Productivity for How You’re Wired
Productivity Coaching, Time Management Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Time Management Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Time Management Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
-1
archive,paged,category,category-productivity-for-how-youre-wired,category-240,paged-2,category-paged-2,bridge-core-3.1.3,qode-page-transition-enabled,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode_grid_1200,footer_responsive_adv,qode-theme-ver-30.2,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-7.3,vc_responsive

Productivity for How You’re Wired

In my last blog post I introduced you to the Priorities Planning Method. My method helps you identify which tasks to address NOW. When your task list is used and maintained following this methodology, important tasks won’t get lost, and you will feel confident and under control.  

The key is to organize each task into categories:

The CRITICAL Category – These are tasks that you must do now, today, or perhaps tomorrow. If there is no option to delay, it goes here.

  • Must be done today (or tomorrow at the latest)
  • Must be done or you can’t stop working for the day
  • There is NO OPTION; you must do it

The HOT Category – Tasks that are bubbling up to CRITICAL go here. These are the things that need to be done this week or in the next few days or there is a consequence:

  • You will miss a deadline
  • It will cost you money
  • You will be embarrassed
  • You will let someone down who is important to you
  • You will let yourself down
  • You won’t ever get to your high-value work

Filter questions, questions that help you see the situation more clearly, help you determine which tasks are HOT.

  • Does this task help me meet a goal or intention?
  • What are the consequences if I don’t do this task on time? 
  • If I don’t do this task in the next few days, will I miss an opportunity or will it cost me money?
  • If I don’t do this task, who suffers?
  • If this task doesn’t get done, will I let myself down?

Don’t skip over letting yourself down. Your work performance and satisfaction are affected by your ability to prioritize some of the things that are meaningful to you. It is easy to put everyone’s tasks in front of those that will inspire and motivate you. This is a great opportunity to start prioritizing yourself. 

The SOONER Category – Needs to be done soon, but not this week.

The LATER Category – If it can wait until LATER or if it is something you’re just thinking about doing, it goes in the LATER column.

Other Categories That May Be Helpful

The benefit of limiting yourself to four categories is that it’s easy to manage. If you are keeping a paper system, you can easily fit the four categories on one piece of paper. If you are managing your tasks in an app or spreadsheet program, you may want to add more.

Waiting: The WAITING category is for those items you’ve taken action on and are waiting for someone else’s action before you can proceed. The value of the waiting list is it keeps your CRITICAL and HOT lists clean and filled with actionable tasks.

Completed: The COMPLETED category is like checking off a task. Moving an item to COMPLETED feels great. Additionally, you can use this to verify the status of a task, or simply to have a running list of work you’ve completed.

Projects: A PROJECT category can be created if you would like to have a dedicated column for projects you are working on. Alternatively, the online template tool provides space for project work to be planned out and assigned into CRITICAL – HOT – SOONER – LATER categories.

Ideas: Sometimes ideas come to mind that aren’t ready to go on your list, but you don’t want to forget them. You can add an ideas category to your priorities planner or keep a running list on a notes app. 

Other Categories: Sometimes something will pop up that can be its own category; things to pack for vacation, things to discuss with your team or boss, ideas to capture relating to a specific project. When creating another list makes sense, please do so. Just remember to delete it when it is no longer relevant. 

Taking the time to organize your tasks may seem wasteful, but it helps you become proactive in your work. The only way you’ll know if this can work for you is to try it!


This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

In my last blog post I introduced you to Time Mapping. This week we move on my personal favorite step of The Productivity Flow Framework: The Priorities Task List. 

Tasks without sequence are like an unordered list of directions. What if I told you that you could have a to-do list that delivers the right tasks in the right order at the right time, like a conveyer belt delivers the next item to build a product? Using my Priorities Task List methodology  gives you the ability to adapt your list to any tool or situation you wish. And it can serve you the rest of your life, because once you learn it you won’t have to figure this out ever again. 

You can have this kind of productive list. There are two conditions for this system to work: 

  • YOU have to trust the system.
  • YOU have to use the system. 

That’s it. Like many of the things I share with you, you’ll find it reasonably simple. Too simple to work? No, not at all.

How about so simple it can’t not work. It’s time to reengineer your list! Your task list should support you, not stress you out or overwhelm you. It should manage your actionable tasks for you. We start by dispelling some common list mistakes: I call them List Land Mines.

Land Mine 1: Projects not tasks

What I See: A huge reason people get stuck getting through their lists is they include multi–step projects. To be effective, lists should consist of simple actionable steps. 

Diagnosis: Project paralysis 

    • When the project is too large, it becomes overwhelming and gets skipped until it’s almost too late. 
    • When the project isn’t planned, it is unclear where to start and what to do next.

