Is your productivity off (ii)?

An icon of a crying figure sitting at a desk with a pile of papers

Last week, I wrote about how we all have days with low productivity and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much if you have a single off day once in a while. If, however, all your days are starting to look like a chore, you may need to ask yourself a few questions. Some of the reasons you suddenly find yourself unable to finish scheduled tasks could be:

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Is your productivity off (i)?

An icon of a crying figure sitting at a desk with a pile of papers

About a month ago, a friend complained about no longer having the will to complete her tasks. She simply did not have any zeal or passion to do anything. I was a bit concerned and reached out to her. She is one of the most productive people I know and thankfully, after a few days, her productivity slump ended and she was able to continue working.

Arrow pointing down icon
Did your productivity take a nose dive today?
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Do what matters first

Priority

In the famous book “Eat that frog” by Brian Tracy, the author advocates that you should start your morning with the task that you are most likely to procrastinate on because you consider it the most difficult part of your day. The logic is if you had to eat a live frog first thing in the morning then you can go through the rest of your day knowing the worst of it is behind you.

I am a great advocate of this philosophy. I believe in utilising your early morning hours to get your most important tasks done. Even if that’s the only thing you got done that day, you can smile when you do your evening review because you know you got one task that mattered out of the way.

A frog on a leaf
Frogs are best eaten first thing in the morning
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What did you do this morning?

Sunrise

“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

St Francis of Assisi

I’m a big fan of the early morning hours. I relish getting as much tasks as I can out of the way before noon. There is something about the first few hours of the day when you are awake that provides a huge productivity rush. For me, it tends to be the hours when I have the fewest distractions. Whose house am I going to visit or call at that hour? I have also just woken up from a good night’s rest and I am ready to tackle a difficult task.

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Learn to say “No” (ii)

No

Last week’s article was about the power of “No.” A simple word but with great power to help you take control of your schedule. Hopefully by now, you have had some practice with saying “No.” The goal is to eventually reach a level where you learn to say “yes” to opportunities and “no” to distractions.

With practice, it’s easy to know when to politely redirect your colleague’s offer for last minute help on a project they had two months to work on. Outside the workplace, however, it can become more difficult to decide which tasks to give up. Let’s examine the following list:

  • Take minutes of the meeting of market women’s association.
  • Service the generator at the orphanage
  • Do the book keeping for the Youth association
  • Read to five year olds at the library
  • Deliver the opening speech at your nephew’s speech and prize giving day

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Learn to say “No” (i)

No

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

-Bob Carter

What do you do when someone asks you to do a task you would rather not? Picture this scenario. You are working on a project early in the morning, trying to build momentum. Someone approaches. They ask if you have five minutes. They need your help to go over a report that they have to submit later today. What do you tell them?

You have three options. The first is to say “No. Go away.” That would do the trick and you might be able to get back to work after that but it won’t win you any allies that way. The second is to say “Yes” and allow the person take control of your schedule for the rest of the morning. You know the report was supposed to have been their responsibility and you feel they shouldn’t bother you. It’s not your job to look over their report. Yet you also feel you could do a better job of it than your colleague. Maybe they need a little help after all and you know you could write a better report than them. So you check the report and it’s a mess and you end up having to rewrite parts of it. By the time you are done, you have “helped” your colleague write a report and they can turn it in just in time. Then you go back to your original task and curse the fact that since you have wasted so much time you now have to work after office hours to finish your work.

No
No words necessary

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Learn your craft

A graduation cap and tools

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lot about what counts as an essential skill. So many workers, including people pretty high up, previously secure in their roles suddenly found themselves without jobs as more companies looked for ways to cut costs in an attempt to survive lockdown. If you are one of those who still has a job, congratulations. Others have not been as lucky.

In a world where knowledge is being generated at an outstanding rate, having the skills necessary to keep up with it is no longer the responsibility of HR departments. More and more organisations are assuming employees come equipped with certain skills and don’t bother organising training sessions on those skills. Yet how true is their assumption?

LEARN
It’s spelt out

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Life gets in the way

Sunrise

We all had great plans for 2020. We all had things we wanted to accomplish. We wrote them down and got started. Then the pandemic got in the way. A lot of our plans had to be shelved. We had to deal with the fear of a disease that no one had a cure for. We had to adjust to new ways of working. We also had to adjust our priorities. We reviewed what was most important in our lives and came to appreciate the security having a roof over your head, food to eat, healthcare and the ability to continue working from home provided.

It doesn’t always require a pandemic to disrupt our goals. However, the coronavirus pandemic provides a very good example of how activities outside our control can affect our ability to achieve our goals. At some point this year, you probably had to shelve old plans and make new ones. Even without a life changing event such as a pandemic, there will always be constraints to some of your goals. Being aware of them can help you set more meaningful goals in your life.

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Nobody works well under pressure

Working under pressure is last minute time management

We have all met someone who proudly declared they work well under pressure. The sort of people who boldly put it on their CV and expect to be rewarded for it. They are most likely the sort of people who annoy colleagues to no end by submitting work five minutes to the deadline and expect to be given a round of applause for it. You may have convinced yourself being able to work under pressure is a skill. Perhaps you also believe you possess that skill. Let me burst your bubble. It is not.

A man in a suit struggling to meet a deadline
You under pressure keeping people waiting

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Don’t try to remember it

A sticky note

Someone once told me “the faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory.” I didn’t take him as serious as I should have back then. Not until the day I forgot to turn in a report on time because my memory convinced me the report was due the next day.

Our memories are unreliable. Our brains are designed so we forget most of the information we are exposed to within a short period of time. This is a good thing because frankly speaking most of the information we are exposed to is useless. You don’t need to remember how many people you drove past on your way to work this morning or the colour of each individual tile you stepped across today. Unless there is a good reason for remembering something eg your livelihood depends on it, you will probably forget it after a few hours.

Forgot something?
You probably didn’t write it down

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