Tagproductivity

Getting Back in the Swing

It’s not particularly easy getting into the swing of work after an extended absence. Today is my first day with my legs back under the desk after enjoying an extended break.

This is a time of reacquainting myself with things. Picking up projects and tasks that have laid idle for some time, waiting for my return. Checking in on others and hoping that progress has been made in my absence.

This first day back has not been productive in the sense that tangible and visible work has not been completed. Nevertheless, it’s given me a chance to refamiliarise myself with the job. I’ve got some fresh perspectives on how I want to do the work, so I’ve been able to think on how those might be incorporated.

Of course, I’ve also had that lovely job of reading through hundreds of emails that have built up. Fortunately, with the help of Sanebox, my inbox had been automatically sorted into groups ranging from ‘totally useless’, through ‘probably not useful’ ending in ‘aged, but still probably worth reading’. This made me email triage job quick and easy. At the same time, I was able to unsubscribe from some mail that was clearly junk.

So, today is the day where my engine has been started, and left to idle gently while it warms up. Over the next couple of days, I would expect I might be able to get out of the driveway. We shall see.

Keyboard Maestro Field Guide

Keyboard Maestro Field Guide | MacSparky Field Guides:

With Keyboard Maestro, you can automate just about anything. In addition to teaching you all of the mechanics of Keyboard Maestro, this course includes a number of walkthroughs of automation workflows you can use, download, or alter to automate your own Mac.

Keyboard Maestro is one of the Mac apps, alongside other automation tools Hazel and Textexpander, that ensure I get 40 hours of work done each week with about 30 hours of effort.

‘I’m Busy’ Isn’t a Badge of Honour

It’s common within Australian business culture for people, when asked the question of ‘How are you going?’, to respond with something along the lines of, ‘I’m really busy’, or ‘flat out’.

This might be a reflexive response to avoid having to provide a more substantive answer, or it may be bluster to hide the fact they are anything but busy. Mostly, I think the response is given in the belief that “busy-ness” implies importance, worth and value. I think this is misguided.

When I hear somebody say they are busy, I tend to interpret it as:

  • I don’t know how to delegate, so I’m doing everything myself.
  • I’m disorganised and can’t structure my days.
  • I’ve failed to prioritise and eliminate extraneous activity.
  • I’ve actually got nothing to do, but I don’t want anybody to find out.

Being busy is not a badge of honour. It’s a cry for help. Either you’ve got too much going on, or not nearly enough. Either way, there’s going to be a lack of focus on the projects and activities that really matter, and deliver true value.

Customers don’t pay for busy-ness; they pay for value provided. A customer doesn’t care how much work went into something; they care if it solves their problem.

If you find yourself busy all the time, don’t accept it, and don’t feel good about it. Identify how to eliminate, automate or simplify the tasks that are eating away your days. Gain back some time that can be put to better use, such as long-term planning, blue-sky thinking, or relaxing by the pool.

People are not machines. Our lives should be balanced. Sacrificing some busy time for a chance to pursue enjoyment, self-development, or diversification is a trade worth making. If you’re not busy, these alternative activities will fill your time in productive ways and build knowledge and capability over time. If you’re too busy, rebalancing and jettisoning the things that don’t add value will help you to concentrate on the things that matter.

Roald Dahl’s Work Environment

Roald Dahl’s books brought me hours of enjoyment when I was a child. There was little that could top the excitement of reading one of his books that would, of course, be illustrated by Quentin Blake. He created a world into which I could immerse myself, no matter how fantastical the setting might be.

Now, via Jason Kottke, I’ve had an opportunity to see, in the video embedded below, the environment in which Dahl worked, and to him him speak of the mindset needed to create such amazing works of fiction.

There are concepts arising in this video that have started to again be considered relevant in today’s modern world as being helpful in improving productivity and performance.

Highlights from this short clip include:

  • The need to immerse himself, for around 4 to 5 hours per day, in the work, and be away from other things. This reflects perfectly the concept of ‘deep work’ as recently brought into public consciousness by Cal Newport. It takes time, focus and the avoidance of distraction to reach a zone of high productivity. This place is rare in the modern workplace. Making time for extended periods of focus can represent a huge competitive advantage over the competition.
  • The simplicity of the tools. No computers, typewriters, productivity methods. Just paper, pencil, a basic desk and a thermos of tea. The tools don’t make the work. They are, however, customised to his needs.
  • The necessity for play. Play is again considered relevant and useful in improving productivity and well-being. Dahl spends time with friends playing snooker on a regular — and scheduled — basis. I have no doubt it released stresses from his mind and left him fresh to focus on writing when it was time to do so.
  • The smoking. Okay, so that was an unknown negative at the time. We’re doing better on that count.

Value Curve of Service Delivery

It was recently reported and brought to my attention that Elon Musk had issued a memo to the staff of Tesla. I’m no Musk acolyte, but within his commentary there can be found some good stuff. Within this particular memo Musk highlighted a number of productivity boosting tips. One tip jumped out at me because it is aligned with how I explain to my customers the way I aim to deliver the Business Evaluation service of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. This is fundamental to how I work to be respectful of their time commitment.

Elon Musk was reported as writing:

Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.

The aim of my engagement with my customers is not to prove myself, or the worth of the service, by hanging around for hours and hours on end. If something can be achieved in two hours rather than four, then it’s bad business to take the four hours. If the work needs four hours, then I will commit that time. I won’t commit six.

What I say to my customers is that I want to stay with them for as long as I am delivering genuine value that is over and above the time, effort and person-hours they are committing to the process. Once I see the value they are receiving is tapering off, then I will wrap things up. The last thing I want to do is overstay my welcome, using up their time when they could be doing something else that could contribute more to their business success.

Just as Musk implored his staff to keep meetings short, so I remind and encourage myself to only use as much time is necessary – and no more.

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