Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

The Dirty Truth Behind Goalsetting: The DOPA Traps

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Setting goals has been a fixed part of my life for years now. What only recently joined in though, was actually realising those goals.

I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve written down list upon list of goals. Only to find the paper six months later, crumpled underneath a pile of junk. And – surprise – nothing discernible had changed in the meantime.

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Telecommuting: How To Increase Productivity From Your Couch

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Congratulations, you can work from home! It’s a great freedom to be able to combine your household with work, to not have to commute… But with freedom comes responsibility. What if you spend all day caught up in home affairs? Or you’re sitting there in your pyjamas with no-one to check on you and you find you’re not getting much done at all?

Working from home could cost you your sixpack

Working from home could cost you your sixpack

Part 8/8: Telecommuting: How To Increase Productivity From Your Couch

1. Create a divide between home and work. It can make a world of difference to have a separate work space. Ideally, you have an office or studio at home or in the neighbourhood. Failing that, just a room with a door you can close. If none of these things is available to you, you can always buy a Chinese screen. Et voilà – instant office.

2. Put on your work clothes. Don’t keep running around in your pyjamas! Dress like you would at work. Because you know what? You actually are. The clothes bring you in the right mood to work, and it’s a lot less embarassing when your colleague pays you an unexpected visit.

3. Come on time. So you don’t need to do traffic jams – enjoy that extra cup of coffee! At the same time, respect the working hours that you’ve set out for yourself. If not, you could end up being one of those people that loafs around all day and then when there’s fun to be had, ‘has to finish something’. Shame!

4. Don’t watch TV. Don’t go to the movies, or the launderette. You’re working, so work. Of course, be sure to take a well-deserved break now and again and remind yourself how great it is to work from home.

5. Go out to lunch. Working from home is liberating but also isolating. Keep in touch with your friends and colleagues, forge new connections and connect to the world by going out to lunch. Better yet, go to business networking lunches!

6. Have someone to answer to. It’s easier to work when there’s someone watching and when we need to justify our time. So get one of these mechanisms to work for you (without making it disagreeable). Ask on of your colleagues or friends to check on you.

Telework - increase productivity from home

That’s the end of this series of articles on productivity! I hope your work and life have taken a spectacular new turn because of them. If not, maybe you picked out just one element that you’ve been able to use at work to be faster, more efficient and effective.

Here’s the other articles again:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed
  6. How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps
  7. Managing Email Overload: 8 More Fast And Easy Techniques

If you have any feedback, please let me know!

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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Managing Email Overload: 8 More Fast And Easy Techniques

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

After last week’s article about dealing with an overflowing inbox, this week I’ll add some more handy tricks to have less quantity and more quality email in your life.

Less email

Part 7/8 – 8 Practical Solutions To Email Mismanagement

1. Delete newsletters. Face it: you’re never going to get through all those interesting newsletters and offers. Let it go, you can find whatever you need in Google when the time is right. So delete all those daily, weekly and other digest mailers from your ‘To process’ and press that Unsubscribe button.

2. Send less emails. Call, or visit. Get your answer from the horse’s mouth, and avoid endless email conversations with half the world in CC. Do not mail someone who is sitting across from you! A good test: when you feel the impulse to send a mail ask yourself: ‘Can I solve this myself?’ You probably can, can’t you!

3. Summarize. Some people are addicted to email. They’re like living status updates, including every thought they have and sending it to everyone even remotely connected. Very tiring, especially when they contain small todo’s for you. How to deal with them? Scan the contents quickly, don’t answer them and collect them in your ‘Action’ folder (see the previous post on email management).

Plan some time to process them. Then group them by sender, go through them in one go and write down the todos. You can even send that person an email with your list, just so they know you’re on it.

4. Send shorter emails. Do not rewrite the bible. Long emails are tiring to read and no-one really gets what you’re saying anyway. Less is more. Keep it under 4 sentences. Or how about this for a short answer: resist the urge to answer at all. If you want a friendly chat with lots of fluff, call them.

5. Check your emails less. 3 to 5 times a day should do it. You can always be on top of things and make sure everything is take care of. Even better: you can let things run their course while you get your work done.

6. Make rules. You could apply a CC filter that makes mails that aren’t addressed directly to you go to a separate folder. You can plan some time to go through it, without wasting time on email conversations. Stop being irritated with it, just ignore it.

7. Feel free to delete a lot of emails. Emails is like stuff in the attic: very hard to get rid of. What if you ever need any of it again? I can personally say that I’ve hardly ever needed any of my emails again, and when I did I found another way to deal with the situation. Live in the present, let go of the past. You can do it!

