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To achieve success, we need fulfillment and have the feeling that we are in control of our lives and making a difference to the world.

Productivity is a key component for success as it allows us to get more things done.

In this discussion thread I will share with you some insights about productivity that I got from different mentors.

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What keeps us from being productive?

Before examining what helps increasing our productivity, let us start by looking at the many elements reducing our productivity.

1. Choice
Sometimes there are too many options and we can get lost. Making a choice on what to do, which product to buy, which course to study or which email to reply can be a difficult task.

In some other occasions, we have the feeling that we are obliged to perform a certain task that we do not want. In these situations we have to expand choice.

In both scenarios, having control of choice is a powerful thing.

2. Distractions and ¨multitasking¨
This is a major one, especially for us. We are distracted all the time by email, instant messages, SMS or just a colleague who knocks on our office door.

We expect everyone else to be available all the time.

These interruptions and distractions are literally stealing our productivity.

We need to learn how to stop and control these distractions, minimizing the interruption to be able to focus.

Doing too many things at a time fragments our focus.

Has it ever happened to you to go sleep thinking about the hundred things you have to do... and then go to work on the next day thinking... that you need some sleep? This is called the grey zone, that Tony Schwartz talked about (I posted a video here in this group - really worth watching).

3. The entertainment erotica
I was exchanging emails with one Diplo colleague and he was criticizing some business literature as ¨business erotica¨, which, in his words, is ¨soft and fuzzy, but low on thinking and conceptual development¨.

Indeed, there are more and more such materials since producers realized that the public is more interested in being entertained than being informed.

Or, in the case of news... sometimes we want more the tragedy, drama and shock than actual information.

The lesson is that if we want to grow we shall not be distracted by entertainment and do not let it seduce our attention - always keeping an eye on the true value of the information.

4. Culture of magic pills
There is a great book by George Leonard, called Mastery. Among other ideas, he mentions how we are moving to a culture that praises magical solutions and we have difficult time to understand how much work and patience it takes to cultivate something great that only a master would.

There are many reasons for that, but the important thing is to understand that instant gratification is immature thinking.

Instead of working on the symptom, work on the system and get the results you want.

This is connected to the idea of systems thinking. Long term results and short term results of an action are often different and opposite.

One phrase I like is ¨Life is hard if you live it the easy way and easy if you live it the hard way¨.
Basic ideas for personal productivity

These are very generic ideas and principles and hardly can be directly implemented. But it is nonetheless good to keep them in mind as they will set up the framework on how one can increase productivity.

1. Can we control time flow?

First thing is to make the observation that ¨time management¨ can be a misnomer. Everyone has the same amount of time and this cannot be changed. What we do is not to ¨manage time¨, but rather ¨manage ourselves¨.

If we pay attention, for large part of our time we act as robots repeating our routines. If we take the responsibility to change our habits, our new habits can change ourselves.

2. I am different!

Of course you are. Everybody is - at least we like to think this way :)

Some people tend to be more organized and like clear structures. These are the folks who have electronic organizers, put all meetings in their smartphones or just carry pen and paper anywhere.
Some other people are more chaotic (or ¨creative¨ if you prefer).

The point is that we have to identify our unique personality traits and develop them as strengths. Everybody can be productive - sometimes by using different methods.

Where can you add more structure and organization? And where can you put more flow and creativity? Balancing organization with restrictive creativity can be powerful.

3. Be proactive

This may sound jargon, but has so much truth in it that it is worth repeating. Focus on what you want to create, and not what you want to avoid.

Your future can be a continuation of your past, or it can be something totally new you create starting today.

What do you want to achieve and change about your habits?
Do you waste time checking different blogs and news sites? And sometimes you just refresh the page to see there is nothing new of your interest?

I was one such person... until this morning. Now I have finally decided to check what that RSS thing (the orange square in many sites) is about. Maybe you want to check these two videos as well:

First, check what is RSS

Then you can check Google Reader (the one I chose):

p.s. Via Google Reader I found that some of my friends have been promoting the report of the Remote Participation Working Group - cool!




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