Downsize. Delegate. Delete.

I have observed that when people are informed they are not productive, the natural tendency is for them to take on more tasks almost as if they felt by showing they could complete a lot more tasks, they will be seen as productive team members. In a way, they are right. Productive people do complete tasks. However, they do NOT try to do everything. It may seem counterintuitive but sometimes the best way to become more productive is to do less. An Accountant doesn’t try to design the company website by themselves. They know that is not the most productive use of their time and skills.

Less is more
Wouldn’t you agree?
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Do you have an hour?

A lot of people would like to achieve more each day. They want to do things like building a new habit, starting a new project or writing a blog. Most people say they can’t find time to get started on their goals. Surprisingly, the same set of people somehow find two hours each day to watch funny videos.

People underestimate how much they could achieve in a year if they dedicated just one hour a day to work on a goal. How do productive people find time to do the things that matter?

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Three Books you should read

This week’s post will be different from all those that came before it. For the first time, I won’t be providing any tips on personal productivity. Instead, I’d like to share three books that I have read and I recommend everyone serious about becoming more effective at what they do should also read. In no specific order, I give you:

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Know the difference between a fact and a problem

Procrastination takes many forms. Sometimes, it hides in the form of a fact disguised to look like a problem. Think of a lazy Saturday Morning towards the end of a month. You need to withdraw some cash from the ATM. Your bank is about a 30-minute drive away. However, you are still at home lying in bed and staring at the ceiling because you know salaries got paid yesterday and there will likely be a long queue at the machine. It’s also a weekend. Therefore, chances are the machine will run out of cash before it gets to your turn.

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Busting a myth

If you have ever played the computer game, Diner Dash to completion, the final stage sees protagonist, Flo, a very efficient Restaurant owner gaining an extra pair of arms (temporarily thankfully) so she can fulfil more orders faster. I mention this because I have noticed a lot of people tend to have misconceptions about productive people. Efficient and effective workers are seen as either magical beings like Flo who have an extra pair of arms that lets them get a lot more done or they are seen as ascetics who achieve productivity by denying themselves everything else.

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Time Management is Self Management

As a personal productivity enthusiast, I genuinely believe people want to make better use of their time. I also believe everyone has goals they want to achieve. Yet a lot of people struggle with time management. Lately, I have been giving the matter a lot of thought and I have reached the conclusion that most people struggle with time management because

Time Management = Self Management

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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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Dead-line

I once heard an amusing story about a company won the bid to create a new IT system for a Government Department. When the Company finished the job, they ran into an unexpected problem. The Government Department, having gotten used to Companies asking for extensions to project deadlines, had assumed this one wouldn’t be any different. As such, a team hadn’t been put together for the Company to hand over the project to.

When did you get started?
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Deadlines hit fast

A humorous anecdote goes that a project team once finished a Government project on time only to find out that no one from the Government was ready to accept the finished product because the Civil Service had assumed based on wealth of experience that the project will not be finished on time. The Story may or may not be true but it serves as a useful reminder of a tendency among many people to underestimate the amount of work required to get a task done. This is especially true at the beginning of a complex task when you may only have a vague idea of the requirements.

Clip
Complex tasks seem easier at the beginning
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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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