Some of the leading productivity experts discuss having a system to capture your thoughts and tasks, and then scheduling those tasks accordingly in your calendar based on priority. I also include that approach (as well as other tips) in the overall framework and system I present in Optimize Your Productivity.
When this process is utilized, it is an efficient way to get things done, and it does seem to make productivity easier. The problem, however, is that this process depends on two very important conditions, otherwise it won’t work.
These conditions are:
- Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
- Having sufficient health and energy to get things done.
While I worked in high-intensity environments in the past, where there could be constant interruptions (especially for crises, manufacturing issues, etc.), I felt that the productivity system described in my book would work for the most part, especially if you can account for and accept that sometimes only the highest priority items can get done.
But what if you do not have a relatively predictable calendar, or you are suffering from health issues that make your days quite uncertain? I personally experienced these issues earlier this year, especially the past seven months while I was not feeling well in my pregnancy.
As many of you know, I’m expecting a baby girl in the New Year! My pregnancy was much more difficult this time — from feeling very sick to having to limit my mobility due to back and leg issues. On top of that, I take care of my son (a toddler) most of the time, so between not feeling well and having a mostly unpredictable calendar, my own productivity systems were challenged!
The good news is, I was able to adapt my systems in the event someone has a similar situation — where days are quite unpredictable in terms of schedule or energy level. I was still able to write and publish another book, after all (my second this year!) and I had a number of clients in my online programs this year.
The following slides highlight some tips you can utilize if you are in a similar position, or you can keep reading this article to see the tips explained.
1. Use a notebook or a “non dated” productivity planner.
While I previously used a blank notebook and then scheduled my tasks, I adjusted my system to use an actual productivity planner (this is the one I bought and personally recommend). Previously, my system required a certain amount of discipline to stay on track. With the planner, I was able to use it as a tool to keep me on track for the next few steps, primarily utilizing it as a means to stay organized and monitor my progress on tasks.
2. Identify and write down the most important tasks for the week.
By prioritizing my tasks and having that identified list readily available, I was able to have tasks ready to “pick from” when the individual days would arrive (step 3). This approach ensured I minimized wasting time once an open window did present itself. Instead of jumping all over the place saying, “What should I do next?” I was ready to tackle the most important items I had identified.
3. Review tasks and identify 1-3 tasks to accomplish the next day.
Once you have your priorities written for the week, it’s a good idea to pick the most important 1-3 items to accomplish the very next day. Again, building on step 2, you will be ready once that open window of energy and time presents itself the next day. Also, starting with a realistic number of tasks will help you focus and will minimize overwhelm.
4. Review your planner in the morning and use it to track your progress.
At this point, you will not have to make any decisions. You simply need to work on the 1-3 tasks you identified the night before. This will help you be more efficient and reduce the need to spend energy on decision-making. Further, the planner is set up to focus not necessarily on calendar days, but individual days, and it presents tools to help you monitor your progress for the day.
5. Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.
At the end of each day, you can use the tools inside the planner to assess if there could have been any improvements in terms of how you managed your day.
Once you have implemented these 5 steps, you can repeat the cycle! You will get better and better about knowing yourself, what you can handle and what you can’t, and your productivity will improve, despite the challenging conditions of time or energy.
In summary, I hope this article and presentation help, especially for those who are dealing with unpredictable calendars, caring for dependents, and/or managing health issues.
If you’d like more productivity tips, claim your free Optimize Your Productivity ebook at this link: http://productivity.lisakardos.com.
Deals! Deals! Deals!
Chances are, prior to reading this, you have been exposed to many “Cyber Monday” advertisements today. In fact, if you rewind the clock, you probably saw “Black Friday” ads rolling into “Cyber Monday” ads over the weekend, and before that, “Black Friday Preview” sales earlier in November.
Naturally it’s great to get discounts for holiday shopping, but it can be overwhelming, especially if you set foot inside the stores, though combing through all the web deals can be dizzying as well!
In today’s post, we’re going to review 5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season; we’ll focus on how to minimize overwhelm in the holiday shopping process while maximizing not only your discounts, but also the amount of cash back you receive.
(1) Determine the shopping style that works best for you
Determining the shopping approach that works best for you — whether that’s in person or online (or a combination of the two) is surprisingly a good first step. It gets back to the idea of self-awareness: Know what works for you. For instance, personally I do not like large crowds. In the past, if I went to an overly crowded store, I was actually more apt to leave early and give up on shopping (foregoing some deals) because it was just too much for me. Now that you can buy a lot online, doing a significant amount of online shopping is a legitimate option.
Therefore, it’s good to get a rough idea of how you need to allot your time — will you set a time to go to the store, or carve out some time to comb through stores on the computer? It’s good to ask yourself what you can physically (and mentally) handle.
The step of understanding how to carve out your time (so that you’re not panicking last-minute as the holidays approach) helps with the process of organizing yourself and being more efficient.
