Work Harder, Not Smarter

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Productivity blogs, like this one, hinge on the idea that people can do more, accomplish more, and achieve more by “hacking” our way to some work-utopia.

You’ll hear the word “multitasking” and the promise of 2x – 10x the work output.

And it’s a lie.

You don’t get something for nothing. In this case you get less for more.

Want proof? Try this little experiment and see how well you multitask. I did this in a training class and it really opened my eyes.

Multitasking is a literately a waste of time. The more tasks you try and accomplish the lower your quality and longer your time will be.

If you focus on one task, keep that focus, and only move on when your task is complete, you’ll be better of in the long run.

It’s harder than you think. Its something I struggle with. See that new mail notification? Turn it off. Does your computer ding when you get an alert? Turn it off.

Smart phones are a whole different level of distraction. I won’t get into here.

Try it this week. Do one thing at a time. Don’t switch tasks. Don’t glance at email. Just keep plugging through. I’m betting you’ll struggle at first and get better over time.

The Myth of Multitasking Test

Baby, I love Your Way…

Remaking a classic song while combining it with a southern rock anthem is a risky move that might not pay off, except when it did.

People deal with risk on a daily basis. It might be eating at restaurant with questionable health standards, picking a fight with a competitor, or driving too fast in a snowstorm (I did this this morning).

The article below is about the risk associated with investing. It talks a lot about the ups and downs of money management and how it connects to the teaching of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The takeaway is that while risk can be mitigated in dozens of ways the solution is always the same: action. Concentrated directive action. The phrase “face your fears” is an oversimplified way of saying mitigate your risks.

Figure out the thing that needs to be done and do it.

Risk, and the associated emotional baggage, is something that is neither avoidable or crippling.

You might not get food poisoning, lose a fight you started, or get overly sideways in your car if you objectively examine situations and take proactive actions. Rational intentionality is the only real medicine for risk.

If you read the article, try and ignore the investing angle, and look at the concepts from a larger perspective.

Conquering your fears means conquering the game.

Nietzsche, Optimizing Risk And Embracing Disasters

The Road To Good Intentions is Paved With Hell

Tonight’s thought on productivity centers on leadership in reverse.

There is an argument for the delegation of tasks to the most suitable person. The basis of this argument is efficiency and productivity. Fast and efficient workers work fast and efficiently. I agree with this approach. But what if that person is you?

Leaders do more harm by doing things they are good at rather than handling off tasks. It doesn’t make sense from an efficiency standpoint.

What you, as a leader, are doing when you do take tasks yourself is deny your team the opportunity to learn. You’ve failed your team on the promise of development and training.

We owe it to our people to give them opportunities to try new things and gain new skills. Will they fail? Yes. Will they get discouraged? Yes. Will they want to give up? Yes.

That’s when a true leader shows up and provides guidance and encouragement. That’s when YOU need to fill your role as a mentor. When an employee grows you make your business stronger.

Do yourself a favor and do someone else a favor.

Leaders Doing What You’re Good At Hurts Your Team

Old Hotness. New And Busted.

Time for a quick, easy productivity tool.

The temptation for office dwellers these days is to keep everything in a computer. It makes sense. Computers never forget or lose things. People do.

Our brains didn’t evolve using computers. The interworkings of our minds can’t make sense of it. We have a harder time with recall when typing versus handwriting. Here’s an NPR story about how handwriting is linked to memory.

We evolved using paper. Many high end professionals are ditching electronic tools for good old fashioned paper. I went back to pens and notepads and have found my memory improved.

The links I’m sharing tonight discuss the power of the index card. Writing things out is a lost productivity power tool.

You can get a pack of 100 for less than a buck. The value you get will far exceed the cost.

The Lost Art of Index Cards

Why Index Cards Are an Invaluable Productivity Tool

Does Anyone Really Know What’s Important

It’s common in the business world to compare yourself to your competitors. Judge your success by someone else’s. We call it benchmarking.

The more evolved term is “metrics” or “industry best practices”.

Seems like a reasonable approach. But what if your competitors have it wrong? Maybe your data isn’t worth comparing.

This is the argument Seth Godin makes. Sometimes it’s better to find the things that matter to you and ignore everyone else.

Don’t Steal Metrics

Yo, Alexsirioogle! I Need Milk!

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I was introduced to the concept of frictionless productivity a few years ago. It is an effort to get the productivity tool out of the way of the user.  Zero resistance and 100% task capture.

There are apps and tools that claim to crack the code in one way or another. The problem is that while a well designed app might look good, does it function in the real world? Is it something you want to use? Is it something you will continue to use? Many times the answer is no.

