A Guest Post by Alik Levin
Why are some cars faster than others? Why do some remote controls switch channels faster than others? Why do some mobile phones dial faster than others? Why do some digital cameras take pictures faster than others?
The answer is simple – some products are engineered with high performance in mind and some are not.
Why are some people less productive then others? We are all “engineered” the same, aren’t we? Fortunately, people can change and continually improve. You are your life’s engineer.
I am a software performance engineer and I’ve adopted J.D. Meier’s Software Performance Frame for my professional life. I am amazed by how this framework maps perfectly to my personal life. Here are a few examples:
Keeping just enough information at hand is essential to be focused and productive. I manage simple lists of immediate action items with related information. Once done with an action item, it disappears from the list releasing room for more current action items. The trick is keeping the list fresh, not stale. The other trick is having it handy and easily accessible.
I’ve developed a communication diet. I use email as my primary communication channel, which helps me be mobile and removes the need to be connected to any communication device. Anybody can reach me anytime no matter where I am. If you send me an email, expect a reply within 24 hours. Usually it is much less. If you call my mobile expect to hear “My email is <<email goes here>>, send me an email and I will contact you in 24 hours or less”. This helps me manage action items too.
Few humans can do multiple things simultaneously. Maybe some can, but most of us handle things one-by-one. Once engaged with one thing, I lock on to it. Once completed, I unlock myself for the next thing in the pipeline. I think of myself as a pipeline that processes things one-by-one. That said, I do my best to make sure my calendar does not have overlapping activities in it.
Coupling / Cohesion
How much dependency do you have? How tightly are you coupled to your office, people, devices, or time? The less you are coupled, the less dependent you are and the more productive you will be. Batching related items for processing is a productive technique for me. For example, I batch all office work for Sunday, because I am in the office all day long. That is the principle of high cohesion.
What data gets processed? Emails are processed daily and I stopped reading newspapers and listening to radio and TV news. I use more productive techniques like RSS and alerts.
How do you process data? How much time does it take you to find a document, an email, or a contact? Building solid habits for filing and accessing data will save you time.
My productivity habits are like algorithms. Simple algorithms for email processing, meeting management, time allocation, and goal setting.
Mechanical work + streamlined processing = saved time.
For example, I never go to meetings without clear goals and an agenda. During the meeting I stay focused on the agenda and ask others to stick to it. I take notes which become the meeting summary and read them aloud at the end of the meeting, setting each action item for each participant.
Expect problems. There will be exceptions. Anticipating problems reduces stress when they occur. That way it is faster to fix the problem and with less negative emotion. Negative emotion drains energy and productivity.
How do you lock and release your resources? When your resource is locked, it cannot be used by others. Time is a good example. Do you allocate and lock your time proactively for important activities? If not, chances are you will be juggling a multiple activities simultaneously which is not productive. Allocate your time proactively, and increase your focus which reduces errors.
I manage simple lists of my life projects – customers, family, finances, and few others. Each list item holds its current state. The trick is having it handy and keeping its state updated consistently. It is best if it all sits in one familiar place.
Finally ask yourself?
Am I getting connected to the Matrix?
Or Am I getting disconnected from It?
My name is Alik Levin and I work for one of the world’s largest software companies, with more to do than there are hours. I like trying out new techniques for self improvement and personal development. I adopt what works and share it on my blog at http://practicethis.com.