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What Grocery Stores Tell Us About Productivity

What Grocery Stores Tell Us About Productivity
Grocery

    When we moved from Baltimore to north Jersey, there were several adjustments that had to be made. From a higher cost of living to the people-friendly deer population, life in Jersey is just plain different! Surprisingly, one of the biggest adjustments has been our choice of supermarkets. In Baltimore, we went to one and only one market for everything from produce to frozen goods but here we have three stores within a five minute drive. Decisions, decisions.

    Initially my wife felt that we should choose one market but after visiting all three we realized that a new approach might be needed. We decided to get the bonus cards for all three and depending on our need and location, we would be flexible and shop at the market that best matched our shopping list for that day. In a strange sort of way, I think that this vignette captures the flavor of today’s knowledge worker. Instead of one tool for productivity, a toolbox is required, comprised of different tools for use at just the right time. Let’s take a look at some essential productivity concepts related to those tools.

    What you need, when you need it. Let’s say you’re driving down the freeway and a great idea pops into your head- what do you do? You don’t want to lose the idea but stopping in the middle of the highway in order to write it down isn’t a safe idea either so what to do? A truly productive person will have a tool handy for capturing that idea. A cell phone might be just the thing or a voice recorder or you might in fact decide that pulling over to write down the thought is the best plan of action. Whatever the case, having the right tool at the right time is indeed worth its weight in gold. I find that having an old fashioned steno pad is always a good idea for a meeting, even if it’s going to be brief. There’s nothing more tragic than writing notes down on your boss’s business card because you don’t have a notepad handy.

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    Do your homework. If you’re in the market for a new productivity tool, do some homework. Check out the forums at Lifehack.org Community or do a Google search for “productivity tools”. Find out what’s working for other folks and ask questions. If you’re into paper planning, a trip to your local office superstore store might be just the thing to feel the paper and hold it up to the light.

    Spend (some) money. While a pad of paper and a pen will satisfy most needs, many find that some sexy tools are needed to take things to the next level. I’ve used PDAs for years and currently run on a Palm Treo 650. In that I sign up for a wireless two-year contract, I’m forced to stay with my device for two years, getting plenty of use from a gadget that serves as both organizer and cell phone. The gadget doesn’t make the man but it can often be an essential tool for adding some “go” to your productivity toolbox.

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    Shrug off the peer pressure. The next time you’re tempted to feel guilty or jealous over someone else’s productivity, shrug it off. Hey, they might be posers who are just as helpless as the next guy! Check your productivity temperature, evaluate your current stress levels and get back to your system. Don’t let the next guy’s gadget get in the way of doing your thing.

    Major investments deserve major time. If you’re going to put down a chunk of change for a new BlackBerry or iPhone, you’ll want to maximize return on investment. For me, the two-year cell contract ensures that I’m going to stay with my PDA for at least two years. If you purchase a new planner, don’t give it a week and then let it collect dust on the shelf- give it three or four weeks and put it to work.

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    Avoid perpetual “testing”. There are folks who are addicted to self improvement in the way that talk show junkies can’t get enough of the latest tell-all authors on the speaking circuit. Rather than running out to try and demo the latest gadget or productivity fad, be a person with great habits and routines. Work on your sleeping patterns, eat well and work smart. As with a child who is learning to play baseball, the basics are what make for a productive person. Instead of hitting, catching and throwing, the knowledge worker practices list keeping, time management and planning.

    Whether you’re running to the supermarket(s) of choice or navigating a busy schedule, get comfortable with a variety of tools for getting the job done. Your productivity will thank you for it!

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    Mike St. Pierre blogs about productivity and work-life balance at The Daily Saint.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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