So much has changed in the 22 years since David Allen’s book Getting Things Done was published. The early 2000s were rife with now-classic productivity books, including the Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (2003) and Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week (2007). From my perspective, many of the lessons of these books became deeply ingrained in those of us geared toward improving productivity and that has served us well. However, I’m noticing that all that extra time we had during shut-downs—wildfires, Covid–may have contributed to some backsliding. Are you working less smart, and therefore harder, than you need to be?
Zoom vs In-person meetings: If the meeting is to make creative choices and plan a complex project, I think meeting in-person is much more effective, but I love Zoom for dry business meetings that don’t have much nuance. Choose the right format for your meetings.
Always Carry Something Up the Stairs: This is a tried-and-true favorite of Moms everywhere; easy to teach and easy to learn. If you always take something to put away every time you go up the stairs, (or out to the garage or into the office) you’ll prevent a big end-of-day haul.
Be Present: If you’re in a meeting, pay attention to the meeting. If you’re doing the dishes, just do the dishes. Multi-tasking means every task gets short-changed.
Do It Right the First Time: If you are present (focused) and do your best on a task the first time, you don’t have to go back and clean up a mess or redo everything later. Also, finish if you can. Leaving a task half-finished means having to regather supplies or remind your brain where you left off with time-wasting review. Who wants to wash out paint brushes more often than you absolutely must?
Write it Down: Don’t rely on your memory. Use sticky notes and a Sharpie (easy to read) and put reminders wherever you need them. “Trash Night!” is one of my favorites and I stick it on the door nearest my waste bins.
Use Your Down Time: Never go anywhere without pen and paper, a phone charger and current reading material. When you find yourself with down time, such as waiting at a doctor’s office or at a coffee shop for a friend, you will be able to use your time productively.
Batch Up: Plan your errands so that you are not zig-zagging across the universe. Focus on your lists before you leave the house so that you don’t forget anything and have to run back to the store. Keep lists on your phone so there’s not the “I forgot my list,” excuse. Batch up your questions and comments in a notes app so that you can address them all at one time during a meeting.
Some people even “batch” comments for their significant others and schedule a time once a week to get out little grievances, but that sounds pretty clinical to me. The thinking is that a lot of little prickly comments through the week are more damaging to a relationship than one civilized, agreed upon airing out session per week. What’s been working for me is to just not vocalize every little grievance during the week because by the end of the week I’ve realized how unimportant it was anyway. Silence can be awesome for goodwill and productivity I’ve discovered.
What’s Your Time Worth: One thing I notice a lot and do myself is taking on work that someone else could do better, faster and cheaper. If your time is worth X and hiring someone to do a task that you find onerous, don’t have the expertise or don’t have the time for is cheaper, pay someone to do this task while you do the income-generating work you’re better at. A great example is hauling stuff to the dump. For the time you spend finding a truck or trailer, loading it up, taking it to the dump and paying the dump fees, let alone the massage and manicure you will need afterward, you could hire someone else to do it.