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What’s Missing in Productivity Today?

What’s Missing in Productivity Today?
What’s Missing in Today’s Productivity?

This month, we asked Lifehack.org contributors — and you, our readers — to think about the things that are missing in today’s productivity systems. Not only the areas where the "Big Name" systems fall short, but the gaps in our own systems, the places where we as individuals fall down.

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The Lifehack.org community rose to the challenge, offering a variety of thought-provoking posts and comments that hopefully gave us all something to mull over before we embark on yet another round of system-tweaking.

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In chronological order, here are all the posts from Lifehack.org this month that set out to answer the question, "What’s missing in today’s productivity systems?"

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  • My Redundant Productivity System (Joel Falconer)
    While "touch it once" might be a good rule for inbox processing, having multiple, redundant copies of your crucual work and reference documents is an important part of staying productive — even when (especially when) disaster strikes.
  • 10 Tips for Improving Your Appointment Setting Skills (Thursday Bram)
    Setting an appointment means more than jotting a time and name in your calendar; here’s 10 things to think about to avoid wasting time before or during scheduled appointments.
  • Why doing nothing may sometimes be the best action of all (Adrian Savage)
    Your brain is wired to act, even when the facts aren’t all in. Slow down and make sure you have all the information you need before you act — and consider whether doing nothing might be your wisest course of (in)action.
  • Personal Productivity in the 21st Century (Dustin M. Wax)
    In their attempt to reduce everything to discrete chunks of doing, today’s productivity systems don’t leave space for the kinds of work that characterize most of our jobs today. How can we open more space for creativity, reflection, and just being?
  • The Gaps in the Standard Address Book (Thursday Bram)
    7 ways to improve the off-the-shelf address book or contact management program.
  • Simplify Your Information Intake (Joel Falconer)
    Productivity starts with the things we choose not to do — and limiting how much email and web content we handle, and how we handle it — can go a long ways toward creating more productive days.
  • Audiobook Review: David Allen’s "GTD > Weekly Review" (Dustin M. Wax)
    The weekly review is far and away the red-headed stepchild of David Allen’s GTD methodology. Arguably the most important part of the system (the thing that makes it a system), the weekly review is the most likely part ot be skipped or minimized. Allen’s new 3-CD set offers help getting back on track and rethinking the role and importance of the weekly review.
  • The Real Trouble with Productivity (Lisa Gates)
    Productivity as an aim in and of itself is an empty thing, indeed. True productivity lies in the ways we make meaning in our lives, and is grounded in a vision worth pursuing. What’s yours?
  • Small Projects Generate Good Feelings (Karl Staib)
    Productivity needn’t be only about marketing campaigns and writing best-sellers; little projects give us the opportunity to plan, carry out, and finish, creating satisfaction in a job well done that will carry over into the rest of our lives.
  • There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management (Dustin M. Wax)
    Being productive doesn’t mean getting the most stuff done in the least amount of time, it means doing the necessary stuff as efficiently as possible so we can focus on the things that add meaning to our lives. Make time for the most useless thing you do!
  • Self-Discipline: The Foundation of Productive Living (Joel Falconer)
    "Self-discipline is the power to act on ideas." Learn to get yourself from thought to action — especially where all this productivity talk is concerned!
  • What are the aids for increasing GENUINE productivity? (Adrian Savage)
    There are literally hundreds of software products out there that claim to increase productivity, yet all of them do basically the same thing: categorize todo lists. What might a program that really increased productivity — that helped us do more or better in the same or less time — look like?
  • Look for the Solution within the Problem (Paul Sloane)
    Systematic Inventive Thinking is a way of thinking about problems that sees a problem as a chain of unwanted effects and seeks to break the chain. It offers inventive solutions to problems where resources are limited.
  • 10 HARD Ways to Make Your Life Better (Dustin M. Wax)
    Too many people promise an easy way to wealth, fame, and happiness. Doing something hard, even if you fail, is often far more satisfying — and truth be told, probably a lot more certain.
  • Change Your Day, Change Your Life, Change the World: A Review of “New Day Revolution” by Sam Davidson and Stephen Moseley (Dustin M. Wax)
    One way to create more meaning is to direct your actions towards changing the world. Davidson and Mosely’s book offers a few ideas to help you start bringing your day-to-day activities in line with your vision of a better world.
  • Go on a High-Information Diet (Dustin M. Wax)
    The key to productivity isn’t to minimize the information you take in — you need as much of that as you can get! Rather, the key lies in reducing the amount of superfluous junk, to go on the intellectual version of a high-fiber, low-fat diet.
  • Getting to Good Enough (Dustin M. Wax)
    Get things done by accepting less than perfection. 80% good is better than 100% nothing.
  • Productivity maybe . . . but for what purpose? (Adrian Savage)
    By every emasure, we’re more productive today than a generation ago — yet we have less leisure, less connection, and less happiness. Why? For most of us, it’s because the time we free up weighs on us, and we seek desperately to fill it with even more work. There are other choices!
  • How to Maximize Efficiency by Grouping Tasks (Joel Falconer)
    An antidote to "Cranking widgets"? Tips on thinking and working at the "big picture" level by grouping tasks.
  • Welcome Failure (Paul Sloane)
    If you want innovation, you need to learn to embrace failure.

There you have it. 20 takes on what it might mean to be productive in today’s world and what our systems fail to take into account. What do you think? What’s missing in your system?

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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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