This also means that I spend an inordinate amount of time trying out tricks, techniques, tools … anything to help get stuff done, and done fast.
I want to get it done fast because time is at a premium, but also because I have an irrational fear of boredom (please don’t judge me). I’m also a closet fan of Bruno Mars, so that’s two things I have in common with my kids, but I digress.
Fact is, I will do almost anything to avoid routine, repetitive tasks – like grocery shopping. If I absolutely can’t avoid said repetitive, mundane tasks – like, ahem, grocery shopping – I spend a disproportionate amount of time and effort thinking up new ways of making them interesting, and if not interesting, turn them into a game.
How? By seeing how fast, how much and/or how well I can achieve the outcome I set for myself. I’ve even gamified grocery shopping: how fast I get it done, and bonus points if I don’t have to double back on an aisle I’ve already passed (you know, I’m sure I’m not the only insane person who obsesses over how boring grocery shopping is, yet refuses to give up on the pleasure of selecting gorgeously yummy fresh vegetables herself).
Anyway, on to how to become a productivity machine overnight – ready? Here we go.
You can’t get productive if you don’t know what the end result is supposed to be.
I come across this all the time in the application development world. There’s this lovely, fuzzy vision of this app. Phrases like “easy to use” and “must look good” are bandied about freely.
The problem is that no two persons agree on what “easy to use” really looks like, sounds like and feels like. Worse, they don’t even discuss it to reach a common understanding, a common agreed test for what constitutes “easy to use”.
On the other hand, specifying “must reach screen X in a maximum of 3 clicks” is easy to test, and even easier to agree whether it’s been achieved. You reach screen X in no more than 3 clicks or you don’t. Clear.
How do you know when the outcome you’ve set for yourself is clear? What is the test? How will you know when you’re done?
I think of it as the pregnancy test: you’re pregnant, or not. You can’t be partially pregnant.
Is your outcome as clear as a pregnancy test?
Assembly Line Size
Once you have a clear outcome, you need to break it down into bite-size chunks.
This is an area I used to get stuck in all the time. Is the chunk too big? Too small? Too medium (is there such a thing as too medium??).
I think about an assembly line. There’s a conveyor belt, and each person at a station on the assembly line is doing precisely one thing. A highly specialized task, but still just one thing. And it must be done within a specific amount of time, otherwise the conveyor belt will move on, the next person won’t be able to do their thing … and soon chaos would ensue.
Break down the steps to your crystal clear outcome into assembly line size chunks: a clear start and a clear end.
Are you chunks conveyor belt-worthy?
With a clear outcome, small chunks with clear entry and exit points, all you need now is to assign a time to it.
Time box your step or task to a fixed period, say 30 minutes. Remember, the longer the time interval assigned, the longer your task will take. You know how work always expands to take up all the time available.
Set a timer so that the time available is just 20 to 30 minutes. Knowing you will work to 30 minutes slots will influence the size of the chunks above, which, in turn will light the way to your clear outcome.
It works. Visualize an outcome whose clarity is unassailable, break down how to get there into single step chunks, time box each chunk into 30-minute slots.
That’s it. Now do that for each outcome you want for tomorrow. Write it down tonight. Start living it first thing in the morning.