Pondering Productivity…

October 28, 2009 by Rose Cook

When I talk to people about juggling work and life, often the conversation turns to “How can I be more productive?” and “If only I could find a way to get more done…”
Well, some of the most productive people I know are the ones that have the most on their plate.  So, how do they do it all?

If you take a poll of these highly productive people, you can bet they will have these TWO things in common:
ONE – They have a trusted system to keep them organized.
TWO – They have a disciplined approach to applying that system.

Over the years I’ve tried several productivity systems or approaches…

There’s Franklin-Covey… I was a Franklin planner “geek” for many years and loved Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  He emphasized keeping focused on your personal mission, values, and goals.  Believe it or not, I still carry around my original handwritten “governing values” from the 1990s (and they still apply!)  Powerful stuff.  Covey’s approach is more “top-down,” i.e. start with the big picture, then drill down and prioritize the tasks you need to do each day.

More recently, I’ve been trying my hand at David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach, known to his followers as simply “GTD.”  Allen’s approach is more “bottom-up,” i.e. “collect and capture” all the “stuff” you have to do first, then “process and organize” it all.  Next, regularly “review” before you actually “do” the tasks at hand.  Finally, align these tasks/actions with your higher level “horizons of focus” (i.e. bigger picture vision, mission, and goals.)  He stresses the importance of getting everything “out of your head” and into a “trusted system”.   I love how he makes the computer analogy to freeing up your RAM by doing this “mind dump.”  Simple, yet very effective.

I am also a big fan of Jim Loehr’s “The Power of Full Engagement” where he stresses the importance of managing your energy, not your time.  It’s not so much a productivity system, but more of an approach.  He emphasizes the need for “rest and recovery” in order to be at your best, just like an athlete in training.  You can go to his Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL for “corporate athlete” training.

For an entertaining comparison of the 3 productivity gurus – Covey, Allen, and Loehr (cited above), read this Fortune article here.

It doesn’t matter so much which productivity system or approach you take.  I, myself, use some concepts from each of the three described above.  Just as my spinning instructor tells me regularly, “Do what works for you!”  If you love technology, go capture everything electronically.  Prefer the manual method?  Go grab that paper and pen!

What’s most important is to be disciplined about applying the systems, no matter which you choose. In addition to utilizing your system daily, dedicate time each week to capturing all your projects, next actions, goals, appointments, thoughts/ideas, etc.  Why not schedule an appointment with yourself every week?  (I do my “weekly review” every Monday morning from 7:30-8:30am and I do my best not to break that commitment to myself.)  Treat it with the importance of a 1-on-1 with your boss.  After all, you are the boss of YOU!

You’ve heard the saying that “anything you do on a regular basis becomes a habit,” right?  Like regular exercise, this weekly review is a healthy habit worth developing.  Consider it a small (yet extremely valuable!) investment in making yourself more productive and effective.

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