I Forgot My Phone… And I Survived

I Forgot My Phone… And I Survived

This morning I was up, ready and out on time. I was feeling good and confident despite the drizzly weather. Then, I realized I forgot my phone. Oh no. Panic set in. My heart-beat picked up and I tried to think through if I had enough time to go back. I didn’t.

Right then, I realized how silly my reaction was and decided I was going to see how I fared without it. I can do it. The first few minutes were still full of angst as I wondered about any missed calls or texts that would be waiting for me. I thought about being completely unreachable and about not being able to reach out. But, I pushed on determined to somehow make it through the day.

Thinking through the rest of my day, I realized I didn’t have my calendar. I would have to go from memory until I could get to my computer. In thinking through the day, I wondered about the rain and reached for my phone to check the weather. Nothing there. I would just have to plan for the worst case and prepare for rain.

At my first meeting, I got a new to-do and reached again for my phone to add the task to my to-do list. Ugh. Again, no phone. Oh well. I will have to try and remember it and then remember to add it to my list later.

For the first few hours, I found myself feeling restless and feeling for my phone in my back pocket. I am not really sure why. I knew it wasn’t there but I was doing it just out of habit. I realized that I really didn’t even have a reason to reach out for it but would do so anyway.

I was talking to someone who asked a question I couldn’t answer but I knew who would know. I instinctively reached for my phone to send a quick text to find out. But, without my phone, I instead continued with my conversation and honestly staying focused instead of being distracted proved to be quite enjoyable. I also recognized that I didn’t have to send the text right then. I could do it later.

Without my phone, I didn’t check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn but I also didn’t miss out on any big news or event either. While my email messages certainly piled up, going through them at one point later in the day wasn’t as overwhelming or as time-consuming as I had imagined. In fact, as the productivity experts claim, it was certainly a lot more efficient to do it all at once instead of checking it constantly throughout the day. If only I could stick to this every day.

As the day went on, the less I missed my phone and the less I reached for it. I finally relaxed and felt at ease. I could do everything I really needed to even though I wasn’t able to do all the things that I had wanted to do. Most importantly, I survived the day without any incident or negative impacts.

I hope I forget my phone at home more often.

TRY THIS OUT: You know what I’m going to suggest and I also know you’re shaking your head. So, just think about it. How about putting your phone in the other room for an hour or so? How about taking a walk or attending a meeting without it? Then, try leaving it at home for a longer period of time. How does it feel? Can you survive without it?

Feedback is a Gift

Feedback is a Gift

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about everything. I can’t solve every problem alone and I certainly don’t have all the very best ideas in my mind. The way I have gotten through life is through soliciting feedback, collaborating with others and sharing ideas. Every great idea has come from putting together a variety of good ones together.

It’s easy to give and receive positive feedback which is a great motivator, however, it doesn’t help you get to a better result. By far, the most productive feedback is the constructive feedback which helps improve your deliverable. The fastest way to get to a great result is to put something out there and get real people to share their thoughts on what they love, what doesn’t work well or what may be missing.

How you present your feedback will determine how it is received. There’s no need to be mean or condescending but simply offer alternative ideas or suggestions as additional thoughts or ideas. You could use some of the following to start the conversation:

  • Have you considered…
  • What if you…
  • How about…
  • I wonder if consumers would…
  • This is interesting, how did you come up with…

If you are the one receiving the feedback, the first thing to do is to keep an open mind and listen. No need to get defensive even if they are calling your baby ugly. Seek to understand their ideas and perspectives. Often, I let it sink in for a day or two before I respond. There’s no reason to react immediately. The best response is to thank them for their feedback and that you’ll take some time to thoroughly consider their input.

So, now it’s my turn. I’ve been writing this blog for about a year and I would love to get some feedback. Please email me at monishalongacre@productivity101.biz and let me know your thoughts about this post, the blog, my app or just about anything else that’s on your mind. Let me know about your productivity challenges or tips and tricks. Anything you share will help me get a better understanding of my audience. So, please give me this gift.

TRY THIS OUT: Next time you are writing a report or memo and you just keep reviewing it and re-writing portions, ask someone else to proofread and edit it. It’s putting yourself out there, but you will get to a better result much faster. Stuck on solving a problem? Gather a few people with different experiences or perspectives and hold a brainstorming session. You’ll be amazed at the number of ideas you can gather in less than an hour.

5 Productivity Pitfalls

5 Productivity Pitfalls

At the start of a new year, a new job or a new project, we set clear goals, develop a workable plan and we are motivated, but then what happens? Somewhere along the way, we inevitably get derailed and find ourselves without clear direction, off our plan or distracted by other things that are clamoring for our time and attention.

Here are five pitfalls that can directly impact your productivity. First, be aware of them and then learn how to steer clear of them.

1. Digital Distractions

The number one deterrent to your productivity is the amount of time you spend checking your email and browsing social media or playing games. Turn off all your notifications and alerts and set aside specific periods of time each day for these activities. Better yet, schedule time for these digital distractions as your reward for completing a very important task or project.

