Afraid to start

Procrastination is a problem we all have to deal with every day. It is like the hydra, the multi-headed creature from Greek mythology. Cut off one head and another sprouts in its stead, more ferocious and cunning than the one before it. One form that procrastination takes is fear: the fear to get started on a task. An individual may delay getting started on a task simply so they can think about all the ways it can go wrong. If you have found yourself doing this often, rest assured chances are you are chasing phantoms. Even if you fail, the outcome is rarely as bad as you imagine. How do you defeat that fear?

Emp
That mountain of paperwork isn’t going to take care of itself
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Work-life balance vs Work-life integration

For the longest time, personal productivity experts have advocated the achievement of work-life balance as the pinnacle of productivity. They argued that work should be treated as a separate space disconnected from personal life. The productive worker, they said, was one who completed their tasks for the day before closing time, clocked out and went home to spend time with their family. Work was not to be touched at home until they returned to the office the next day. This sharp separation of work and personal life was easier to achieve before the advent of the internet when workers were generally unreachable after office hours.

Stacked stones
Are your work and life in balance?
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What are you measuring: business or busyness?

In a famous scene from the 1999 Comedy, Office Space, Protagonist Peter Gibbons admits to two Management Consultants that in a given week, he only does about 15 minutes of actual work. It might be amusing to ponder why he hasn’t been fired but the truth is the average office worker can become quite skilled at appearing busy. If you have ever walked into a government office and were confronted by a Staff sitting behind a table covered with files, you probably have an idea what I mean. The files themselves might not have been touched in months but it gives the Staff an excuse to pull one of them and pretend to be reviewing some important detail anytime a visitor walks in.

Not busyness
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One hour each day

If you were to google “Personal productivity” right now, a recurrent topic that would come up would be time management. We all have the same 24 hours a day yet not everyone gets the same returns from their 24 hours. This is because time management is actually a misnomer. You can’t manage time. It’s always there and it’s always flowing even if you aren’t doing anything. What you can manage are tasks and by extension, your priority.

Time never stops
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You shouldn’t be doing that

“More effort is wasted doing things that don’t matter than is wasted doing things inefficiently. Elimination is the highest form of optimization.”

James Clear 3-2-1 Newsletter

Some people suffer not from inaction but from too much action. They have so many tasks they are trying to do each thing that they can’t focus on a few important tasks. Unfortunately, simply doing more does not guarantee improved productivity.

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Why more people don’t use checklists (and why you should)

Last weekend, I read The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right by Atul Gawande. Gawande makes a very interesting case of how complex operations from fields as diverse as aviation, construction and surgery can be made safer and more efficient through the use of a surprising low-tech tool: The checklist. Pilots swear by checklist and the use of checklists in flights is the reason why air travel still remains the safest way to travel.

Checklist
Just a checklist
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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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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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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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