8. Avoid working double. When you get the same question all the time, write down your answer in a document or email template. Or put it on the website, and refer to it in your answer.

Get less emails

The next and last article of this eight-part series will lift the veil on how to work from home and still be efficient.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed
  6. How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Do you have control over your email, or do you suffer from email overload? You may actually be neglecting your work and losing incredible amounts of time. Many people could safely change their job to ‘Email Specialist’, because all they seem to do all day is send emails to and fro.

Do you recognise this story? You’re working on something and a mail comes in. You lose focus and read the email. You may be busy for five minutes writing a reply, or performing a quick task. When you’re done, you have to return to the work you were doing. You need to get into your work from scratch again, losing you time again regaining your focus and flow. Getting started is the hardest part of any job and we make ourselves do it over and over by allowing email to distract us.

Tired of e-mail overload? Ready for a new way, with less time spent finishing tasks and less time handling emails – and at the same time getting more done? Let’s get it on!

Email Time Management

Part 6/8 – Dealing With E-mail Overload – In 3 Easy Steps

Lesson One: Email is not your friend. We instinctively look forward to email because it brings us exciting news and fun tasks. Sadly, most of the time it brings you routine stuff that just distracts you from what you could be doing. Keeping your mailbox open all the time is one of those universal habits that doesn’t make any sense. If you want things to happen to you, you need to make them happen.

Email is like an unruly child that you need to take charge of. If you don’t, it’ll take over your life with its endless interruptions and often senseless requests. So let me show you a way to deal with email that takes only five minutes to set up. It’ll help you keep your email in check and give you more space to do your real job.

First Aid for Email Overload

You have a serious case of email overload and you’re losing the pedals. No worries, here’s what to do!

  1. Create an ‘Action’ folder in your inbox.
  2. Go through your mail, pick out the 10 to 15 most important ones and put them in the ‘Action’ folder. Work from here as long as your inbox isn’t cleared.
  3. Create a ‘Temporary’ folder. Put your complete inbox in here. Everything! You’ll be working through this in parts later, for now you can stop worrying about it.
  4. Hey presto, your inbox is empty! Add the most important email tasks to your todo list and start with Email Overload Prevention.

Mail Management

Email Overload Prevention

When dealing with email overload prevention, carry out the following steps.

  1. Work from top to bottom, from recent to older.
  2. Go through your COMPLETE inbox every time you open it. So don’t leave your email open all the time; open it and then deal with the inbox. That means you can’t just ‘check your mail’ anymore, there’s work to be done!
  3. Process quickly. Take one of the following actions with every mail. Don’t spend more than half a minute on any given email.
    • Delete (as much as possible)
    • Archive (when it contains information you may need later)
    • Answer (quickly, in maximum four lines) and delete/archive
    • Put in the ‘Action’ folder and add to your todo list. IMPORTANT: DO NOT work on ANY of your todos while processing your mail! No, not even the small ones.
    • Clear the inbox, close your email programme or turn of the internet.
  4. Limit your email time. Open your inbox a couple of times a day to process it, then close it again.
  5. Only do email. Think of the Golden Rule of Productivity: choose one thing and dedicate yourself to it. There is a difference between emails and the work that they contain – keep them separated. Make a list while you process your emails, then close your email and start on the work (according to your priorities).

Inbox Management

Taking care of old business

So now you’ve got your emails under control. Great! You’re still sitting on a giant dungpile of emails that may or may not contain something important. Here’s how you deal with it:

1. Process it in little parts. There’s nothing more deadening than quickly going through hundreds of emails. Do it in little blocks of 5 minutes and it actually becomes fun! It’s an ideal break from some other work, a no-brainer with instant results.

2. Use the same procedure as for your inbox. Start on top, 30 seconds max per mail, delete as much as possible, only do email…

Do this and your inbox could be cleaned within the week, and the email monster tamed. Congratulations on regaining your freedom! Here, have a badge.

Email Time Management

The next article describes a few more handy tips to deal with email.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Do you feel swamped in work? That’s probably not so much the amount of work, as the way you’re handling it. You may be doing things you shouldn’t actually be doing, and leaving the work that really needs to be done. After reading the previous posts about causes for procrastination, how to deal with it and the Ultimate Way To Increase Productivity, enjoy today’s article with practical ways to become more productive right now.

Part 4/8 – 10 Surefire Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
– Lao Tzu

Don't mess with the man

Don't mess with the man

With a few small changes, you can set a chain in motion to get more done in less time. Here are ten possible changes you can make to achieve just that:

1. Work on your future self – today. Unless you do something about it in the meantime, you’ll procrastinate as much later as you do today. It’s like in Back to the Future – it’s up to you now, in the past of your future, to influence how your future self will tackle his present (gotta love that sentence). That doesn’t mean you should become the most productive person in one day, but you can make an ongoing commitment out of it. Keep working on it, and before you know it you’ll have created it a brighter future for yourself.

