Yesterday (15th November, 2019), I left my position as Program Officer for the DakataLIFE program at Paradigm Initiative. When I first joined PI in 2016, I was required to hit the ground running. The 2016A class had already started and I was expected to make sure the class kept running smoothly even while I was having a very quick orientation.
Last week, I wrote about what a task, an event and a process are. Just in case you missed that post, you can read it here. A good personal productivity system is one that has been set up to handle tasks, events and processes. Each requires a different response.
Tasks are often the easiest to handle. They are to be done by you and you are the only person responsible for them. A task is best handled by being written down as an item on a to-do list. Optionally, you can also write down when a task is due eg Buy onions at ‘Yankaba market 10am. Adding due times can be helpful when you need to arrange tasks in the order to start first. Write down tasks in simple, clear sentences using an action word. Avoid ambiguous words like “Contact” instead use visit, meet with, call, email etc so there is no doubt what you need to do.
I have written a lot about some of my favourite tools and principles of personal productivity. I hope they have been as helpful to you as they have been to me when I began my journey towards making conscious decisions about how I spend my time. This month, I would like to write about how to bring all of those things together to create a personal productivity system that works for you. If you don’t have a personal productivity system (PPS) yet, you can use the posts I will be making in November as a template to build one for yourself. If you already have a PPS, I believe you can still find something in here that will be useful to you.
Before you create your own PPS, you need to understand the difference between a task, an event and a process.
My Physics teacher will probably kill me for the title of this article. What’s your BHAG? The Big, Hairy audacious goal. The one that scares you a little when you think about it. I’m sure you had one for the year. That’s why you are here. The year is almost over. Are you likely to get it achieved before the year ends? Many people come up with a great BHAG but struggle to commit to the work needed to achieve them. Does that sound like you?
How many hours could you go without peeking at your phone? So many people experience anxiety if they had to stay away from their internet enabled devices for a long time. Whatsapp notifications that run in the thousands and ever refreshing social media profiles have made it very difficult for some people to stay focused. Every notification is a distraction and even when they turn off data, the fear of missing out ensures at least some of their brain power stays thinking about what they could be missing. This is good for social media companies but bad for productivity. The ability to get focused and stay focused is becoming a rare skill just at the time when being able to stay focused can provide you with a huge advantage at work.
I dislike meetings. Especially those that go on for two hours and the only task you have to do at that meeting is listen. Many meetings can drag on way too long and go beyond schedule. Despite this, a lot of people seem to like meetings because they create the illusion of one having been productive. They are supposed to be places where ideas get discussed. When they run too long, however, most people start checking their phones under the table (if they can get away with it) or even fall asleep.
Meetings are inevitable for some people. If you are one of those people, you have my sympathies. However, there are some policies you can get your organisation to adopt that can make your meetings more productive.
Scenario A: You wake up after a good night’s rest. You eat a healthy breakfast. When work starts, everything seems to fall in place. You are in the zone. All your A-tasks for the day get completed and you make progress towards your goals.
Scenario B: You wake up grumpy. The electricity goes out while you are trying to boil water for tea. When you get to your car, you discover you have a flat tyre and the spare tyre has no pressure in it. By the time you get to work, you are ready to take your anger out on anyone unfortunate enough to get in your way. You can’t seem to focus. You give up on getting any meaningful work done before lunch and just want the day to end so you can go back to sleep.