Instead: Projects are easier to address and complete when they are broken down into actionable tasks. Key steps should be integrated into your list. When you are clear on the steps, it’s easier to know what to do next.

Land Mine 2: The big, long list

What I See: Many people keep their tasks on one big, long running list. Often a notebook or phone note of page after page of actions. They spend the majority of their time trying to figure out what to do next.  Then, when they are checking the list, they start by looking for something that might be important. On the paper list, asterisks and codes go in the margins, and completed things are crossed off. On the phone list, maybe things get deleted. Or maybe not. Alternately, there is the multiple-lists method. Every time you think of something else to do, you start a new list, or add it to the closest napkin or envelope back you can find. 

Diagnosis: The big, long lists are simply a bunch of words. It doesn’t help you determine what is important, nor does it organize the tasks in a way that helps you identify what needs to happen next. Multiple notes of actions are equally problematic. You end up writing the same task down over and over, which makes you feel like you have more to do than you actually do. Or you can’t find your list so you start a new one. However, you’re not sure what’s on the list you can’t find, and that nagging feeling of missing something important persists.

Instead: You are going to compartmentalize things on your task list by priority. And you will sort and group at the same time. When you unload the dishwasher, do you take all the silverware out and put it on the counter, then sort the forks from the spoons and knives, then put them in the silverware drawer? Or do you spread the utensils all over the counter and leave them there? No, you go from the dishwasher and sort the silverware directly into the correct compartments in the utensil tray. You are going to do the same thing with your tasks. Just like you need compartments for the spoons and forks, and just like you know where to find the knives in your kitchen, you are going to create compartments for your tasks. That way you will know exactly where to put what you need to do and where to find what you need to do next.

Land Mine 3: Rewriting over and over again  

What I See: Time spent copying over big, long lists onto new big, long lists.

Diagnosis: What do you have to show for that hour or two spent copying your endless list? Just a new endless list and more frustration. You are not advancing your productivity.

Instead: You will learn how to create a self–maintaining system. Regardless of tool, you will learn how to keep your list current. It’s a better use of your time to review, prioritize, and move into action than to rewrite.

Land Mine 4: Leaving updates to chance 

What I see: You occasionally update your list when you feel like it or when you’ve missed something important. There is no process.

Diagnosis: Updating after you’ve dropped the ball is too little too late. You add to your stress and are being reactive rather than proactive. 

Instead: It’s important to build a routine around managing your tasks. A good list is one of your most powerful productivity tools. Remember, however, it only works if you maintain it.

Land Mine 5: Expecting the Tool to Fix the Problem

What I see: You’ve bought countless planners. You’ve downloaded innumerable apps. You keep looking for the magic tool. Up until now, every attempt you’ve made to integrate a new task list has involved buying a tool. That’s like buying books before you know how to read or pads of college ruled paper before you know how to form letters. 

Diagnosis: The tool is secondary. It is not the solution. That’s why all those apps and systems you’ve purchased haven’t worked. Until you have a good methodology, you’ll continue to be frustrated.

Instead: Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll tell you all about the Priorities Planning Method.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

My last blog post we discussed the importance of setting your goals and intentions. This week we move on to Step 2 of the Productivity Flow Framework: Time Mapping.

A time map helps you create a vision of how you want to spend your time. You can think of this as a vision board where you are creating a picture of something you aspire to, or as a budget for your time. This is useful for several reasons:

  • It forces you to think through how you are going to fit in time for the various priorities you’ve identified in your goal and intention setting exercise.
  • It helps you allocate your time most effectively — both at work and at home.
  • It shows you if you need to re-prioritize commitments.
  • It helps you see if your expectations are realistic and feasible.

When you create your time map you’ll want to consider any or all of the following: 

Morning Routine: Do you need time for the kids or pets, exercise, meditation, showering, getting ready, and eating breakfast? Or should you sleep as long as possible and only do the essentials to get to work on time? 

Work Time: 

  • Starting Time — How long is the commute? Do you read the news, peruse social media, check email? How much time do you want to spend on these tasks? Factor in these variables to determine your realistic start time.
  • Work Transitions — Are you magically going from one meeting to the next? Even in the era of Zoom, it does take a couple of minutes to make it to the next call. Oh, and you wanted to recap notes in between? And take a bio break. And grab a glass of water. Planning transition time is important.
  • Focus Work — When can you do your flow, creative, and cognitively taxing work? Can you block out interruptions and do it during the day, or is this better left to an early morning, late afternoon, evening, or weekend block of time? If you block two hours for focus time, does that include checking email, clearing your desk, getting a snack, or anything else you need to do to be able to attend to the work itself? Would it be helpful to build in ramp-up time?
  • Ending Time — When is your work hard stop? Being intentional about when to stop working supports you in developing realistic guardrails. 

