You Got 99 Projects but a Plan Isn’t One: Personal Productivity

Welcome back to Monday morning! You woke up bright and early, did yoga, got ready, out the door on time because you laid your clothes out, and packed your lunch and gym bag all last night! Or you slept past your alarm, forgot your lunch at home, and just need another cup of coffee before that happy yogi person speaks to you and truthfully you are just hoping to survive today. No judgement on either story because guess what, now you both face a list of projects, reports, and other stuff you need to get done before you leave today. 

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Where do you begin? First, get your cup of coffee, green tea, or bottle of water ready and read this article to help you develop a plan.  My 15/45 plan below has been tested and proven to work for years.     

15/45 Plan

How to Implement:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  2. After 15 minutes is up, set a timer for 45 minutes. 
  3. Continue working past 45 minutes or repeat steps 1 and 2 again. 

Easy to implement. Right? In those first 15 minutes, you are going to work on tiny little tasks like going through emails to see what needs your attention later vs. what you can move out of your inbox now. Another easy task might be to complete a short report that takes less than 15 minutes. 

Pro Tip: If an email needs your attention later, schedule it. Block your calendar to get it done. You own your calendar! 

The goal in these first 15 minutes is to get yourself some easy wins and check off those tiny little tasks off your list.  Who does not like to win? Winning builds momentum. Momentum will get you ready for your next step.  

When you get to the 45-minute step, this is where you will work a one single more complex or longer task. You will work for 45 minutes uninterrupted. No answering the phone. No checking emails. No looking at Facebook, Instagram, MySpace (no judgement), Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, or looking up funny gym fail videos. No cell phone. No talking. Literally NO DISTRACTIONS except if the fire alarm goes off. Then you should stop working and run out the door.

After 45 minutes is up, you have two choices. You can continue working on either your complex or longer task or you go back to step 1 to work for 15 minutes on tiny little tasks. 

Some days I need to complete one round of the 15/45 just to ground and focus myself at home or at work. Working on a single task is actually more peaceful and calming than running around faking that you can multitask. 

“Scientists have discovered that when we multitask, our productivity actually decreases by as much as 40 percent.”

– Tonya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out.

Efficient versus Effective:

Before you freak out because you have 99 projects to work on and I just suggested that you should only work on one project at a time because if you do not, your productivity drops by 40% and you do not have time for that to happen. Let me make another suggestion. Similar to Marie Kondo’s theory of keeping only what sparks joy in your closet, go through your project list. Ask yourself, “Does anyone look at this report or project after I complete it each month?” If not, either simply stop doing it and see if anyone notices OR ask the recipients if they still find value in this report or project. 

Why? Do you want to be efficient or effective? First, we need to define each from Dictionary.com so that we use the terms correctly. 

Efficientnoun, ih-fishuhnt

  • performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry; competent; capable: a reliable, efficient assistant.
  • satisfactory and economical to use: Our new air conditioner is more efficient than our old one.
  • producing an effect, as a cause; causative.
  • utilizing a particular commodity or product with the least waste of resources or effort (usually used in combination): a fuel-efficient engine.

Effectiveadjective ih-fek-tiv

  • adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result: effective teaching methods; effective steps toward peace.
  • actually in operation or in force; functioning: The law becomes effective at midnight.
  • producing a deep or vivid impression; striking: an effective photograph.

I want to be effective. I want a majority of my work to add value and have meaning. Sure, some tasks just need to be done no matter what because they either support the month end close process or are required by law. In those instances, I want to be efficient with almost robotic like precision. 

Pro Tip: If you are doing something for a federal, state, or local regulation, do not stop doing it. 

Do you attend a regular meeting that you are never asked a single question, you learn nothing, and you wonder why you are even there? If so, talk with the organizer to see if you can skip the meetings all together. 

Now that you are done with your cup of coffee, green tea, or bottle of water, get your alarm set for 15 minutes and start #MakingMondayAwesome.

Resources:

Here is an example email on questioning the value of a report or project:

Good morning,

Periodically I review reports to determine the value. Please let me know if you find value in the attached or if I could discontinue from preparing it. If you find value in this report, are there any changes I could make to add more value? 

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Book Suggestions:

The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Lessby Tonya Dalton

Psychology Today points out many advantages of focusing on The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) versus the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). 

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi wrote an article summarizing her book on the Harvard Business Review.

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