(2) Organize Yourself with a Shared List
My next recommendation is to organize yourself with a list. Taking a few minutes to write the names of everyone you need to shop for, and writing out the status update and possible gift ideas can help tremendously. Further, even if your spouse does not get too involved with the shopping, just sharing the list can help you feel less alone in the process.
This year, I decided to make a simple Google Spreadsheet to organize my holiday shopping, and I set it up so that it’s shared with my husband’s Google account. I made significant progress over the weekend once I organized the list (and it feels great to mark off “ordered” or “completed”)!
This list worked hand-in-hand with step one for me, because I was able to figure out who I could shop for online, leaving just a couple gifts for in-person shopping (which I plan to do when it’s a bit less crowded)!
(3) Discuss Expectations with Family
Sometimes part of the stress of holiday shopping includes not knowing what to get people. More recently I have tried the approach of actually talking with family members to get a sense of what they might need, or if they prefer to be surprised. If someone identifies a few items they might need, then it’s easier to keep an eye on those types of items for deals, and it eliminates the overwhelm of not knowing what to purchase.
(4) Learn how to Maximize Your Discounts
Sometimes holiday shopping can be stressful if you find out you didn’t get the best deal possible. To ensure I do not miss out on deals, I carry coupons in my purse (I have a big bag…) and I regularly purge the ones that expire. I used to keep coupons for department stores separately, and then I wouldn’t have them with me when I needed them. Carrying the most current ones has helped ensure I get deals if I do set foot in a store.
Another way to ensure you get the best deals, particularly if you’re shopping online, is to do an email search. If I think I’m about to purchase something in a particular store online, I search the store name in my email account to make sure I didn’t miss any coupon codes that are relevant.
(5) Get Cash Back
More recently, “cash back” credit cards seem to be very popular (I see tv commercials for them all the time). In other cases, you can get points, rewards, or airline miles for your credit card purchases. It’s a personal decision on what kind of rewards or cash back you’d like, but it’s important to consider which card you want to use (if you use one) in order to get the benefits that are the most meaningful for you. Don’t forget that using your department store card can also mean extra discounts sometimes, too!
Interestingly, there is actually another way you can get cash back, that can potentially multiply the benefits from using your reward-based credit cards, and that’s through online cash back services. The one that I’m very familiar with is Ebates. Basically, before I shop, I log into my Ebates.com account (free to create, and sometimes they give you a $10 credit just for signing up — check the current details). From there, I click on the store that I want to shop in, and it tracks my shopping trip from there. If I purchase something from that store, and Ebates says “10%” cash back, that means I get 10% back for my purchases (on top of any other discounts I might have gotten through my cards, etc.)
It’s easy to forget to shop through Ebates, but it’s worth it. It’s also important to mention they have a convenient button for your browser now so that you don’t necessarily have to login if you install it. So far I have generated over $200 in cash back from them, (over $170 in 2016 alone!) Every quarter, they mail a check to my house with the cash back I received, and I simply cash it or deposit in my account.
Today, on Cyber Monday, the cash back is double in some cases. Be sure to check Ebates as you shop today (Macy’s has 12% cash back as an example).
Naturally it can be overwhelming to prepare for the holiday season, especially in terms of holiday shopping, but I hope these five steps about organizing and maximizing your discounts will help you! Good luck out there 🙂
*Note that if you join Ebates through the Ebates link inside this article, I may receive a small credit since it is my referral link. However, I recommend their service regardless based on my experience with them.
Like this post? Download a free productivity book!
It is hard to believe one year has passed since the opening of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence! To celebrate, the school has been updated and modified, and it now includes a new free mini-course! The main changes are as follows:
- New free mini-course.
- 6 total courses are offered now: Design Your Success Course, Optimize Your Productivity, Optimize Your Interview, Leadership Master Class, Resume and Cover Letter Master Class, and a Life Optimization Master Class!
- Design Your Success Academy has been adjusted to be the Design Your Success Course. If you are interested in an “all-inclusive” option the way the Academy was previously offered, you can become a lifetime member of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence to enjoy a bulk discount!
To check out the changes, be sure to check out the link at http://learn.lisakardos.com (if you are a logged in user, you must click “All Courses” to see all the options!).
Also, please be sure to enroll in the free mini-course to get a special discount for the school 🙂
I just published a new presentation on Slideshare about optimizing your productivity (based on my latest book). To view my presentation for free, please click below.
Learn how to “optimize your productivity” in this presentation. ***Includes a free productivity worksheet bundle.***
This presentation defines productivity, and breaks down how we can apply simple engineering principles to ourselves to improve our productivity. It presents a unique approach, in that a framework is presented, as opposed to dictums for you to follow. This framework enables you to customize and work with your individual traits. By working with your individuality, you improve your chances for making actual change in the area of productivity.
For more info, please visit http://optimizebooks.com/productivity.
I had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Evans of The Zone Show podcast in April. It was a wonderful experience being on Tom’s show, where he features experts and authors, as well as his own work, on how to stay in “The Zone,” perform at our peak levels and live life to the fullest.
