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Boost Your Productivity With Shortcut and Life Sorted
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Everybody has too much to do; the call centre operator trying to clear the backlog of calls, the CEO running for her plane to JFK, the single mother juggling the school run and her home-based proofreading service.

Nobody has enough time: not the vicar trying to produce a great sermon for Sunday and see all those who need his attention; not the nurse trying to cover a large ward, nor the manager of the small corner shop.

A lot of people are worried. They can’t say “no” as their job is on the line. They are already working very long hours. They are exhausted, the email won’t go away and Twitter, which seemed so much fun at first, is now just a right pain.

Relax, help is at hand. Thoughtful, yet pragmatic. Practical and easy. Home and work. That’s Boost Your Productivity: a primer for getting your life sorted, getting everything back on track and doing what is really important to you, not just who or what is shouting at you loudest.
1. The Philosophy

The Challenge

No, please don’t skip this section! The word “philosophy” is perhaps a little daunting especially when you were just seeking some simple, pragmatic methods of getting more done, reducing the torrent of email and having some quality time with the children during the working week. The latter – practical tips – we will definitely, absolutely provide. And soon. But if you truly, deeply want to achieve – or return to – a state of peak productivity where you are achieving what you want to achieve, living the life you wish to live and not feeling exhausted doing it, a bit of philosophy is important. Go on: it’s not so bad. You’ll see!

No? Really, no? Then skip to Section 4 where you will find practical tips galore. But please, do come back to this section when you have been reassured that such practical help is provided. This is the section that will ultimately allow you to understand where the real breakthrough in your personal productivity will be made.
The Detail

Philosophy? Yes, because there are some deeper questions we need to answer:

What do you mean by productivity?

Most begin to look at the field of “time management” and question their productivity because of overload: they find they simply cannot keep up with assignments and tasks without digging into their personal time and although they are willing to do that for a while, the consequent cost for quality of output, their most important relationships and their health increasingly becomes something they are not willing to accept. And much time management advice attempts to solve such challenges with “quick fix” tips, which rarely solve the true dilemma: the problem simply keeps coming back. We do want to solve it once and for all and it does require a robust answer to “what do you really mean by productivity?”

Thus: are you considering the bigger questions?
Because clearly at one level “being productive” is doing what you are paid to do if you are an employee. Or successfully running your business if you are self-employed. However that is only one dimension; in a simpler world it was reasonably straightforward to consider it in that way. But in the New World of Work – to which we are all exposed – of severe competition, 24 by 7 working and increasingly less distinction between “home” and “work” there are other implications we need to ponder, such as: Where is your career going? And how are you maintaining important friendships? And looking after your health? And managing your finances, not just for now, but also for the future? Perhaps if you are deliver- ing on your quarterly targets you are being efficient (getting things done). But if you have become ill in the process you have not necessarily been effective (getting the right things done).

Do you know that it’s pretty easy but it will require you to “be different”?
Much of time management “methodology” was first created in that simpler world. A world where we did less multi-tasking, where we had far fewer interrupts and putting it more bluntly our expectations of what we might do and achieve were much lower. But such approaches are no longer powerful enough: we need something that works for our very different lifestyles. And here’s the tough bit: to be truly productive we will have to say “no” to a lot of things; we will have to address the digital dilemma of a world which floods into our brain at every opportunity. We will need to recog- nize that productivity is as much about our personal wellness as it is about our willingness to create a great list.

Thus, you are “productive” if:

• You hit your work goals, as that is what you are paid to do . . .
• but at the same time you maintain your health . . .
• and in particular, stress is at a minimum.
• You have a longer-term picture of where your career is going: you have set your
• Personal Compass with its consideration of all aspects of your life: relationships, future finances, simply having fun . . . .
• You are not just efficient (i.e., getting things done) but also
• effective (getting the right things done).
• And the approaches you use to being productive are not only
• “top down”, i.e., consideration of the “big picture” Personal Compass but also
• “bottom up”, i.e., the day-to-day practicalities, for example, of running a family.
• You are feeling good, and
• you are contributing to your business and your community.
The Story

Things had not been at all easy for Karl since 2008. He and his family lived in Detroit, Michigan, USA and he had always been the main “bread-winner”. But from a well-paid job in the automotive industry he had been effectively downsized to a job that was well below his skill level and, particularly worryingly, had no real prospects of promotion or a secure career. And this with three growing children and college fees looming. There had been no family holiday for the last four years, the household food budget was really straining at the seams and the house needed significant repairs. Karl and his wife, Barbara, had always been pretty organized: there was a family board in the kitchen with the kids’ timetables, general shopping list and a list of repairs to be done on the house. But it struck them that they were really not thinking deeply or creatively enough: they had to do something to get out of this rut. They were both frustrated that they seemed to have no time to think about what they really wanted or how to get what they needed. In fact, perhaps they could be a lot more productive.
We’ll return to Karl and his family in future sections.
The Q&A

To be honest I’ve never been that brilliant at “time management”. Isn’t this “philosophy” just going to make it even more complicated?
Bear with us: it’ll ultimately make it simpler. Guaranteed!

