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.

Learning from Our Children

My husband and I took our son, Gabriel, to his second “Music Together” class this morning. We’ve noticed that he really enjoys it — he smiles, laughs, and appears very excited and engaged! And we have also interestingly observed that he picks and chooses the activities he participates in during the class. Sometimes he takes a few steps off the mat, tilts his head, and watches and analyzes the class while making his decision. Most of the time he chooses to re-engage, and other times he decides not to.

 

In a sense, he decides where he wants to spend his energy. And if something does not suit him, he will not simply succumb to what’s going on right in front of him.

 

Could this type of analysis be something we should be doing as adults?

 

How often do we feel that we have to do something? That everyone is “crazy busy” and spread so thin, so we adopt the same behavior?

 

When things are thrown at us, we have a tendency to automatically prioritize them. But is this the best course of action? Or should we be deciding if we should even bother to prioritize certain things in the first place. That is, should we not participate at all?

 

Perhaps this post has more questions than answers. But I challenge everyone (including myself) to consider optimizing for time and energy. Let’s challenge if something actually belongs on our plate or not. Let’s ask ourselves “why” are we engaging and participating.

 

Last year I had the great pleasure of meeting Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting and blogger/founder of The Modern Meeting Standard. In fact, he autographed my personal copy of his book. What I really like about Al is that he is someone who is not afraid to ask the hard questions, hence his mission to change the culture of the Modern Meeting to be better than what it is today.

 

Inside my book, Al personally wrote,

“Lisa, End the status quo!”

 

On that note, perhaps we should consider applying Al’s advice to our lives (in addition to meetings!) and end the status quo by doing what my 21 month old son does: optimize ourselves by choosing how to spend our time and energy.

 

Isn’t it amazing what we can learn from those who are so new in this world — young souls who have a blank slate without preconceived notions?

 

Your Mindset is Important

Welcome to the first official post for OptimizeBooks.com! Each blog post will focus on a particular area of achievement. Today’s focus is the importance of your mindset.

The word “mindset” has been bandied about a lot recently, but many people do not realize the short and long-term impacts of one’s mindset in life. Perhaps one of the best experts on the topic is Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on things like why people succeed and how to foster success — ideas that she described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dr. Dweck’s website, mindsetonline.com, offers the highlights of what she has studied; it explains the importance of one’s mindset. In particular, Dr. Dweck explains that there is a difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. A fixed mindset essentially means that you believe that everything is a given — that success is dependent on traits and qualities you either have or don’t have. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can develop and mold their abilities and talents, especially through effort and dedication [What is Mindset].

Though there is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” type of mindset, we can leverage Dweck’s research for our own benefit. For instance, instead of having a fixed mindset, where we may try to prove ourselves over and over (because we think we have a finite amount of certain success traits), it might be more prudent to spend that energy and time on developing ourselves in a particular area, especially to work on our goals. Logically, we can optimize and maximize our chances for success if we focus our energy on personal development.

In Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams, the ideas of optimizing yourself – particularly spending energy and time on what you can do, on how to achieve your goals, is a major premise of the book; in fact, it depends on your mindset. Given Dweck’s research, we can then realize how critical it is to develop a growth mindset and maintain the spirit of “optimizing” ourselves!