Productivity, self-help and lifehacks.

This is your life

Posted by on 7 Aug, 2011 in Improvement | 0 comments

An inspiring message about how to live your life:

This is your life

You can find this poster here.

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29 ways to stay creative

Posted by on 19 Jul, 2011 in Ideas & Innovation, Improvement | 0 comments

I don’t agree with all of these, but there are some great pearls of wisdom in this nicely-put-together video:

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Team Productivity: Tools of the Trade

Posted by on 30 Mar, 2009 in Improvement | 0 comments

Seven Strategies for Success

I wrote in my last post about my desire to work with teams to help them to be more productive. I’ve been thinking about what my “tools of the trade” will be and how I can add value to the teams I work with. Fortunately I have a wide variety of experiences I can draw on, from my various roles at IBM as well as my work with voluntary organisations and prior employers. What follows is a list of strategies that can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of a team.

1. Use wikis and collaboration tools

E-mail attachments are inefficient and create versioning headaches; internal websites and repositories controlled by one individual or with limited access controls prevent people with key knowledge from sharing it and create information bottlenecks. Something I’ve successfully done in two different teams at IBM and am starting to do again in my current job, is to introduce and encourage the use of a wiki, a website that is editable by everyone, for everything from collaborating on documents or designs to reviewing documents and creating new starter guides. The impact on a team can be significant, not only does everyone have a single point of reference and a “place to put things”, but every team member is empowered to share his insights and correct things himself when he finds mistakes.

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The Zen of Productivity

Posted by on 25 Aug, 2008 in Improvement | 2 comments

For when Getting Things Done isn’t as easy as it sounds

For 2+ years I’ve been interested in improving my productivity, that is, being more effective at getting the things done that I want to do or need to do. I originally gravitated to the Getting Things Done (GTD) system and while it has some really great ideas I struggled to get it to work for me, and haven’t really managed to “internalise” this kind of thinking and make it second nature. Ultimately I realised that’s because all it is is a system, it seems to assume that you are the sort of person who can easily change the way you operate and establish new habits without any difficulty (For example, if you haven’t been used to keeping lists of actions up to date and checking them regularly, because you are used to doing it all in your head, then any list based system will be difficult to adapt to). And it’s not just GTD, there are literally hundreds of time management techniques and software tools out there – all claiming to be the solution to your problem.

Painted red sun on a blue background

Uploaded to Flickr by Marco Brown

What I have come to realise is that it’s time to take a step back from these tools and systems, and look at the human side of the problem – we are people not machines, and have established habits, ways of thinking and emotional reactions to things, all of which can make it less than straightforward to adopt a new approach to managing our tasks and time. Only once you understand your own habits and how to influence them can you look at changing your system effectively.

So, what do I mean by “the Zen of Productivity”?

Zen is quite an abstract concept from Eastern philosophy; It’s often used to refer to a state of mind where everything is harmonious, the mind is at peace and everything happens effortlessly. In the context of productivity what this means is being in a state of mind where you don’t need to think about your projects and actions, you aren’t worrying about things you should do, or haven’t done, and you are effortlessly achieving the things you want to achieve and need to achieve – a kind of productivity Nirvana.

In fact, one of the main ideas in Getting Things Done is getting everything out of your busy mind so that you can focus on here and now, which is in line with this idea. So I spent some time digging into the less tangible aspects of productivity – not the mechanics of how to organise your life with lists, reviews, actions & projects, but rather the practical side of how you can change your life to become happier and more productive without it becoming a drain. In this blog post I’ll share some of the positive ideas & thoughts I’ve found, so that if you are interested you can use this to help you work towards your own Zen-like state of mind.

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Tips to reduce your electricity bill

Posted by on 30 Jul, 2008 in Improvement | 0 comments

Things I learnt by using a CurrentCost meter

For the last month or so, my wife and I have been using a CurrentCost meter to track our electricity usage – with a view to helping the planet as well as the more direct benefit of reducing our electricity usage in the face of pending increased utility costs as part of the so-called “credit crunch”.

The meters cost around £40 and have a small box that clips onto the wire by your electricity meter (no wiring necessary). This box wirelessly transmits the current power usage to a display unit which can be anywhere in the house (We have it in the kitchen so we see it regularly) and displays your current usage in Watts. The display unit is programmed with the price you pay per kWh (typically 9p) so it can calculate what your cost is for today, this week or this month (if you continue the current level of usage)

Lots of people are getting into exporting the data to draw graphs and publish their usage stats online, and all manner of other interesting things. I haven’t got this deep into it yet, but I have learnt a great deal by becoming more aware of my own electricity usage. I thought I would share some of this knowledge in the form of some electricity saving tips.

1. Watts means pounds

One of the first benefits of using the meter is suddenly watts have a real tangible meaning.

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Mission Control – another alternative to GTD

Posted by on 12 Jul, 2008 in Improvement | 1 comment

I’ve just listened to episode 39 of The Productivity Show, where the host, Tony (sorry I don’t know his last name) interviewed Doug Fisher of Mission Control, which is another productivity methodology to add to your productivity toolbox alongside Getting Things Done, Do It Tomorrow, and the others.

I haven’t fully digested the technique yet but I did pick out some really interesting ideas that I think might help me be more productive, so I thought I’d share them here.

Getting everything done is impossible!

The first was the idea that in many of these systems we are subconsciously saying that we should get everything done, and that we are failing if we don’t. We need to be realistic and realise that we will never get everything done, so once we can accept and believe that, that will be a great stress relief. In other words – making a conscious choice about what you are aren’t doing gives you more control and puts you more at ease.

I can certainly identify with this myself.. As someone who has been dabbling with productivity methods and tweaks for two and a bit years now, I have just started to come to this realisation myself. This is a world full of stimulating, interesting and appealing ideas, activities and so on, not to mention all the things we need to do or feel we should do – no wonder that productivity is becoming such a hot topic, we are basically trying to find coping strategies for dealing with information overload and the feeling that “There’s never enough time”.

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