Productivity Pitfalls

Our lives are complex.  Our jobs are complex.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that your job is more complex than most of the jobs at NASA in the 60’s.  We’ve got project schedules, implementation goals, deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines.  Business is moving faster and pushing harder than ever.  Fortunately, we have a bevy of tools to help us stay on top of things…right?

Because I couldn’t execute on a project without Microsoft Project, and I couldn’t get through my day without an inbox and a ticketing system and about a thousand ever-so-slightly-tweaked drafts of this plan or that diagram, all piled in a corner to make room for this other diagram or that other plan which was, for the moment, higher priority, oh and you do remember which revision was the most recent, right?  After all you did print five copies in 20 minutes last week and now it’s Tuesday and you need final sign-off on the updated diagram and business plan before you can launch Phase 1, and the meeting is upstairs but there’s a new high priority ticket that just came into the system, so maybe if you just….

It feels like it’s easier to reach critical mass these days.  All the tools that are supposed to be making it easier to communicate and easier to stay on top of things can take on lives of their own, and before you know it you’re buried by the very things that are meant to save you from ever having been buried again.

I just watched an exceptional speech on Inbox Management by Merlin Mann, I highly recommend it for anyone who, like me, has no idea what’s at the bottom of their inbox, or how to make sense of it.

The video got me thinking about productivity pitfalls.  The biggest one for me is this: often, I get lost in the woods.  Instead of identifying the path and then doing the work of putting one foot in front of the other, I’m overwhelmed by the size of the trees, the density of the forest, or the roughness of the terrain.  I seize up, and where I could be taking the first small step of many, I only stand and stare at the massive task in front of me, as if my only options are to finish it all at once or to quit altogether.

What are your productivity pitfalls?

1 thought on “Productivity Pitfalls

  1. My general method: don’t use an inbox. An inbox is a strange entity that never has real priority, only has date sorting power. If it’s a task, I add it to our bug/case software. If it’s a response: I respond to it as soon as possible. If I have something in there > 1wk I look at it and I decide: am I ever going to respond to this? And if it’s a yes, I try to respond then and there, if it’s a no: I tell the person I’m not responding or get someone else to respond. I rarely have > 5 items in my inbox.

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