Exercise: Do you like to exercise before, during, or after work? Do you need to plan in time for getting to the gym? Shower time? How often do you want to work out? How long are the work outs?

Self-Care: Do you want to have time to take care of yourself? Pleasure reading? Pedicures and massage? Yoga? Meditation? Alone time?

Friends and Family: Do you want time to go out with your friends or partner? How much time do you want to spend with your parents, kids, and family? What else do you want to add in?

Other areas from your Goals and Intentions: Do you need time for a second business? Extra learning? Professional development? Personal projects?

This is your opportunity to think through how you want to use the time you have. About how long transitions REALLY take. About how much sleep you REALLY need, how much exercise you REALLY want to get, and even about when you will take time to appropriately fuel your body with food. 

Start thinking about what matters to you.  Use a template from the book or design your own. What’s most important is that you take a bit of time to identify just how much time you have to “spend.” Time mapping empowers you to depict how you REALLY want to live. It is your opportunity to create a vision for what your ideal week will look like and your first step to living it. 


This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

In my last blog post I explained the importance of setting your goals and intentions, and we discussed why adding intentions was so important. In my book Productivity for How You’re Wired, I share 3 different models you can use to set goals and intentions based on your structure preference. You can create your own plan by following the steps below.  Definitely do the first 3 steps. Steps 4 and 5 are optional based on “how you’re wired.”

Step 1: Identify Focus Areas

Focus areas are the spaces in which you want to spend the time of your life. In a financial budget you’d have areas such as home expenses, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment. For your life’s Focus Areas these may be business/work, professional development, personal growth, self–care, family, spirituality, friends/social, volunteerism, service, activism/advocacy.

Step 2: Set Goals and/or Intentions
A few people can state their goals or intentions off the top of their heads. Most can’t.

If the answers don’t come easily to you start by developing your priorities (Step 3). Then use your priorities to back into your goals and intentions. While it goes against every rigid business planner’s process, completing your priorities first can help you see exactly what matters. Ask “what is the purpose of doing these things” (the priorities.) The answer will bring the goal or intention into focus. Keep your goals and intentions concise and clear. They cue you to remember. They do not need to include ALL the details.

Step 3: Determine Strategic Priorities
The next step is to figure out the three most important things you want to accomplish in each focus area. Your priorities should be actionable within the established time frame of your plan. The priority should identify what you will do.

  • Start with an action word such as plan, complete, strategize, or implement.
  • Be concise – provide enough detail so you understand what want to do, but not so much you can’t easily grasp the action.
  • When identifying your priorities, it is often helpful to prime the pump by ask yourself questions such as these:
    • What project, task or action is critical to my success/my organization’s success?
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What would I be disappointed with if I didn’t achieve?
    • What do I need to do to be who I want to be? 

Step 4: Create your Mission/Purpose/Success Statement

This is your WHY, your driver, what motivates you in work and/or life. If you know your WHY, add it now. If not, it often comes into focus as you complete the rest of the map. This step is optional. Add it if it supports you. Your statement should inspire you:

  • Use words that will reinforce what is important to you.
  • Define what success means to you.

Step 5: Plan your Quarterly Tactics

If you thrive in high structure and you’re excited about having a full–blown, step–by–step quarterly plan, this last section is for you. However, if the thought of doing this last step sounds dreadful, you’re best to skip it.

  1. Think the project through.
  2. Now put the project elements in order. Consider what steps must come before the others. You’ll probably identify a couple of things you are missing. Add those in.
  3. Estimate the time you’ll expect to spend on this element. A good rule of thumb is to double your time estimate.
  4. Now plug the elements into your quarterly plan.

Start thinking about what matters to you.  Use a template from the book or design your own. What’s most important is that you take a bit of time to identify how you want to “spend” your time.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

In my last post I introduced you to the Productivity Flow Framework featured in section 2 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired. Today we move to Chapter 7 where we explore the first concept of the framework – setting your goals and intentions.  Remember, the reason we do this is to clarify and commit to priorities – those things that take time yet YOU deem as most important.  

Many of my clients struggle to set priorities. When asked they simply aren’t sure about what is and isn’t important. Setting goals and intentions helps you clarify what is important – namely those things you want to achieve. Goals have a specific outcome. Intentions are more general and reflect how you wish to live. We look at how and why to integrate both into your plan.

Why Intentions and Not Just Goals?

Goals are useful in some cases. They just aren’t applicable for everything. Considering intentions (how you want to live) expands the value of this exercise.

