I’ve been thinking about productivity quite a bit recently. First from a personal perspective – I found ways to enhance my ability to reach goals. I’m still on that journey but now have some tips and tricks under my belt. I’ve increased my ability to get stuff done by 3-5x.
Now I’m thinking business ideas – how can we help many people achieve their goals and get stuff done.
Productive: Producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.
Productivness: The quality of being productive or having the power to produce.
Showing up is Half the Battle
I’m going to examine productivity systems. But first a pre-requisite.
Show up in a physical and mental state to work.
This is basic. Try getting high quality work done while under-slept, hung-over, hungry, and angry at your wife. Good luck. About all folks can manage in this state is hitting urgent deadlines (often poorly) and churning through mundane repetitive tasks. More often just about nothing gets done – but infinite knowledge is obtained on the state of TechCrunch, Nytimes, and Facebook friend update.
I’ve been in a beautiful physical and mental state and chosen to watch The Walking Dead (was intending to work…). Why does this happen? What needs to be in place to ensure it doesn’t.
- Have a list of tasks, prioritized.
- Know what the next step is on each task.
- Know what ‘done’ looks like.
- Connect with how the task at hand serves your larger life goals.
- Minimize distractions (internal and external).
- Have the tools at hand to take on the tasks, and be excellent at using them efficiently.
- Be accountable to someone you trust for getting it all done.
- Measure results, review, rinse and repeat.
What Exists to Help?
Many excellent folks have helped us with tools to become more productive. But there are gaps. Let’s explore.
There is a huge amount of content on productivity. Getting Things Done and The Pomodoro Technique are two of my favorite systems. They work. There are surely thousands of other system that work and folks who can inform you about them.
But where do you start? How do you stay with it?
One-on One coaching for productivity kicks ass. Just call up David Allen and pay whatever he asks since you’re a billionaire. I’m sure it would be excellent.
Why isn’t there anything between Content and Coaching?
A good parallel market to take a look at is fitness. There exist *many* levels between ‘read and do’ and ‘personal trainer’.
There is the middle for productivity?
Tons of software exists to help you become more productive. See the detailed mind-map I made of the space below (using iThoughtsHD).
How about a high-level summary? I’ll focus on the state-of-the-art advances happening in productivity today.
Basic productivity tools like email, calendar, document editing, chat, etc. have mass-market adoption. A ton of work is going into optimizing and tweaking these basic productivity systems. Examples:
- Doodle is making it easier to schedule meetings using a web application to help select times.
- Followup.cc is adding reminders/followup capabilities to email so nothing falls through the cracks.
- Instapaper is making it easy to ‘read it later’ on multiple devices.
- As a trend in itself – the humble todo list is getting a major upgrade in usability, social, reminders, from Asana, Do.com, Wunderlist, and many others.
New classes of productivity tools are emerging that create exciting ways to get more done.
- Campfire combines chat/calls/file sharing into a nice web tool for group meetings and collaboration.
- Evernote is helping you remember everything.
- RescueTime tracks what you do on your computer and Freedom turns off the internet so you can work.
Software tools are emerging to help implement systems previously just available as content.
An ideal team is tuned for productivity. The team is co-located, everyone knows what the priorities are, what their deliverables are, peers and mentors provide coaching, and there is a palpable sense of cohesion around getting stuff done. Think a well-run Scrum around a software project.
Unfortunately there are two factors that interrupt this ideal for most people:
- Offices are full of distractions – the absolute productivity killer. M&M’s – Meetings and Managers stop us from getting our work done.
- Much of the work we do today doesn’t occur in a nice small-team format. We are often on our own, in the office or elsewhere – working through email, document creation, or consuming content. It’s lonely and support systems are hard to find.
A couple things pop out as missing form the current architecture of productivity.
- Coaching is one-on-one only – group/smart-software coaching is needed.
- Many systems exist. Software support is minimal. Sometimes software just mucks things up – but I suspect well designed and tested software can help us implement productivity systems.
- Accountability as part of a small and excellent team is a great motivator. Most of us don’t perform most of our tasks in this environment.
- Office environments are often tuned for anti-productivity. From the desk (standing, balancing, lighting, sound isolation) to the office (creative spaces, doors) a ton could be done to foster productivity and creativity.
- Discovery and measurement is a problem. There are SO many options to improve productivity it’s hard to know where to start and what works.
Get in touch if you are thinking about these problems!