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Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

The Leisure Dividend

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 @ 09:08 AM
posted by admin

The point of productivity is to generate a ‘leisure dividend.’ When you are productive you do more in less time leaving you time left over for not working, for having fun or just relaxing. At least that’s the theory. Some people are naturally productive. They can prioritize instantly, integrate new tasks on the run, and finish what they start. Productivity tools such as mobile devices with multiple functions, apps, and cloud-based tools can increase productivity. The problem is people tend to reinvest their leisure dividend into more work instead of into leisure. Only 38% of Americans take all of their vacation days. 72% check into the office during their vacations. You recall Clement Clark Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas? Remember the line “. ..and mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap. Not, “…had just settled down for a long winters nap”, but instead “…had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.” We need to rest our brains. All that information we are getting? It needs to be digested, it needs to sink in, be reflected upon and that requires rest.

How do you measure personal productivity? Some people are taking a crack at tracking all their time using a variety of apps. I think tracking our time holds some value but the time is takes to do all that tracking might be using up any benefit of time gained being productive in the first place.

If you are someone who strives for productivity but has difficulty realizing your leisure dividend, try doing the following

  • Take whatever vacation you have coming to you. Scientists have found that it takes at least 3 days to relax, and to feel you are on vacation, so take at least 4 days.
  • Full engagement in reading is also a good investment of your leisure divident. In-depth, hard copy book reading is a multi-sensory experience involving motor, visual, materiality, and focus that helps us be engaged but relaxed.
  • Exercise promotes weight control, lowers stress, controls cholesterol, and supports a good night’s sleep making it a top choice for investing your leisure dividend.
  • Sleep a little more or learn to nap.
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The New Done

Sunday, May 15, 2011 @ 09:05 AM
posted by admin

My client Ann needs a new car. Armed with a rough budget and some preferences, Ann went online. She visited the best car buying websites, jumped into chat rooms, and used social media to find out what people thought of various vehicles. She checked CraigsList, and downloaded CarPerks to her iPhone (her 100th app!). Once on this research-train, it was hard for Ann to stop. According to the Information Overload Research Group (who knew?!) 53% of people surveyed believe that less than half the information they receive is valuable/useful. Still we find it hard to resist loading ourselves up on information. Not a great screen-reader, or adept at cut and paste pieces of webpages into files, Ann printed out reams of information. “I can’t be sure the information is in there,” Ann said pointing to her head. What began as a virtual search quickly turned into a seemingly unending tangible research project. When I visited Ann for our time management session she’d been at the car buying project for 3 months. Dan, her husband is supportive, but frustrated. “I know buying a new car is a big decision. But I’d gladly trade-in her thoroughness for getting the job over with.”

In an era of unlimited information, the pursuit of thoroughness is more than time-consuming – it’s impossible. There is always another opinion to listen to or another piece of information to obtain. I believe “done” needs a make-over. Here’s what I think The New Done needs to be:

  • It’s not about you. Finishing a task is not about your standard of completeness, but rather about meeting other people’s expectations or needs. Pleasing a spouse with making a final decision goes a longer way than making the perfect decision which doesn’t exist anyway.
  • Learn to live with your decision. Let’s say Ann narrowed her search to 2 cars and chose one over the other. Chances are great that there is so little difference between them that either choice would be one she could live with.
  • Coming through on your obligations and commitments enhances your relationships. Perfectionism and being overly scrupulous might give you a good reputation for being thorough but you’ll risk injuring your relationships.
  • If you think the stimulation of the hunt for perfect answers feels good, wait till you experience closure!

Organizationally-speaking, The New Done requires a few good practices (I’m not much of a fan of “best practices”. The question, ‘best for whom?’ always stops me cold in my mental tracks.)

  • Corralling information is key. Putting it in a form for easy use, retrieval and re-use such as a spreadsheet or a dedicated file is important.
  • Impose a time limit especially if the task had no deadline or due date. Go for perfect timing rather than perfect information/solutions/ answers.
  • Ask someone else to judge if you are done or not.
  • Know exactly what it is people want from you, otherwise you won’t know if you’ve satisfied them.