Isn’t that story about Karl and Barbara more to do with how they can become successful?
And that’s the point. Real productivity is not just about a well-managed diary, a well-listed Moleskine notebook and a well-categorized inbox. It is about getting the success you want, otherwise you simply become a machine managing lists.

The Solution

1. In a very demanding New World of Work, being “productive” is no longer just about a well-man- aged list.

2. It is about your philosophy of how you will cope in an ever-more demanding world!
2. Decide Your Bigger Picture

The Challenge

Having philosophized a little it is time to get practical and we can approach this in two ways. We could start to reveal true productivity for us by going “top down”, i.e., working out what we really want to do in our lives and create some plans from that. This obviously ought to be the best way; in fact how could you do it any other way? It’s just that unfortunately it is not always grounded enough in reality and our wonderful plans of setting up a coffee shop in Brighton (when we have no funds, no experience and there are very tough trading conditions) become lost in our inability to schedule planning meetings, follow up on those who have offered to help, or find the critical mails in our overloaded inbox. Or we could go “bottom up”, which is a practical, pragmatic way: we simply concentrate on keeping our inbox down to a minimum, managing conference calls and getting away by 6:00 pm every day. Only trouble is, somewhere along the way we realize we don’t know quite why we are doing it any more. Clearly an ideal approach would be one which uses both and that’s the one we will take. This section and the next will be “top down” and then we will flip to “bottom up”. You’ll then have the best of both or even all worlds.
The Detail

The “bottom up” approach is concerned with the day to day realities of what is happening now, what needs to be dealt with now and who is shouting loudest: broadly speaking what is important and what is urgent. Important and urgent we will call IN time as you are working in your business, you are busy in your life. There is necessarily little reflection, little full consciousness and much scrambling to “do” things. The “top down” approach suggests slow down a moment. Consider, what is important and not just urgent? Your health? Next year’s business? Your daughter’s future secondary school? Work on it now while it is not urgent as that makes it easier, allows more reflection and planning. In fact you are investing, you are working on yourself.

IN time is clock time: you are up against the clock and the schedule. ON time is compass time as you need to choose your direction.

When you set your compass, there are six main directions to set:
Compass Point 1: Your Career

Consider, you will be more productive if with Compass Point 1: or career . . .

1. You work hard to discover what you really want to do. Clearly if you love what you do much “work” will not seem like work and productivity benefits will naturally flow.

2. You clarify what you wish to achieve when doing what you want to do. We will spend more time in a later section on “explicit conversations” or in other words knowing exactly what you have to do. “Sell more”; does that mean revenue or profit or a combination of both? Or just gain market share at any cost?

3. You become very good at what you do. Sometimes we don’t know what we “really” want to do. Some- times we don’t know what our “passion” really is. No worry: just become “rock star” good at what you do anyway. Two things happen: the first being that your productivity soars, be it running difficult meetings, doing coaching or pitching to senior audiences. And secondly, more bizarrely, you often discover your passion as sometimes passions are made not born.

4. You deploy great productivity practices. And these we will reveal in a later section.
Compass Point 2: Your Wellness

Equally, you will be more productive if with Compass Point 2 or wellness, you look after yourself so that you have great energy, clear concentration and undivided focus. We have all been in the position that we are so tired or distracted we can only work half-heartedly and with little energy. The four main contributors to Compass Point 2 and hence your productivity are:

1. Meditation: Take time out to look after your best thinking.

2. Exercise: We don’t conserve energy by not taking exercise, we simply stop generating it. Get good brisk, CV energy every day to boost your productivity.

3. Diet: Minimize those foods which mess with your brain chemistry such as overdosing on sugar.

4. Sleep: ensure that you are 100% alert by clearing sleep debt.

The remaining four directions: personal finances, relationships, fun and contribution we will con- sider in the next section.
The Story

Karl and Barbara realized they had missed a trick. They were hard workers and they were pretty well-organized but they had never quite addressed at what they wanted to work hard and around what they needed to be organized. As it was the first week of the long holidays, all of the children were off to their respective summer camps. Usually Karl and his wife would have used that time to do some house redecora- tion but this time they decided to do some reflection: it was Personal Compass time.

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