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Honesty: The Best Policy for The Best Productivity

Honesty: The Best Policy for The Best Productivity
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    Honest Tea Cap (Photo credit: Dome Poon)

    There are many tools you can use to increase your level of productivity. Whether paper-based solutions are your cup of tea or you’ve dove into the digital well of task management offerings, you’d be wasting a ton of time trying to discover all of the tools out there. I’d wager it is one of the least productive things you could ever do.

    But of all the tools at your disposal, the one between your ears is the one that needs to be actively engaged to allow for prominent increases to happen. There’s a human component that leads to better productivity on the whole, and while analog tools may not remove the brain from the equasion as fully as digital ones might, when we trust our lists as written without using our brain in tandem, the results for the items that are crucial to us are less desirable.

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    The “heart” comes into play, too. Why? Because we’re human. So when the brain and emotion are used in concert with a productivity system, you can tap into the real power of what you can do. And much of that power lies in simply being honest with yourself. Honesty plays a huge role in the quality of what we do.

    Limitations

    Whether you look at how much you can accomplish (and accomplish well) in a given timeline, whether you look at how well you can accomplish a task or project considering your skill set or whether or not you truly care about what’s on your plate, being honest with yourself is the only true way to get the best work out of you. You may even be surprised how much you can exceed limitations when you start spending more time being honest with yourself. You’ll achieve better results because you’re taking on less of the stuff that doesn’t sit well with you.

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    Adapatability

    Honesty can fine-tune your ability to adapt. If you aren’t being fufilled in an environment, tapping into your true self will often provide you the answer as to how to find such fulfillment. Sometimes it means exploring ways to work within the environment, sometimes it means looking at it differently. Sometimes it means removing yourself from the environment altogether. By being honest with yourself you will discover that you’re far more “productively versatile” and you’ll reap the benefits of demonstrating that to those around you.

    Happiness

    You can’t fool yourself into being happy. So why try? If you’re not happy, you aren’t going to be as productive. Honesty plays a huge part in this – and you don’t have to look too deeply into yourself to realize when you’re not. Faking it will only take you so far, and often it also takes you farther away from getting to where you really want to be. Find happiness in what you do and where you are, or do and go somewhere else. It’s honestly the best thing for everyone.

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    Procrastination

    This one is tricky, because while you can justify putting things off, you can rarely do that in an honest manner. Strangely, that also means whatever you are doing to procrastinate is also not being done as well as it could be. Start being more honest with yourself, and both your uptime and downtime will be more productive, because both can be done without the distraction of justifying what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.

    Quality

    Honestly look at what you’re “shipping” these days. Is it great? Better yet, is it as great as you know you could make it? That’s the better question, because while you may say “yes” to the first questiom, the second one requires a lot more honesty on your part. So ask the second question before you ship it. That way people will be looking forward to receiving it.

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    The Best Policy

    Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you. – Billy Joel

    These words are directed at a lover in Joel’s classic tune, but in this case you need to direct them at yourself. Give the word some company, stand out above the crowd. Say it loud, say it to yourself, say it knowing that you need it from yourself. You’ll be amazed at the results.

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    Honest.

    More by this author

    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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