Getting Things Done is based on the capture of everything that enters your mind that *might* need attention at some later date. I’ve written about it before. The capture points, inboxes, are meant to be reachable at all times regardless of circumstance. The problem is when you go to put this into practice. These might be a notebook, an email, or a voice mail.

You will not always have a pen. You will not always have a notebook. You won’t be at your computer. And the “stuff” that needs attention keeps rolling in and you might not be inclined to stop and write a note to yourself. That’s a bad thing. Cluttering up your mind with undone todos will create stress.

Enter the world of digital assistants.

Alexa, Siri and Google are the big ones. Most people have access to one or more of these services. What is interesting about these is the way they can be leveraged for productivity

Have you ever opened your fridge and find yourself staring at a 99% empty milk jug? Rather than having to remember to get milk you can yell out: “Alexa, put milk on my shopping list!” And presto you’ll find milk on your shopping list. This is especially helpful when your hands are full of kids, stuff, or bacon grease.

Many of these digital assistants can be integrated with an online task keeper. I personally use Alexa and Todoist. When my kids come to me at 10:30 at night for something, I can just yell the command at my Echo Dot and forget about it. No more grabbing my notebook and pen, turning on the light, scribbling the “thing” down and trying to get back to sleep. When I review at my Todoist inbox the “thing” is usually there.

There are issues. I’ve added “send an email to person X about thing Y” to my shopping list several times. I’ve found “yogurt” on my todo list. It happens but this isn’t the really big issue.

Privacy is the big problem. If you think your phone is listening to you, it probably is. 

Alexa has been known to do some creepy things. If you own an Amazon Echo you should already know the risks.

That being said, the use of a digital assistant has greatly improved my capture rate which improves my task completion rate. Fewer things get forgotten. More things get done. Frictionless productivity, just as promised.

A Completely Different Method

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There are a TON of people, like myself, in the productivity and development blogging space. Some take the path of focusing on one subject and creating lots of content. Others, like myself, tackle a single subject at a time.

And then there’s Nicholas Bate.

He runs a productivity blog called Strategic Edge and takes slightly different angle. I present a single tool, concept, or commentary per post. Think of it like a targeted, surgical strike that drives to the heart of a topic.

Nicholas takes the carpet bomb approach. His blog regularly featured dozens of posts on a related topic. The post I’ll share here is called “The Simplest of Productivity Boosters”. It contains the FIRST 26 of 50 entries. I expect tomorrows blog to have the remaining 24.

And he does this all the time. He’s a study in voluminous, high quality, hyper specific content. His site is no frills and his content is easily accessible. Take a look and subscribe to his site. I hope you learn and much as I have.

The Simplest of Productivity Boosters

The Secret to Getting Everything You Want

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That’s a bold claim. And I have no idea how to deliver on that promise.

What I DO know is that I’m not the smartest guy in the room. I once heard a guy say find the smartest guy in the room and stand next to him. I do it as much as possible. If you are the smartest guy in the room, you need to find a new room.

Jim Rohn is the smartest guy in the room. Any room. He’s been dead for 10 years and still runs rings around so-called productivity gurus. His commentary and guidance has become the most relevant material I’ve ever encountered.

There are a ton of videos on YouTube but this one is a great place to start. 22 minutes I’m asking you to invest in yourself. My guess is you get more than you ever wanted.

Two can play that game..

Influence is somethings that can either help you to the top or sink you like a stone.

I had a college text book by Robert Cialdini called the Tools of Influence. In short, it’s worth a read to both understand how to influence people and when you are being influenced.

Think of it as an inoculation against clever salespeople. Ever buy something from a guy and wonder “How’d that happen?” When you spot it, you can turn the tables. Note: I do this all the time.

These days an article is enough to get you started. If you have a job (like mine) where influencing people is a critical skill, knowing the techniques makes things a lot easier.

Principals of Influence

The Tools Of the Trade

I’ve been doing too much heady stuff lately. Tonight I offer a neat productivity tool.

Taking physical notes is a better way to capture information than clacking away on a laptop. I prefer the feel of paper and a good pen or pencil. The problem is that unless your notebook is with you 24/7, there’s always a chance you’ll need something and be able to find it.

Enter e-notetakers.

iPad Pros with Apple Pencils are a fantastic tool for taking notes. They will also set you back $800 plus.

An alternative would be to strip down the device to a single feature. Note capture like paper but in electronic form. The Boogie Board does exactly this.

Retina display? No. 300+ dpi e-ink? Not exactly. Will it make all the cool kids want to be your friend? Not a chance.

What the Boogie Board Sync will do is offer a paper like drawing surface with real-time Bluetooth sync to a phone. For $80. It does one thing really well.

If you’re looking to change up your information capture methods this might be worth a look.

Boogie Board Sync