How to Be More Productive When Your Days are Unpredictable

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:

  1. Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
  2. 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.  

 

Optimize Your Productivity: The Counterintuitive Approach to Get More Done in Less Time (Today)

optimize-your-productivity-the-counterintuitive-approach-to-get-more-done-in-less time-today-kindle-book

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:

  1. Where to Start
  2. Driving Factor
  3. Energy
  4. Neuroscience Considerations
  5. Anticipatory Thinking
  6. Time and Efficiency Management
  7. Goal Setting
  8. Prioritization
  9. Advanced Productivity Techniques
  10. Productivity, Optimized
  11. Appendix A: Quickstart Guide
  12. Appendix B: App Guide
  13. 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.