoughts on how productivity and knowledge management skills can increase our own potential to do good in the world.  By committing to Getting Things Done (GTD) and his own Build a Second Brain (BASB) course, Tiago believes that we will become not only more efficient, but also a better person as a result.  He explains how we start the journey this way:

“Often, when we embark on this journey – learning digital fluency, task management (GTD), personal knowledge management (BASB) and beyond – our motivation is primarily one of utility. We want to stop procrastinating, to get more things done, to excel at our work, and have a vibrant, flourishing career. GTD and BASB will absolutely help you meet those goals.

While on this journey, however, we start to realize that GTD and BASB can serve another purpose: sheer pleasure.”

Learn how this eventually leads to mastering higher virtues by reading the rest of the article at Forte Labs.

There is Always Too Much to Do

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?  You know that feeling that there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them in?  This is especially true if you are an “ideas” person whose mind constantly generates new thoughts and insights that eventual lead to a string of projects.  How are we supposed to handle this overwhelm and stay sane?

design desk display eyewear

The first step is to understand that there is always more to do than time allows.  If you follow GTD practice, the generation of action lists and a robust project list will quickly demonstrate this fact.  Accepting that some things will never be done is a part of good mental health.  The trick becomes deciding what is essential to complete in terms of your larger mission and purpose.  Spending a lot of time completing small tasks with little payoff becomes exhausting.  It is far better to complete fewer tasks well that lead to bigger payoffs.

I was once asked this question in an Efficient Librarian workshop: “How often do you empty your action folder?”

I replied that as a functional folder the point wasn’t to empty it regularly like the inbox, but instead to corral actionable items together into one place.  In fact, in the last four years my work email action folder has only been completely empty once.  Since I am very active at work, it may never be empty again until I retire!

So, relax and remember that there will always be more to do than can be done.  The question you have to consider is what is the most important thing to do in the time you have.  That answer will lead you productively and efficiently forward.