“He who knows that enough is enough always has enough” – Lao-Tzu

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The Starbucks Effect

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 @ 06:04 AM
posted by admin

It wasn’t a scientific survey. The results would never hold up under academic scrutiny. But when 23 people are asked the same question and 100% of their responses are qualitatively the same, it’s safe to conclude you’re onto something. That’s what happened to me when I discovered what I call “The Starbucks Effect”™. I carried a clipboard to make me look official, and color copies of the covers of my books proving that I’m a published author. With a big smile, I approached people in Starbucks who seemed to be doing work. “Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m Judith Kolberg, a local author of books about getting organized. I’m doing research for my next book about how people get their work done. My survey takes less than 6 minutes. Mind if I ask you a few questions?” Here’s what I asked: “Is Starbucks a good place to get work done?” To a person, each person answered, “Yes, Starbucks is a good place to get work done.” Why? Being away from the distractions of the office or home was a popular response. And the chocolate/caffeine rush figured into most people’s explanation of why Starbucks is better than the office or home. “It’s kind of noisy”, I said commented over the roar of the espresso machine, clatter of cups and din of voices. “Doesn’t the noise and commotion bother you?” I asked. “No” or “I don’t even notice it”, everyone said.

Productivity, simply understood as planning a task and carrying it out, is a huge challenge for many people. I’m always trying to figure out the reasons why some people pull it off more than others. The Starbucks Effect is one key. It works like this. The external noise and commotion cancels out internal distractions so that a person can concentrate on the task at hand. The more scientific explanation for this is ‘white noise’. In other words, some people can’t take in what’s going on around them, listen to what’s going on in their head, and perform a task at the same time. The mind cannot do all three. Something has got to go. Apparently, the noise level at Starbucks is goldilocks – not too high, not too low…just right to not be distracting itself. It cancels out internal distractions such as random thoughts, ideas, worries, mental to-do list and self-talk so that you can do the task at hand: study, balance a checkbook, read a report, fill out a form, or write an article. I’d always thought the best conditions for getting work done are a quiet spot, without a lot of background commotion going on. For some people it turns out that a quiet environment devoid of activity is itself distracting. It lets those internal distractions run wild. If you are a person who finds it challenging to execute tasks from end-to-end, to finish things, or you’re dissatisfied with your level of productivity, maybe the Starbucks Effect can work in your favor. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks. I have a client who does his taxes at the airport!

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Getting Organized? No. Creating? Yes!

Sunday, March 6, 2011 @ 11:03 AM
posted by admin

“Getting organized”….just the sound of it can sound daunting. What’s worse: dusty new piles of stuff you probably don’t know what to do with, pulled out of your closet that might take you hours to sort through, or your closet stuffed to the max that at least has a visual familiarity to you? Put that way, it probably doesn’t make much sense to get that closet organized.

Too often organizing is thought of as what you will lose – your stuff, time you could be spending on something else, familiarity, etc. But if you think of getting organizing as a creative process rather than a disruptive process, it changes the terms of the problem.

  • Think of yourself as creating jobs. Donate that stuff to Goodwill and the income goes to job-creation programs for poor youth.
  • Give those cool craft items to your local elementary school and you’ll create fun for kids, relief for an art teacher pinched on supplies, and goodwill as a community member.
  • Creating a little cash by having a yard sale could mean the difference between a dollar menu dinner and sitting down at a restaurant.
  • And who couldn’t possibly use the creation of a tax-write off.
  • Create a reputation as a “giver”, as a generous person who passes on items of value to others with no strings attached (i.e. you can’t get miffed if they turn around and give that item away.)
  • Create space – lovely, clear, unmitigated space.

I promise you if you pull everything out of your closet you will experience a period of deconstruction and a bit of confusion. It’s normal for things to get more disorganized before you pass through creation and onto organization. Just knowing that in advance can be a big help. If you hire a professional organizer to help, they’ll keep you motivated, help you make a plan for getting rid of stuff you don’t want, support you in your decision-making process, and some of them will even cart stuff away in their vehicle so you can have that deep out-of-sight, out-of-mind satisfying feeling you so deserve.

Organizing as a Creative Process In the Office

The benefits of organizing as a creative process pays off big time in the office. When you organize your office, you create:

  • a true picture of the active, incomplete work that needs to be finished
  • a better estimate of the time it will take to do the work that’s been hidden by clutter
  • recapturing time that might otherwise be lost looking for missing papers
  • cost-effective use of your office space
  • the security of knowing sensitive information is not just lying around
  • more welcome place for co-workers and clients
  • a productive environment for administrative assistants, team members and others
  • a green reputation as you trot pounds of paper to the recycling bin
  • grateful co-workers who will thank you for finally returning things to them
  • filing…okay so maybe that’s not such a good outcome, but hey it’s better than not knowing where anything is!
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