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.
Many of us struggle with overwhelm, especially when we are trying to accomplish a major project or goal in our lives. Often we’ll tell ourselves, “I’ll start it tomorrow when I’ll have more time and energy” or we’ll leave it for the next week. Interestingly, we are not simply avoiding our work; we are saying these things with good intentions. Given the nature of our time and state these days, that we’re almost always running out of time or energy, we dream of those moments of having total clarity and a sense of well-being to get things done (especially the hardest tasks). We suspect that we’ll get them done faster when we feel better and have more energy. While that’s probably true, the “I’ll have more time later” rationale is a vicious cycle; we can end up constantly putting things off and not making progress on the goals or dreams that we would like to realize — because those moments of “more time and energy” rarely appear.
(As a side note — I do discuss some nuances of how to optimize your time and energy to get things done faster in my upcoming book Optimize Your Productivity, but it’s a step beyond this article, where we’ll focus on a specific system to get more done* in twenty-four hours. Stay tuned because you will have a chance to download the kindle version for free in April if you follow my blog/subscribe).
So what is one to do? Often people will give advice and say “Take baby steps.” But then the question becomes, “What does that mean? What exactly is that first baby step?”
Here is a breakdown of how you can approach that first step and why it works:
- Break the task down into the absolute smallest steps possible (if you don’t already have a plan).
Write an outline, do a mind map, or write anything that comes to mind as a possible step (even if it’s the last step of the process). The idea is that you just want to get the ideas and concepts flowing. Later, you can edit the order.
If you absolutely don’t know where to begin, start with what you know. If you are trying to write a blog post, write out titles of other posts you did already. If you’re trying to get a research paper done, start googling ideas or looking up research articles on the topic. Find anything that is related to your topic, just to get going.
If you’re staring at a blank paper or cursor, do something completely different and open up google docs. Recently google docs added a “speak to type” feature. Just start talking about whatever is on your mind and gravitate toward the project you’re working on. Suddenly you’ll find that you start coming out with golden nuggets of information that can help you assemble the skeleton of your project.
In fact, this tool helped me get this post started. My time is extremely limited right now with everything going on, so I decided to start speaking the post out. Before I knew it, I was editing what I spoke initially and then typing/building out the rest of the post! Note that I did start with an outline.
By taking a small action, you “open the door” for the ideas to start flowing in. Be confident in the process and take that small action.
- Edit and re-order your structure of the project. This is an evergreen process because as you assimilate new information of your project, the structure and order can change. If you’re starting from scratch and you just mind-mapped a bunch of ideas for the topic, now try to convert everything into an organized outline.
One note of caution is not to have “project creep.” My old friends from industry will smile when they read this part; project creep — where we get away from the originally defined scope of the project — is a common problem and something we have to be vigilant about. This post does not cover project management in-depth, but it is simply intended to help you take action steps to start feeling better and more comfortable about moving forward. The assumption for this article is that you know exactly what the project is and will stick to the original scope of it!
- Make a micro-commitment to spend at least five or ten minutes on the next task that you have to do for that project. While it may seem like too small of a commitment, you’ll find that once you start, it will be easy to spend another few minutes on it. And if not, five or ten minutes on something is better than nothing.
Some time is better than no time on something, especially because time spent on the project, no matter how small, will kickstart the momentum of it.
To boost your gain on implementing this step, create a log in google, Excel or simply on paper. Make sure you log how much time you spend on the project every day, even if you only keep to the original few minutes.
This is more powerful than you realize! I discussed this concept a lot more in-depth, especially how it was the key to completing my Ph.D. research and dissertation (especially as an exhausted, bleary-eyed new mom), in Optimize for Victory. In fact, there are lots of studies on this topic. I read a great book last year called Mini Habits that explored this technique in-depth; it distilled a lot of the research for the public and even applied it to exercise/weight-loss.
Hopefully this framework will help you, especially if you’re struggling with tackling a big goal or dream. There is much more we can explore with this topic, but this is a good starting point! Feel free to share and comment below!
*”get more done” can mean an individual personally accomplishing the required tasks, or it can mean ensuring the required tasks get accomplished, even if not done personally — or a combination of both.
To learn more about Lisa and access free resources, visit:
Lisa Kardos, Ph.D. blogs about how we can optimize our lives for the better! (achieve happiness, success, and what we hold in our hearts!) She enjoys helping people overcome challenges to achieve their dreams.
Dr. Lisa Kardos has experience in chemical engineering, management, higher education, public speaking, and career development. She is the Founder of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence and the Amazon Bestselling Author of Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams.