Morning Journal vs the Tracking System?

In last week’s post, I talked about the approach I’ve added to my morning routine, particularly the process of filling out a morning journal. A section of that journal is focused on writing out your most important objective (i.e. goal, project, or desire) to improve your focus on your goal. I explained why in last week’s post.

 

I want to address this point because I discuss the ideals of goals vs. systems in my book, Optimize for Victory. While I think it’s important to set goals, I caution people to ensure they do not get overly focused on their goals without having a consistent system or process in place to achieve them. In many cases, we can get overwhelmed by the idea that something is missing in our lives, hence the goal; in fact, we can get so focused on the lack of it, that the stress related to achieving that goal can backfire on us. We may end up putting it off or not achieving it at all.

 

Therefore, I recommend a hybrid approach in my book. I do not think adding the morning journal opposes that. If anything, I think it complements the Tracking System I talk about in my book, a system for getting things done. Crystallizing your focus on what’s important through the morning can help you gain clarity while you continue to work with your robust system to achieve your projects and dreams.

 

Additional Resources:

 

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Books:

Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams

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

Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life

Course: Design Your Success Academy

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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.  

 

Slideshare on Productivity

Optimize Your Productivity Slideshare

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.

Details:

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.

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.

 

The Power of Taking a Baby Step

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:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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!

 

  1. 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.

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To learn more about Lisa and access free resources, visit:

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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.

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Lisa Kardos, Ph.D.

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.

 

“Multiply Your Time”

Originally I had planned to present a different blog post today. When that did not work out for various reasons, I almost abandoned the idea of presenting a blog entry this week…but I didn’t want to be a hypocrite (I talk about “optimizing” everything all the time, right?)! 🙂  Therefore, I decided to make the best of it; I will simply share a piece of content with you that I think many of you will like and find useful.

 

Darren Hardy had tweeted a link to this video recently by Rory Vaden. It’s a TEDx talk entitled “How to Multiply Your Time.” Even if you only have a few minutes here and there to watch the video, it’s worth it. Rory Vaden presents interesting ideas, such as asking, “What can I do today that would make tomorrow better?” And analyzing not just efficiency and priority when juggling time (but also significance) is a poignant and simple gamechanger we can consider incorporating into our lives.

 

Enjoy!