Power of 3

Last week, a friend shared a problem he had been having with his productivity. Every morning at work, he would look at his to-do list. It contained every task he had identified as needing to get done before the end of the day. However, he could never seem to get started on those tasks because in his own words, “There were just too many of them.” We had an insightful conversation and his problem got me thinking perhaps there are other people out there who have the same problem. With his blessing, I have decided to make this week’s post about the solution he and I decided he could try.

to
3 to remember
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Smart work pays. Hard work does too

Some time ago, I had a WhatsApp conversation with a colleague on the merits of hard work vs smart work. Which is more likely to lead an individual to wealth? Hard work and smart work are terms that are quite difficult to define. When people say hard work, are they referring to back-breaking labour or to the act of working 8 hours a day? Similarly, what does smart work mean. I know someone who considers smart work to be only work done by Programmers. Going by his definition, most of us don’t do smart work. Which of the two kinds of work do you need to succeed?

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2021 End of Year Post

This has been an interesting year for this blog. I reached 5,000 all time views which means some people actually read what I write. It began with a simple idea. How do I help more people become more effective at what they do? Personal productivity has been an area of interest of mine for quite some time. In 2019, I resolved to do something with that interest. I started a blog. When I committed to a weekly schedule, I was afraid I’d run out of topics to write about within a year. It’s been three years already and that hasn’t happened. It seems each day comes with a new personal productivity challenge.

My hand about to strike a keyboard
Each post was typed one at a time
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20 text messages a month saved me hours

A pharmaceutical company can create new products by either:

  1. Making small improvements to already existing drugs or
  2. Making a large breakthrough to develop a new type of drug

None of the two approaches are wrong. Better drugs have been formulated through either approach. In the end, it may come down to an individual company’s risk tolerance and business philosophy. I mention that example today because more often than not, when people are looking to improve a process, they try looking for a breakthrough. Similar results can often be achieved if one focuses on making small consistent improvements to an already existing process.

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What stopped you from acquiring that new skill (ii)?

Last week, I wrote about the apparent disconnect between a person’s desire to learn a new skill and their ability to commit to a learning program. I also provided four questions to ask yourself if you find yourself dragging your feet over acquiring a new skill. If you haven’t read that post, you might want to do so before this one. This week, I will focus on some of the unique challenges that come from trying to acquire a new skill online.

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What stopped you from acquiring that new skill (i)?

A key characteristic of productive people is that they are always learning new skills. They realise they need to get better at some skills in order to be more effective at what they do. Many people desire to acquire a new skill. Few actually take action to learn that skill. Of those who do, many give up after a few attempts. The desire for self-improvement and the discipline to see it through seem to be two different skills. When you struggle with a new skill, a good place to start is by asking yourself 3 questions:

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Are meetings more effective when there is a ban on all devices?

Some time ago, I was part of a meeting where many people brought out their laptops and started working. They kept glancing at their wristwatches and I could tell most of them would rather be elsewhere. It got me thinking if devices should play a role in productive meetings. If you are reading this article because you want a quick answer, let me tell you I don’t have one. On one hand, I have attended meetings where the use of technology enabled devices allowed for richer engagement. For example, we once used Jamboard to capture ideas from as many people as possible during a meeting. On the other hand, it’s easy for people to whip out their phones and play mobile games under the desk.

No cellphones
Should we put this outside conference rooms
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What’s your Plan B?

A humorous series of statements I once heard goes something like this: Plan A is the main plan. Plan B is the backup plan. Plan C is the just in case plan. Plan D is the when everything goes wrong plan. Plan E is the escape plan. While I don’t envision a situation in your personal or professional life where you will need to have well-defined Plans A to E, many people underestimate the value of a good backup plan (Plan B).

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Give it your best shot for just 15 minutes

A major challenge faced by people who work with a computer is how to work on a task while resisting the urge to open a browser window or watch a film. Companies have tried to address it by configuring office laptops such that social media, video streaming sites and games are inaccessible. That hasn’t really stopped the desperate. Unless you work in a customer-facing role in a bank, there is often no restriction on cellphone usage in most offices.

Tired man staring at screen
That screen had better have interesting content
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The tortoise always wins

Everyone has heard the fable of the tortoise and the hare. It has been shared since time immemorial and has often been the subject of different interpretations, including some hilarious cartoons. Very briefly, the tale goes as follows. The tortoise and the hare agreed to take part in a race. The hare confident in his victory decided to take a nap under a tree. While he was sleeping, the tortoise slowly crept by and overtook his opponent. By the time the hare woke up and made a dash for the finish line, the tortoise had already won the race.

Tortoise beats hare
Confident in his victory, the hare paused to sleep

This fable is rich in productivity principles. Let’s pick them out.

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