2. Be productive, even when you’re not working. Maintain a list with small productive tasks you can do as a break. Cleaning (parts) of your desk(top), calling a customer, looking something up for your next holiday… Things that need to be done and that take no more than five minutes. This kind of thing clears your head, gives you a breather and gets you ready for the next big task.

3. Get up earlier. Are you one of those people (like me) who get up just in time to shower, grab some grub on the go and rush off the work? Why not get up half an hour earlier! Ban the snooze button. It doesn’t make you any more slept out, and your day can begin with a lot less stress. You could even meditate before work!

4. Prepare your day. If getting up earlier isn’t your cup of tea, how about taking time at the end of each day to create some peace of mind for tomorrow morning? Plan your work, put things ready so you can jump right in. That way you don’t need to wake up with that slight feeling of panicky dread at the unpredictability of today’s tasks: you already know what’s going to happen!

5. Put a limit on your time. It’s ironic: so many people work long hours and think they’re doing great. Sadly, the amount of hours spent working are no reference to getting things done. Your mind works better and faster when it has constraints. An impending deadline makes you many times more productive. So harness the power of time: limit the amount of hours you work and work more productively while you’re at it.

6. Limit your todo-list. We often have the tendency to put too many things on the list, and then hop from one job to the other, just getting small parts of each done and generally losing loads of time getting into each task. So make that long, complete list… and then select the 3 to 5 things that you really want to get done. Make sure that when you get these done, you can be satisfied about your day. Start with the most important, before you do anything else (especially before checking your email).

7. Apply the principle of TV commercials. Some TV channels begin with a new programme as soon as the previous one finishes. A few minutes later, in come commercials. Why? Because by then, people are already watching the next programme. They want to see what happens. The same goes for your work: don’t take breaks in between tasks, but a little while after you’ve begun a new task. That way you also have concrete things to think about, and you’ll automatically start working sooner.

8. Take short breaks. Everyone deserves a treat after working hard. But don’t break too long! A few minutes to catch your breath is more than enough, rather than losing your momentum with a half-hour break.

9. Fix a time for recreation. Social networks like Facebook are a powerful way to stay connected, but two or three times a day for five minutes should suffice. After that it becomes a waste of time, like many other online and offline recreations. Fix a time for them, like from five to five thirty.

10. Stop reading about time management. There’s a big difference between and being able to do something. You probably already know everything you need, especially if you know the Golden Rule of Productivity. It’s like knowing how a car works, but not being able to fix it yourself. So take one practical thing and do it until it’s a habit.

Too much reading about time management can seriously harm your productivity

Too much reading about time management can seriously harm your productivity

Check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity

Next week’s article is about setting priorities.

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Increase productivity

In the previous articles of this Productivity Series we looked at causes of procrastination, and how to overcome it. In today’s article, say hello to the number one rule of any time management and productivity improvement system.

Part 3/8 – The Ultimate Way To Increase Productivity

You sure you’re ready to stop procrastinating and to get more done, day in day out? All right then, here we go:

The best way to get more done is to choose one thing that you’ll work on next. Dedicate yourself to it entirely, without distractions or multitasking. Turn of ANYTHING that might bother you and keep going until it’s done.

That’s how simple it is! So simple actually, it’s nearly irresistible to sin against. There are always exceptions to the rule (like your office being on fire), but there aren’t nearly as many as we permit ourselves. Every concession to this golden principle is like punching a hole in a bucket. Before you know it you’re losing energy on all sides, and you can’t seem to get anything done.

You could say that most productivity methods are like plasters on a particular leak in a cauldron, more than a general solution. That’s why I prefer giving you the Golden Rule, a whole new bucket to work with. There’ll always be holes here and there, we’re only human.

Improve productivity now

Once you have this one rule mastered, you can use the practical productivity tips and tricks in the following articles to increase your productivity even more!

Previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…

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How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The previous post in this series talked about causes of procrastination. This week, we’re going to begin doing something about it!

Part 2/8 – How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW

Becoming more productive is not a question of working more, but of being smarter about it. That often implies having less on your mind so you can work with clarity and focus. As with many things in life, your resistance to do certain things is between our ears. It’s this resistance you want to deal with, before you begin with any practical techniques to do the actual work more efficiently.

How to overcome procrastination

I’ve tried pretty much everything, and these are the thoughts and things that work best for me. Any of these strategies can give you the momentum you need at a given time to break through your procrastination and get going.

