Emails: A productivity Death trap

First do what is important, then everything else. This could be a maxim for personal productivity. People who prioritise tasks and focus on those that yield the most results (which by definition, are important) are said to be productive. A question for you: Is responding to emails immediately an important task? According to a Mckinsey report, the average professional spends 28% of their work day reading and responding to emails. If you work 8 hours a day, that’s 2 hours dedicated to your inbox. Is that the best use of your time?

Email envelopes
There’s such a thing as too many emails
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Never underestimate the power of attention

Have you ever had to build a skyscraper or send a man to another planet? Ok. Most people will never do those projects in their lives and that’s fine. However, we all deal with some level of complexity on the projects we work on whether it’s designing a new software or setting up a supply chain halfway across the globe. No matter how complex the project you are trying to do is, it can be broken down into a number of simple tasks. Reducing complex processes to their simplest activities is how skyscrapers are built.

“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”

Bill Gates.
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Know who you are

The first week of February is here. By now, the majority of people who made New Years’ Resolutions have given up on them. If you are a regular at your local gym, you probably saw a lot more people having a go at the machines during the first week of the year only for the numbers to slowly dwindle down to the regulars by the end of the month.

The same water that softens the potato hardens the egg

Unknown
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Mornings are not for social media

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is check your phone. You will not even check if your legs are working.

Whatsapp Status

Are you the person who hits the snooze button five times before giving up and going back to sleep for three hours? Do you feel the urge to lie in bed and check social media for one hour after getting up? The first hour of your day has a disproportionate effect on how you carry out tasks for the rest of the day. What you do immediately after waking up sends a powerful message to your brain about the kind of person you are and the things you value the most.

Mobile phone snooz
You snooze, You lose
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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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Lack of priorities (not lack of time)

In an earlier post, I referenced the formula below:

Productivity = Time spent * Intensity of focus

A friend reached out on whatsapp to ask how he was supposed to find one hour each day for deep focus on an important task. He is a busy man who felt all his time was already taken. Amused, I asked if he was willing to do an exercise that would help him identify how many free hours he had in a week.

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Boundaries are necessary if you are to get anything done

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

John Lydgate (Quote famously adapted by Abraham Lincoln)

One of the most powerful words in the vocabulary of personal productivity is saying “No.” The simple act of knowing when and how to say “No” can save you from committing yourself to doing tasks you should not be doing in the first place.

No to distractions and interruptions
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Seize the hour (not the day)

The Latin expression “Carpe Diem”, often translated into English as seize the day is first attested by the ancient Roman Poet, Horace. The idea behind the expression is that since the future is uncertain, it is best to prepare for every situation by taking action when you can instead of leaving it up to chance. In other words, do what you can now to make the future better.

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The clock keeps ticking (ii)

Last week, I wrote about the misconceptions a lot of people have about time management and how it is best viewed not as a single skill but a number of related skills that help you create effective systems for achieving your goals. As you build that system, there are 3 things to keep in mind:

Time is limited

A day in Nigeria lasts 24 hours. So does a day in China, Brazil or Lithuania. Within those 24 hours, you have a few peak productivity hours (or office hours) during which you want to get things done. You must learn how to estimate how long a task will take and the best time to get it done during the day. It is unlikely that you can fit three two-hour long high focus tasks into an 8 hour work day. You must learn to pace yourself or risk burnout. Time management is NOT spending five sleepless nights trying to beat the deadline for your latest project.

Burnout
The risk is real
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The clock keeps ticking (i)

One of the most important concepts in personal productivity is time management. Time management is a core skill that once mastered enables you to get more done in a week than most people do in a month while still having time to rest. Despite its importance in personal productivity, time management is a concept that is often misunderstood by many people. This is because the term time management, despite its popularity, is a misnomer. You can own a wristwatch but you can’t manage time. Even if you do nothing, the second hand of your watch will keep moving. Nobody can stop time.

A wristwatch face
If only the hand could stop
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