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Trial By Fire Productivity – Base Tools and Process

Trial By Fire Productivity – Base Tools and Process
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    This post is part of the Trial By Fire Productivity series.

    The first thing that came apparent was the need to define my time. I had to do this in a way that was both flexible and clear.

    The only productivity/time management tools I kept are Google Calendar, my Miquelrius spiral grid notebook, and Thunderbird for email. So the first thing was to establish a process and pick some tools to track it.

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    After some consideration, I chose John Richardson’s The Focused 50 for its clearly defined boundaries. Since a bulk of my workload consists of several smaller tasks, it fit my ideal time-boxing methodology well.

    To track the time and schedule out my day, I chose David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner. The form is easy to use, very efficient, and allows me to capture everything for each day in one place.

    These 2 tools are paired with my notebook, where I capture all my actions and project info, then process out to the daily task planner.

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    I needed simplicity with clarity. That is my ultimate goal for this experiment. To establish a process that works for me and my somewhat odd daily schedule, and allows me to plan things accordingly.

    So for my base process and tools, this is what I will be using:

    • Google Calendar for scheduled appointments
    • Miquelrius grid notebook for capturing, and notes
    • The Focused 50 for daily time-boxing process
    • Emergent Task Planner for outlining each day and tracking

    The idea is to keep the process as agile as possible, while being able to clearly define timelines and actions.

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    The Verdict: Even after only about a week of using it, I’ve found that this base process works well for me. The goal of this experiment is to allow me to have ample time to get my new venture ready to launch, while keeping up with my other projects and commitments. I’m not sure how well this lean of a process would work for someone who wasn’t able to set their own schedule and agenda. For those who are self-employed or do clearly defined project work, it fits very well. At this point I will continue to use this as my base process, and will discuss it further in the 30-day progress podcast.

    Alternatives: In addition to the Emergent Task Planner, David Seah has several other tools in his Printable CEO Series that could fit. Also, there are several templates in the D*I*Y Planner that can also be used in a similar way. Since Miquelrius notebooks are becoming increasingly difficult to find, I am also going to consider the Levenger Circa or other Rollabind notebooks with grid sheets (hat tip to Kenny for the recommendation).

    Next Up: Brainstorming and high level planning tools.

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    Other Entries in this Series

    Tony D. Clark is an entrepreneur, writer, and artist who spends a lot of time talking others into profiting from what they know, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest provides inspiration, tips, and advice for the home-based entrepreneur and those aspiring to be one – all served up with humor and cartoons.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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