Insight

Identify the reason why you’re delaying. Discover why you’re postponing the work. Reframe your resistance by discovering more about the work to be done. It’s often our fear of the unknown that causes a paralyzing stress, the first step on the slippery slope towards that unproductive frustration. So map things out, create an oversight and insight into what needs to be done. Often, your fears will become considerably smaller.

Dosing

You can’t get everything at once! Install one new habit at a time. Plan time, prepare it, implement it thoroughly and do it until it’s automatic. Make sure you have all the necessary means. Doing things halfway just gives you more work without the benefits.

External pressure

Tell others you’ll be working differently from now on. Find someone who will check on the work you want to be doing. Make sure it’s someone who wants the same as you (so maybe not your boss, that might push his or her own wants upon you) and who doesn’t tend to give you any excuses.

‘Begin’ instead of ‘stop procrastinating’

Your subconscious doesn’t process negatives. What do you see when you tell yourself to stop procrastinating? You probably see yourself procrastinating, right? So every time you tell yourself to stop it, you’re actually strengthening that image. Instead, focus on what you will do. What’s the first thing you’ll do? Take one small thing and start doing it, now.

Begin with the beginning

Often an end result we have in mind can seem so big it’s overwhelming. Forget about having the overview, prioritising, planning… for a second. Let it go. Just do one small thing now, finish it and then do the next. Do that a couple of times, then collect everything into a big picture again. At least, now you’re already created something to work with.

Just do something!

We often stop ourselves from starting because we think we’re not ready yet. We don’t know enough yet, still have to do all kinds of things first… But how often is that really true? What stops you is often less impressive from close by than it initially seems. When you think too much about something, it tends to become an incredible obstacle as all possible scenarios pop through your head. So stop thinking and make a first move, try some stuff out! Trust your instincts and improvisation. Often, the next steps flow automatically from just doing.

How to overcome procrastination

In part 3/8 of this productivity series I’ll tell you about the Golden Rule of Productivity. After that, I’ll give you some practical producitivity boosters that you can choose from. Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind though: clear those mental blockades!

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…

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6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Have you ever made (New Year’s) resolutions? I bet you have! I’ll also wager that most of those resolutions had something to do with your productivity at work. Mainly about how you can increase it, without actually having to work longer hours. Am I right? You want to beat procrastination. Well, that’s exactly what we’ll be telling you how to do in the next eight articles. One per week, so you can take your time with each one.

Reasons for procrastination

Part 1/8 – 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination

How many times have you begun your week full of good intentions, swearing you won’t let yourself be distracted and that you’ll get things done? Only to find that you’re spending time on Facebook again, or checking your emails and not ticking off things on your list.

How is that possible! You just want to get your work done and yet you keep on procrastinating. What little devils are at play here?

1. We want instant gratification. Having a nice nap in the couch may seem a lot more fun than going out running in the cold. Sipping on your coffee and staring out of the window is easier than working on that boring report. Checking your mail or Facebook gives you a quicker result than finishing the project that takes hours of work.

2. We’re afraid. Maybe you’re postponing your work because there’s a problem or question that hasn’t been solved yet. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail or look stupid. Sometimes it’s easier to do something easy and save the real work for later. That way, you don’t get confronted with possibly negative results.

3. We get paralysed by perfectionism. If you like things to be done really well it’s probably going to take a lot of work. Just thinking about the work your project will take, you could easily get slightly stressed. In fact, it can make you so stressed that you never get started. You’d rather dream about the result than have to face the possibility of not having a great result.

4. We’re not children anymore. When we were in school, there was a teacher breathing in our necks that chided us for not doing our work. In some work environments, the same applies. Under external pressure, however unpleasant, you do have the tendency to get work done. As an independent adult you’re supposed to be doing this by yourself, which sadly many of us don’t. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you did.

5. We overestimate our future self. We often postpone things because we think we’ll get them done in some bright future where you’re more productive than ever and work is effortless. Sadly, reality tends to be a bit more grim. Sadly if you’re not working on it right now, in your bright future you’ll be the same procrastinator you are today. Why would anything have changed? Stupid future self…

6. We want to do too much. We all know the phenomenon: you get so sick of procrastinating that you swear it’s going to change this time. The first thing you do works, so you get hungry and try to fix everything at once. Soon, you’re so swamped in things to do for the sake of time management that you’re more stressed than before. Exhausted, you give up and fall back into the same old routine.

Our future self may not be as super as we imagine

Our future self may not be as super as we imagine

So how can you overcome procrastination?

Over the course of this series, we’ll take a look at different ways to overcome your internal procrastinator with concrete productivity tips and insights you can choose from (wisely) to become more efficient.

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…

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