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2. Meetings

We spend 35-50% of our working time in meetings and most of them are a total waste of time. Before blindly accepting meeting invites, think critically about whether attending the meeting is a good use of your time. If you must attend or hold a meeting, make the most of the time by following these guidelines for conducting effective meetings. Also, Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting is another great resource.

3. Procrastinating

There’s always that one task that lingers on your to-do list and you will do a million other things instead of tackling it. Consider why you are avoiding it.  Is it not that important? Is it too daunting? Or, are you just not motivated? Understanding the importance of why you should do the task will help you find the motivation to attack the task head on. I also find that rewarding myself with something fun once the task is complete is another good motivator.

4. Multi-Tasking

This is my biggest weakness. When we have too much to do we just keep trying to do it all and sometimes all at once. However, the research and science has proven that it’s technically impossible for us to truly multi-task and the costs of constantly switching between tasks has such an impact that it’s just not worth doing. Instead schedule focused time to work on the most important things you need to get done.

5. Your Phone

Research shows that we are 26% more productive without our smartphones. On average we reach for our phones more than 85 times a day! Stop letting your phones control your time and your habits and start using it to increase your productivity instead of negatively impacting it. When you need to focus, try putting your phone in a drawer or in another room. Just try it and see what happens.

TRY THIS OUT: What are the pitfalls that are impacting your productivity? What are three things you can do to eliminate or avoid those pitfalls. How are you going to hold yourself accountable to steering clear of those pitfalls?

 

Five Habits of Highly Productive People

Five Habits of Highly Productive People

Last summer when I was heads down working my corporate job, one of my male colleagues stopped me one day and asked, “How do you do it?  How do you get it all done?” We set up some time and I started talking through how I managed my life – all of it, from work, to home to school and sports and throw on a few non-profit Boards.

What I found through our conversation was that over the past 25 years in the working world trying to juggle life, I had developed a methodology for getting things done. This system includes lots of little tips and tricks that I’m sharing with you on my blog, but in the bigger picture it all comes down to perfecting and instituting these five habits.

  1. Clearly Know Your Goals

If you ask productive people about their goals, they will be able to rattle them off to you without any hesitation. They know what they want and they can clearly articulate what they are trying to achieve. Also make sure you periodically review your goals and adjust if needed because things do change.

  1. Break Down Goals into Achievable Tasks

You cannot achieve your goals without a plan. To build a realistic plan, break down your goals into tasks that you can manage and use to measure progress. For example, if your goal is to plan a party, start with the first few steps: create the invitation, generate the guest list, plan the menu, etc.

  1. Keep a Prioritized To-Do List

Store all your tasks in one central place like a simple task management app like priorigami. By having a home for all your tasks, you don’t have to depend on your brain to remember things or check several different places to figure out what you need to do next. This also makes it easy to review your tasks and select your top three daily priorities.

  1. Schedule Focused Time to Complete Tasks

Once you have identified your top three tasks, look at your calendar and block calendar time to get them done around other scheduled events, appointments and meetings. This step will ensure you dedicate focused time to completing your prioritized tasks. If something urgent arises, as if often does, then adjust your priorities and then reschedule your time to accommodate the disruption.

  1. Reward Yourself

To help you stay motivated and focused when you are working on a task, reward yourself upon completing a task. Perhaps it’s 15 minutes on social media or talking to a friend or a night out for dinner. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you enjoy and look forward to it. This coupled with the self-satisfaction of completing your tasks and getting one step closer to your ultimate goals will keep you going.

TRY THIS OUT: What are your top three goals right now? If you can’t clearly answer that question, then start there. If you can, break down your goals into tasks and select the top three to start on tomorrow. Schedule time in your calendar to complete those three tasks, then take it from there.

So Many Inboxes, So Much Time

So Many Inboxes, So Much Time

My phone buzzes. My instinct is to instantly grab it to see what someone needs. But wait, what do I check first? There are just so many incoming messages coming into so many different inboxes. So, how do we keep up? It’s no wonder we waste so much time checking and responding to messages without realizing how ineffectively we are using these tools to actually communicate.

So, back to my phone. I read a few text messages and respond to one. Move on to email. I have my personal email box and my business one. Too many messages. I’ll come back to that later. I have 10 messages on my Slack channel, something must be going on. My LinkedIn app is showing a new unread message so I go there next to see who might want to connect. Then Facebook Messenger is indicating a few more incoming messages. While I’m here, I might as well check to see if I have any Twitter Likes, Retweets and DMs and Instagram Likes and DMs as well.

An hour later, what have I actually accomplished? Absolutely nothing. And quite honestly I’m not sure what I’ve learned and what I should do next. It’s like flipping through 200 channels without watching a thing.

Here are some communication best practices you might want to consider before sending your next message:

TEXT MESSAGES

 Unless you’re communicating with close friends or family, reserve texting for short, urgent messages that can be addressed with a quick, short response back. Try to avoid sending group text messages since every response goes to all recipients. Don’t use text messages to connect with someone for the first time.