Goals

A goal has a specific outcome: 

  • Make profits over six figures this year.
  • Complete the team on–boarding program by June.
  • Lose four pounds a month each month this year

The business world embraces the acronym SMART to define the best practices of goal setting. 

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASURABLE
  • ATTAINABLE
  • REALISTIC  
  • TIME–BOUND

A benefit of measurable goals is that they help define achievement. If you know you want to make $100K for a period of time, then you also know when you have attained that benchmark. This takes a bit of pressure off the workaholic, type A, never-enough driver. It helps them to know it’s actually okay to slow down. Goals are great for certain aspects of your work and life. They’re just not the complete picture. 

Intentions

An intention clarifies how you wish to live. 

  • I work smart and give great service.
  • I live a healthy, happy life.
  • I give my best self to my family.
  • I continue to learn so I can help other leaders grow.

Intentions speak to your inner-self and bring meaning to the things you do. They can be aspirational, motivating you without the pressure of measurement. Intentions help you find success as defined by you.

Consider SMART intentions:

  • SOUL–FOCUSED
  • MEANINGFUL
  • ASPIRATIONAL
  • REASONABLE  
  • TRANSFORMATIVE

Goals AND Intentions 

Most people have both goals and intentions. To focus on one and not the other is addressing just a portion of what is important.

My clients tell me they need help figuring out how to get all their work done. In reality, work is only part of the challenge. Many say they would like to take time off without worry, spend more quality time with their families, and even have a bit of time for themselves. As you work through identifying your own goals and intentions, you may want to consider more than work. Remember, a key reason to improve productivity is to have a full and better life.

Success On Your Own Terms

When people think of success, most think dollars. However, when they clarify what success means to them, they typically find they are seeking something more holistic. The money part is more the vehicle to get to the life they want. 

Do you want to have time to take care of the kids or an aging family member and still have a career? What if you want to travel and still have your work? What if your success is defined by having time to give back to your community?

Success is not always about the money. Being intentional about what matters in the big picture of life helps keep you from falling into the trap of letting others define success for you.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

Today’s post summarizes Section 2 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired. I will provide more detail in future posts but we’ll start here –  with  the 30,000 foot view.  

The Productivity Flow Framework provides you with tools and context to help you achieve your goals and intentions and become your most productive, successful, fulfilled self. 

  • It is strategic. You are creating your process to work more effectively. 
  • It is a framework. It provides you context to work within. 
  • It flows from tool to tool. Everything impacts everything else, and helps you find flow in work and life.
  • It is customizable to your structure preference and productivity style. It reflects you.

Think of it as a picture frame. It holds the picture. The picture is you.

Goals and Intention Setting

We identify goals and intentions to clarify what is truly important. If you aren’t clear, or if too many things matter, you end up spreading yourself so thin that you are on that proverbial treadmill and it is only with luck the right work gets done.

By taking the time to clarify and create your own strategic plan, you are laying the foundation for doing the work that improves your quality of work and your quality of life. 

Time Mapping  

A time map helps you create a vision of how you want to spend your time. Think of this like a vision board where you are creating a picture of something you aspire to, or a budget for how you want to use your time. 

  • It helps paint a vision of what you want your life to look like. 
  • It helps you take the time to think through, and plug in, the various priorities you’ve identified in your goal and intention setting exercise.
  • It helps you see if your expectations are realistic.

Essential Structures

Boundaries come to life as Essential Structures; what you need to say YES to and what you need to say NO to to be your best self. The Time Map gives us clues and from it we are able to create a concrete list of

  • Winning Conditions – the nonnegotiable choices you make that you want to become habits
  • Guardrails – the things you must say no to in order to do the kind of work you want to do and be the person you want to be.

Task Prioritization

This tool is more tactical and directly impacts your day-to-day work. The central concept to take away from this section is the importance of sequentially prioritizing your work based on your goals, intentions, and essential structures. Most to-do list tools organize tasks by day or date. This is different. Organizing tasks by priority ensures you are doing the right things at the right time.

Weekly and Daily Planning 

Weekly and Daily planning makes being productive much easier. You can function without planning; however, without a plan, you can’t maximize your time or be focused and strategic, and you won’t ever be sure you are successful. 

  • Planning helps you use your time for the things that have the greatest payoff — your high-value work.
  • Planning ensures you are set up to use your time to act on the things you’ve deemed most important.
  • Planning gives you benchmarks to reach so when you aren’t working you can actually relax. 

The Productivity Flow Framework helps you build a solid foundation. And with this foundation you can delve into the tactics that will help bring your current situation into alignment with your vision for work success and a better life. 

Think of the framework as you would a border of a puzzle, the frame that links everything together. Just like a puzzle, with perseverance, you’ll get the full picture. Taking responsibility for your productivity is something only you can do.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.