Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Grow Your Personal Productivity

In 2014 at age 44 I ran the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC. It was my first Marathon (I made a goal to run a Marathon before I was 45 ... achieved!!!). But this was not something that happened overnight. In fact it was a long process that started 4 years earlier.

In 2010, I started a couch-to-5k running program and successfully ran my first 5k about 4 months later. Between 2010 and 2014 there was a lot of running and some injuries and some time off and then lots more running.  Running is very similar to learning productivity frameworks and tips, it takes time and it's not always easy

Let's discuss the basics of a productivity road map.

1. Awareness

There is the need to be aware of your surroundings and your personal behavior.  That means that you must know that you crave change and you are willing to see some of the ugly underside of your current situation.

If you start to forget something important or you have a constant sense of stress in your gut, this is an alarm bell that something is going on that is disturbing the normal operation of your life. You have choices.

  • You can ignore it (this only work for a little while).
  • You can numb it (e.g. TV or drink; this will defer but not solve the situation)
  • You can analyze it (this would be the recommendation of this article)

2. Sense of Control

Once you have an awareness, you need to know that YOU can do something about the situation.  This is where a change in thinking is required.  And it really is more a mindset change than a change in your title or your capabilities or your status in life.

If you were to go to a party at a friends house and your friend was busy meeting and greeting guests and you sat in the corner and played with your iPhone and felt lonely. Who's fault would that be?  One mindset believes it's your friend's fault because he or she didn't spend time with you.  Another mindset would suggest that this is your fault because could make different choices.

What was the difference in those two mindsets.  The first mindset was a sense of no control and the result was inaction.  The second mindset suggests that you had control but chose inaction.  If the second mindset is true, then you actually had control of the situation.  In which case, you could now turn the lonely evening into an opportunity to meet new people or help your friend.

The power of your mindset  is incredibly strong and will give you the sense of control to attack situations with an outlook of control and confidence.

3. Be Proactive and Plan

Now that we understand the power of our mindset, we can do things differently in life. This notion of control of self is a muscle that needs exercise in the form of being proactive.  In the party situation above, being proactive would be to say hi to a stranger or perhaps ask your friend if he or she needs help.

In the larger scheme of a busy life, being proactive is taking time to analyze and understand your commitments and then put things in place to get your commits done a little earlier or set up things in life so you can make less decisions on the fly because you've done a little planning.

The best example I can think of is morning exercise. Here's how the proactive part fits into this.  The act of putting shoes, running shorts, running shirt, watch, heart rate band, iPhone airband and headlamp in a pile in my bathroom the night before enabled me to overcome the friction of sleep and lethargy.  It's a small act that took 5 minutes or less, but it made all the difference because I primed my mind for exercise through the preparation and I removed friction when I tired and weak willed in the morning.

Being proactive is the action you take or the thinking you do that precedes an outcome you want to change.  The results of being proactive is usually removing friction to do something or a smoother outcome for you and those around you. 

Another example of changing an outcome would be meeting preparation. If you create a goal and agenda for a meeting, you can more easily keep people on track and you are much more likely to achieve the expected outcome.

The cycle of Awareness, Sense of Control and Proactivity & Planning will continually feed itself.  There are so many more steps to take in the game of productivity.  And so many additional frameworks and tactical approaches.  A good starting point is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  This is book covers mindset and many practical approaches.

Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen is one of the most well known and effective frameworks.  Unlike the 7 Habits, GTD is very tactical and can be directly applied.  The 7 Habits is actually a meta-framework and is a useful philosophical framework no matter what choices you make in daily life.

For those who love to read and can consume information with unbelievable speed, check out the 50 best productivity blogs.

Please let me know what your greatest struggle is when adopting a productivity philosophy and framework?  Send an email or comment below.

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