As explained on The Zone Show site, we explored the following topics during our conversation:
- Crossing the bridge from ‘hard’ science to the ‘gentler’ side
- Taking an engineering approach to personal development
- How to go about ‘re-‘engineering yourself
- Where to start with productivity?
- Using your own victory as a driving force
- The value of actively chilling out
- The power of anticipatory thinking
- Manage your efficiency and you manage your time
- Engineering emotions
- What else can be optimized?
Feel free to listen to our conversation (embedded at the bottom of this post) or visit the podcast site to hear interesting and thought-provoking episodes with other guests at http://www.thezoneshow.com/.
In addition to being a great host, Tom is a very productive author, educator, mentor, creator — someone who provides a lot of value to the world. He has a number of self-study programs and offers help to his clients in numerous ways through his programs, meditations, books, and more. To learn more about Tom and his resources, please visit: http://www.tomevans.co/.
As you may know, I just released my newest book, Optimize Your Productivity: The Counterintuitive Approach to Get More Done in Less Time (Today). Productivity appears to be a hot topic these days. But what exactly is productivity, and why would productivity improvement benefit us?
I view productivity as “personally accomplishing required (or desired) tasks; or ensuring that identified tasks get accomplished, even if not done personally – in the least amount of time possible.” I offer a more detailed explanation of productivity inside the book, but as a start, we can view productivity as a process to get more done (however it gets done – legally and ethically, of course) in less time. Therefore, the idea is not simply to get more done, but to increase the rate, or efficiency, that we can get things done; this will give us more time to add in the things we want in our lives – time with family or friends, availability to pursue hobbies, leisure time, or increased capacity to pursue more work, if desired, for financial or preferential reasons.
The next question is: how exactly can we increase the rate or efficiency that we can get things done? The unique aspect of my new book is that it takes a different approach by using simple engineering principles as a logical framework for self-improvement. Essentially we can make analogies between chemical/mechanical efficiency and human efficiency; we can apply the engineering principles we would use to improve a system in the field, such as in a manufacturing plant, to humans instead. Therefore, we can focus on you as a system to engineer – to optimize. By identifying you as the system to optimize, we take a first step in refining your productivity, just as we would do the same by identifying a specific unit or system in the engineering field. (You may be familiar with my previous work, Optimize for Victory, where I introduced the concept of applying engineering principles to life.)
While it initially may sound mechanical to use engineering principles as applied to humans, the key aspect of Optimize Your Productivity is that your specific person is considered. As we learn to optimize your productivity approach, your specific preferences, traits, and who you are – all important facts and attributes of the system we are optimizing – will be accounted for in the process. Therefore, we can have the best of both worlds – a reliable system to improve your productivity, without sacrificing or “shocking” your system, since drastic changes are often unsustainable in self-improvement. It’s unrealistic for me to tell you, “Live your life exactly this way and you’ll be more productive,” but it is absolutely realistic for me to give you a framework that you can work with, and implement and customize quickly.
Considering your person – your attributes – and working with your individuality is exactly what makes this book’s approach to productivity counterintuitive, instead of commanding you to follow a specific sequence to get things done.
(Note that the book includes supplemental worksheets to help you factor in your personal attributes during the process).
How The Book is Structured
While many books often take the approach of offering many anecdotes to illustrate a point, I take a more streamlined approach in this book. The assumption is that you’re looking to become more productive and efficient – and most likely need the time for other things in your life. Therefore, while I include references and anecdotes, this book is predominantly set up so that it’s easy for you to read and implement. On that note, if you are seeking to overcome a pressing time management issue this very moment, I would suggest checking out the “Quickstart Guide” in the Appendix A: Quickstart Guide. If you can afford to wait a little longer, however, it might be best to read this book in its entirety.
Chapter 1 lays out the foundation of productivity optimization. The causal factors that impact productivity, and the corresponding action steps you can take, are then discussed in Chapters 2 through 8. Chapter 9 focuses on advanced productivity techniques, using the foundation that was set in Chapters 1 through 8. The book is structured as follows:
- Where to Start
- Driving Factor
- Neuroscience Considerations
- Anticipatory Thinking
- Time and Efficiency Management
- Goal Setting
- Advanced Productivity Techniques
- Productivity, Optimized
- Appendix A: Quickstart Guide
- Appendix B: App Guide
- Appendix C: List of Additional Resources
There is a brief App guide in the Appendix. It’s important to note that the focus of the book is not “hack” or “app” based, however; we delve into the deeper issues and perform root-cause analysis. Once you understand the fundamentals of productivity, and factor in your personal attributes, you can design a system that works for you. Only then can you incorporate any apps that complement your system as you see fit. While I appreciate technology, I also value the importance of understanding fundamentals first, before trying to put a “band-aid” on top of an issue.
To learn more about how you can optimize your productivity, and to download a free Kindle version of the book (through April 23, 2016), please visit: http://amzn.to/1Qunbca.