Ben Yoskovitz has created a worthwhile group writing meme to inspire the collection of personal productivity secrets. Since I was ‘tagged’ by my friend Jason Kotecki (he’s the guy with the cure for Adultitis), here are three of my personal productivity secrets…
#1.) The Most Productive Thing Possible
This is one of my oldest techniques, adopted from an audio seminar series recorded by sales legend Tom Hopkins. I borrowed the tapes from the local library when I first started in sales, and it’s stuck with me ever since. The technique itself is even older, because I recall Hopkins citing it as a productivity secret handed down to him from one of his own mentors.
When Hopkins asked his mentor for advice on improving his own productivity, his mentor told him — “I’ll tell you, but you’ll never look at what you’re doing in the same way ever again. You might even get angry at me for telling you about this technique, because you’ll never get it out of your head. Are you sure you really want to know?” With a setup like that, how could you say no? Here’s what Tom was told — hang a sign in your work space with one simple question written on it, and ask it of every project on which you’re working:
thing possible right now?”
A simple question, but oh so powerful. I have to admit that now that I’ve used the technique for so many years that I don’t even need the sign to provide the productivity reality check, and I frequently put aside, or completely stop work, on a project right in the middle of executing a task if it can’t measure up to the standard of “The Most Productive Thing Possible.”
#2.) Audio Blinders
In order to keep horses from be startled or distracted by its surroundings, some owners will but “blinders” on the side of it’s head to block out theire peripheral vision and keep it focused only on what is directly in front of its field of vision. While I don’t have a problem with being distracted by incidental visuals (barring a parade of Victoria Secret supermodels walking past my desk — which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like) I can be taken out of my mental “productivity zone” by sounds.
This past year I’ve been working in a large team environment (a bunch of desks in the middle of a large room) without even the buffer of cubical walls. It’s the sales department of a broadcasting company, and not only can you hear every individual phone call or personal conversation — the company pipes it’s broadcast programming through overhead speakers (you think YOU hear the same song a lot when you’re listening to the radio? Try not being able to change the station after you’ve heard Justin Timberlake “Bring Sexy Back” for the 15th time that day. Yeesh!)
I’ve begun the practice of wearing headphones or earbuds while I am working at my desk. Not only does it block out some of the environmental noise, but it cuts down on the number of personal interruptions (most people who really don’t need anything important will see you with a headset and come back later) — Sometimes I’m not even listening to anything through the headphones!
#2-1/2.) It’s Got a Good Beat and You can Work to it
The other advantage of the headphons is that you CAN listen to music through them. I learned long ago that I could control the types of ideas I generate by controlling the music I listened to while brainstorming. I’ve now proven the same technique can be applied to “normal” work. Classical or Smooth Jazz is great for working on reports or creating budgets. The mostly instrumental playlist allows me to concentrate and think more logically. Rock, punk, and 80s music is phenomenal when I’m working on sales pitches and marketing ideas — projects where I need to have high energy and enthusiasm in order to make an emotional connection for building rapport.
#3.) Master-Lists, Mini-Lists, and Non-Lists
I always keep a large master list of ALL my projects. It could be several pages long, and captures every project I would like the eventually get around to working on. It’s not so much a to-do list as record of an annual goals list (I tend to overhaul it once per year), but I use it to build my daily mini-lists. I should probably clarify “list” because it’s probably not what you think. Most folks take a sheet of paper, a dayplanner, an index card, etc. and make a numeric or A-B-C-ranked priority list. I use individual Post-It notes.
I write a single task on each 3×3 note using a black Sharpie and then stick them on the first page of my hinge-cover legal pad. As project priorities change throughout the day (or new tasks are added) I can rearrange all the individual tasks with ease. Once a task is accomplished, I can remove the Post-It, give it a satisfying crumple, and take a free-throw toss at the closest trash can (waaay cooler than checking off a box or crossing a line through something!)
Those are my top-3 personal productivity secrets, I hope you find them helpful. Now it falls to me to “tag” the next three people to participate what I believe is a worthwhile project. Here are my three…
…and for a truly outrageous spin on this project…
Mike Barr, Bosship.com