Keep your friends close and your to-do list closer

Where is your to-do list for the day? As I type this post, I can take a quick glance at mine on my favourite note-taking app, Evernote. On the go, it’s available on my mobile phone. It automatically syncs across my devices so I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. I go to great lengths to make sure I have my to-do list with me wherever I am. That’s because out of all the productivity tools in my box, the to-do list has proven a life saver.

A to-do list
Ready to cross the next task off
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Stop being busy and start being productive

Activity does not always equal productivity. The rise in number of online meetings has created a unique problem. People spend all day attending back-to-back meetings. An extreme case was someone who by virtue of having to attend meetings with different teams across different time zones was getting only 3 hours of sleep per day. That’s certainly a busy lifestyle. Is your busyness leading to more productive results? No one is paid to attend meetings but meetings can be very comforting because they give the illusion of work being done.

Does not equal productive
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Productivity means being prepared to do your best

I remember in Junior Secondary School during assembly we often had to sing a song that began “Do your best and leave the rest.” I was tempted to attach a voice file of myself singing the full song. Luckily, saner heads have talked me out of it. That song got me thinking, in order to reach peak productivity, you need to first choose what to focus on, then give it your best, even when no one is watching.

Don't try to be perfect. Just do your best
Wherever you are
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How many cellphone-hours in a day?

“Well we really do spend most of our time on our phones. I personally would have to strike a balance.”

Comment left by a reader of last week’s post

The birth of the smartphone changed the way we live. Prior to that, cellphones were just miniature telephones. You could use one to send text messages and some of them came with pre-installed games but their primary function was to make calls.

As technology advanced, the cellphone became capable of much more than making calls. The birth of social media and mobile applications turned smartphones into the equivalent of a playground or office you could carry in your pocket. Eventually, the smartphone replaced the pocket calculator, camera, calendar, post office and even the banking hall.

There’s an app for everything
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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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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

Continue reading “Learn to say “No” (ii)”

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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They are everywhere

A phone screen displaying "1 new message"

Where is your phone? In your pocket? A handbag? On a table in front of you? Or in your hand reading this article? Another question: How many phones do you have?

A lot of Nigerians have more than one phone. The logic seems to be use your smartphone for social media and have a dumb phone for use as a backup. Wherever you go today, you are likely to see someone happily pressing away at their phone’s screen. It’s no longer uncommon to see two people on a “date” busy typing away at their phones, completely ignoring each other.

A sea of phones
You can have too much of the good thing

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Work from home notes (ii)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of working from home. Many people have had to adjust to a new reality of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustment has not been easy for some. If this was your first time having to work from home, you might have found yourself facing more distractions, incurring more expenses and not knowing when work ends and personal life begins. To aid your adjustment, I will share a few tips that worked for me: Continue reading “Work from home notes (ii)”

Work from home notes (i)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

2020 has been a difficult year for many. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard exposing weaknesses in political and healthcare systems. The economy has also not been spared. A lot of people have lost jobs. If you are among the lucky who still have your job, you might have had to adapt to a new way of working: work from home.

In a bid to limit the number of people under one roof and by so doing curb the rate of infections, employers have had to ask staff members to work away from the office. For many Nigerians, this was their first time working from home.

A sticky note that says "Please stay home"
Dream or nightmare

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