On Productivity

This post on Smart Guy Productivity Pitfalls is really hitting home for me today. I’m not a programmer, so a lot of the specifics don’t apply, but the big picture stuff really really really does, especially numbers 3-6 on his list:

  • Minimize uncertainty.  In another blog article, Productivity vs. Uncertainty and Apathy, I talk about how poorly defined goals can lead to poor productivity.  If it’s unclear what you need to get done today, then there’s a reasonable chance you won’t actually do anything today.
  • Commit to getting something done every day.  When you show up in the morning have a well defined set of things to finish that day.  Stay as late as you have to in order to finish.  By committing to finishing that task other distractions will naturally fall by the wayside.  For example, I have jiu-jitsu training at 7pm.  If I screw off too much during the day, I don’t get to train.  Also, by committing to a task, you avoid “being busy” instead of “getting work done”, they’re not the same thing.
  • Never say “I’ll finish it up tomorrow” or “I’ll make up for it by coming in early/staying late/working the weekend”.  This is an easy trap to get into, where you keep incurring time debt until at some point you realize you’re now three weeks behind on a task that should have taken two days.  This is like racking up credit card bills assuming you can pay them off later.  Which is fine, until “later” arrives and you’ve only accumulated more debt.
  • Do not overpromise to make up for poor productivity.  There’s a tendency when we’re falling behind to try to overcompensate with future promises.  “When I’m done, it’ll be AWESOME” or “I know I’m late, but I’m positive I’ll be done by Monday”.  By doing those things we just build more debt we can’t pay off, and that will eventually lead to a catastrophic melt down when the super final absolutely last deadline date shows up.  Just get shit done, don’t talk about how you’re going to get shit done.

Found this via this morning’s ProfHacker.

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