As many of you know, I use an app called Nozbe as part of my Getting Things Done practice for personal productivity.
Several years ago I wrote about GTD and soon heard from a guy called Michael Sliwinski. He was from Poland and had written an app oriented toward David Allen’s GTD methodology. He told me about Nozbe. I was using something else but not thrilled with it. After a few months I tried Nozbe seriously and got hooked.
Michael is in the process of writing a book to complement use of his app and introduce people to productivity. I’ve read a draft of the forward of the book. In it he mentions myths of people who use productivity systems.
One myth concerns the type of people who use a system. He calls them “dweebs”. You know, those unimaginative, dull, plodding sort of people.
Truth be told, creative people are usually quite organized in their lives. They have a morning routine (usually write or draw first then exercise; executives work out first as a general rule) and like organization and regularity.
I’m a writer. I find that having a productivity system allows me to focus on one thing at a time and get it done. There are things that interfere, but I can always start my day off on the right foot.
It’s time to approach the personal productivity topic again. It has been too long. As you may know, I am a follower of Getting Things Done developed by David Allen and detailed in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.
I also use the Nozbe app to implement GTD. I know that if your tool is too awkward to use, you won’t use it. Works in automation, works in personal productivity. (affiliate link)
So you have your goals; you have your personal vision; you have projects; it boils down to next actions.
But beyond these things, what is really important these days?
I ran across this article on Medium by David Kadavy who is asking the deeper questions—what is really going to differentiate me from my peers and keep me active in the future. He postulates that even knowledge work is threatened by technology, so productivity needs to ramp up another notch or two.
He starts, “It’s not that GTD isn’t still a powerful tool for figuring out how to, well, get things done. It’s that the criteria for what should be done is more stringent than ever. Yes, books like The 4-Hour Work Week and Essentialism have helped us recognize the power of cutting through the noise to focus on the things that will bring us the most impact with the least effort. And it’s true that the ability to prioritize Deep Work will give you an edge over peers who are playing Candy Crush and checking their email every 5.45 minutes.”
“But there’s a realm beyond all of this. As jobs become automated, what remains of “work” will move up Maslow’s hierarchy. The success of the elite worker will depend upon that person’s ability not to get things done, but to have breakthroughs — to use access to knowledge and automation to deliver explosive ideas. To do that which only a human can do. Think Zero to One — the idea that incrementalism holds us back from paradigm-shifting innovation—but for your own career.”
He is on to something. This may not be new. I remember Peter Drucker from 30 years ago talking about doing the right thing rather than doing things right. And certainly creativity is something that sets humans apart from other mammals.
So, how do we get creative? It is more of a discipline of habitually doing things rather than praying for “bolts from the blue.”
- Try reading every day
- Read things from disciplines far outside the one you’re working in
- Every morning sit down with a notepad, write a question or problem, then list 20 ideas
- Practice asking questions—developing questions is more important than having answers
One last thought—as engineers and manufacturing leaders, what are we doing to make the world a better place? What are we doing to help people’s work better rather than simply trying to replace workers?
My 151st podcast on personal productity dives into “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport. also viewable on YouTube.
Newport differentiates the work that will lead you to success (deep work–thinking) from that work that just fills time (shallow work–answering email, reading Facebook, etc.).
He provides tips on organizing your day to emphasize setting aside blocks of time for deep work.
This is one of the personal productivity books from my recent binge reading. Previously I discussed The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud. Podcast or YouTube.
Ashton begins, “Brainstorming was invented by advertising executive Alex Osborn in 1939 and first published in 1942 in his book How to Think Up.” Osborn liked the process because it generated lots of ideas. But questions about its utility sprang up.
Ashton continues, “Follow-up research tested whether larger groups performed any better. In one study, 168 people were either divided into teams of five, seven, or nine or asked to work individually. The research confirmed that working individually is more productive than working in groups. It also showed that productivity decreases as group size increases.”
Get that, an individual can be just as productive as a group. And the larger the group, the lower the productivity.
“Another assumption of brainstorming is that suspending judgment is better than assessing ideas as they appear. Researchers in Indiana tested this by asking groups of students to think of brand names for three different products. Half of the groups were told to refrain from criticism and half were told to criticize as they went along. Once again, independent judges assessed the quality of each idea. The groups that did not stop to criticize produced more ideas, but both groups produced the same number of good ideas. Deferring criticism added only bad ideas.”
The mantra is don’t criticize anything. Just write ideas. People who lead these things are always over the top enthusiastic. More ideas does not equal better ideas.
“Research into brainstorming has a clear conclusion. The best way to create is to work alone and evaluate solutions as they occur.”
And the conclusion:
“Having ideas is not the same thing as being creative. Creation is execution, not inspiration. Many people have ideas; few take the steps to make the thing they imagine.”
The blog post was excerpted from How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, by Kevin Ashton, available here.
Personal productivity isn’t the focus of my writing. It’s industrial technology and strategies, of course. But finding and using personal productivity tips and processes underlie how I can accomplish so much in my life–from writing two blogs, leading a church ministry, leading a number of soccer referee tasks, do marketing for an investment I’ve made, and probably more.
I cannot remember how I met Hassan Osman of Cisco, but we correspond occasionally. He has written a great little e-book, ““.
It’s listed at the lowest possible price ($0.99), and I’m donating ALL profits for sales through Friday Dec 18 to charity. I’m super excited because I’ve never done a launch like this before. The charity I chose is “Save the Children,” an international NGO that helps children all around the world, including the US. My company (Cisco Systems) is matching my donation dollar for dollar, which is awesome.
The amount of money I make per book is not much (my cut is 35%, which means for every book I sell, I only make around 35 cents). However, every cent counts for a child in need. Also, “design A” won for the book cover (thanks to all who voted), so I went with that. Click on one of the following links to check out the book: USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and India.
This is a valuable little book. I highly recommend it both for productivity and for getting along with people. Of course, the “reply all” is one of my pet peeves. “Email chains” drive me freaking crazy. That could have been emphasized more. I think he hit in #9 (Tactic #9: Present Options Instead of Asking Open -Ended Questions). The first 5 would be my first 5. I’ve used the saved draft as a template for several tasks over the years. Then the time zone thing is crucial. I live in western Ohio. East coast people think I’m in Central time zone. West coast people haven’t a clue. (I’m Eastern) I am forever re-confirming teleconference times. Buy it, digest it, use it to enhance your email experience.
No TL;DR helps personal productivity
In #3, he addresses TL;DR–too long, didn’t read. I see this in emails and also blog posts. Paragraphs are too long. There’s too much unbroken text. This is a tip for better personal productivity for both sender and recipient.
Email is not going away. But I propose thinking of it much like texting rather than report writing. Attach reports. Just stick to basic facts or information in the body of the email.
Oh, and remind me to do the same.