EMAIL

Use email for most communications to share information, coordinate meetings and events or collaborate on ideas. Email is also great for communicating with groups of people. Use email if you’re asking the recipient to do something for you. This way your message will also serve as a reminder to them.

FACEBOOK

Facebook is a personal, social network and should be used to communicate primarily with friends and family. Be thoughtful about reaching out to co-workers, bosses or employees since they may not be comfortable connecting on a personal level. Also, try to avoid pushing your products or services too aggressively.

LINKEDIN

Think of LinkedIn as your extended professional network. This is where you can connect comfortably with work associates and partners. Be sure to limit posts, messages and updates to professional topics and articles.

TWITTER

Limit Twitter use to sharing breaking news, articles and updates. Sports scores, headlines, quotes and updates with immediate relevance all make the most sense for Twitter.

INSTAGRAM

People look at Instagram, they don’t read it. The photo or image you post should be the message and should stand alone. People shouldn’t have to read the caption and comments to understand the message.

Most importantly, don’t use send out the same message through all of these channels. Pick the most appropriate communication channel for your message and send it!

Gotta go.  My phone just buzzed. It must be something urgent.

TRY THIS OUT: Try to set aside a few times a day to check your various inboxes during breaks in between work times and meetings. Also, it really helps to turn off all of your notifications, alerts and badges. Before you shoot off your next message, think about the list of best practices above and make sure you’re using the best channel for the message.

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three

Have you ever noticed that a lot of things in life come in threes? It’s not just a coincidence but there’s truly an art and science behind using the rule of three to improve effective communication. This principle suggests that things that come in threes are more interesting, enjoyable and memorable. There’s also a certain balance and rhythm when listing three items.

In fact, the Latin phrase, “omne trium perfectum” means that everything that comes in threes is perfect which reinforces this concept. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • first, second, third
  • past, present, future
  • red, white and blue
  • hot, warm, cold
  • beginning, middle, end
  • small, medium, large
  • sun, sea and sand
  • ABC, 123
  • red, yellow, green
  • yesterday, today, tomorrow
  • stop, drop, roll
  • life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
  • big, bigger, biggest
  • high, medium, low
  • conceive, believe, achieve
  • stop, look, listen
  • gold, silver, bronze
  • earth, wind, fire
  • knife, fork, spoon
  • vanilla, chocolate, strawberry

When I started putting together my own prioritization system to improve my productivity, I came up with the concept of the Daily Top Three. Each day, before tackling anything, I think about my goals, review my task list and select my top three tasks for the day. Not one, not two or four or five – just THREE.

Just as the rule suggests having three tasks is easy to remember, seems manageable and just challenging enough. Now there are days that I get 5 or 6 tasks done and other days, I barely manage to get one done. But the end of the day, no matter how many tasks I complete, I still select three more tasks to focus on the next day. It just feels right.

TRY THIS OUT: Take a look at your to-do list. If you don’t have one, you may want to quickly create one. Think about your goals and pick out three tasks to focus on and get them done. Once those three are complete, then go back and pick three more.

What are some of your favorite lists of three that I might have missed?

Smarter Uses of Your Smartphone

Smarter Uses of Your Smartphone

We all carry around our smart phones as if they were a part of our body and check them an average of 85 times a day. Not only do they serve as phones, they have replaced calendars, cameras, alarm clocks and radios. For some they have even taken the place of our computers. Here are some additional features of your smart phone that you may not be taking advantage of that can help you increase your productivity.

DON’T ANSWER TO A NUMBER

This one is very basic but hard to do. With contacts, you can see who is calling you. If you don’t recognize the phone number of the person calling you, DO NOT answer it. Let them leave a message and then you can determine if and how to respond. Nine times out of ten, they won’t even leave a message. Also, if someone you know calls but you’re in the middle of something, stay focused and give them a call back later.

KEEP TRACK OF TASKS

You always have your phone with you so it’s the best place to keep track of your tasks. Whenever something pops into your mind to get done, enter it into an app on your phone and then you don’t have to remember to remember to do it later. Free your mind and use your phone store your tasks. Plus, when you have time, all of your tasks will be in one single place making it much easier to prioritize.

USE YOUR TIMER

Being productive requires focus which is becoming more and more challenging given the large number of distractions competing for our attention. Try using the timer on your phone to set aside 20-30 minute blocks of time for focused, uninterrupted deep work. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in that amount of time as well as how quickly time flies by. When the timer goes off, reward yourself with a quick 5-10 minute break and then repeat.

SET REMINDERS

If you have to do something at a particular time or by a specific time, set a reminder. Reminders will alert you with a buzz and a quick message so you don’t forget something critically important. In this case, this type of alert or notification can actually save you.

TRY THIS OUT: Think about how you currently use your phone. It is just for phone calls, emails and text messages? What other features can you utilize to help you stay focused and become more productive. Pick one of the suggestions from above and try it out for a week to see how it feels and if it is helpful or not.