A whole industry has been built up over the years around the concept of productivity. It’s been the subject of decades of study and countless written words. Experts have identified the keys to productivity–rules that we’re taught must be followed in order to maximize productivity.
But what if the productivity rules don’t work for you? Can you still be productive?
Productivity Rules That Don’t Work–and Alternative Approaches that Just Might
Full disclosure: I happen to think all of these “rules” are really good advice, and for many people, in most situations, they’re worth trying. But for some of us, in some situations, they don’t work, and trying to live by them will just make us crazy. So in the episode I talk about some alternatives to try when the “rule” won’t work. Below is just a brief summary of some of the points discussed on the show.
1. Check email only twice a day.
- Manage the alerts
- Minimize the window and check only as frequently as you must
- Try an app that hides non-critical emails for later review, but lets messages through from people you identify as VIPs (iOS has a VIP feature). Lots of people recommend SaneBox.
- Episode 224 of Mac Power Users explores email management in depth and offers some great suggestions and tools for managing email.
2. Plan and follow a daily schedule (suggested by Karin Beery on Google+)
- Plan your week instead–a list of priority tasks for the week, that you work on when time, energy, and circumstances allow
- Set realistic expectations for the stage of life you’re in
- Check out the advice in “The Top 5 New Rules of Productivity“
3. Identify your peak times for energy & productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times.
- Make adjustments when you can
- Sometimes you just have to gut it out
- If you’re lagging but need to power through, try
- drink some water
- have a small energy-boosting snack
- take a quick walk, maybe get some fresh air
- try a change of scenery
4. Use 21st-century tools to manage your life online (suggested by Jamie Samples).
- Maybe not. Sometimes analog works better
- Know yourself and what works for you
- Try something new from time to time, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
- Favor the simplest tool or system that gets the job done for you
5. Get up at 5 a.m. and get a head start on your day.
- Alternative: spend some time in the evening preparing for the next day
6. Start your day with quiet meditation.
- If your life won’t permit this now, you can still make the morning more peaceful and productive by preparing the day before and developing small rituals that help you feel calm
7. Do your hardest task first thing in the morning (suggested by Jill Kemerer).
- Again . . . know yourself
- If you’re not a morning person, or if your energy level is higher later in the day, plan accordingly
8. Block out times when you turn off your phone and close your door so you can work without interruption.
- Set realistic expectations
- If possible, find someone to trade time with
- Maybe you can do this for short periods of time
9. Don’t attend meetings unless there’s a clear purpose and agenda.
- Can you talk to the people who run the meetings and offer to put an agenda together?
- Set an example when you run the meeting
- Ask your supervisor if you can be excused
- Take work with you
- If you can afford to, hire help for specific tasks
- Find someone to swap or barter with
- Maybe just recognize that for this season you need to cut back
What do you think?
Do you have a solution for one of these that I didn’t think of? Or is there another productivity rule that doesn’t work for you? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
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