Productivity Hack Success

Last week, for the fist time in a LONG time, I felt really good about my work. Perhaps, I accidentally stumbled upon a productivity hack.

Why was last week so great?

I didn’t get 10,000 leads (I wish), sell $10,000 in courses (better), or get a glowing testimonial (nice, but doesn’t pay the bills).  What made the week feel good, was actually completing all my major objectives. Woo Hoo!

Assuming I know how to set logical objectives, then completing them should result in all sorts of wonderful things, like “leads”, “sales” and “testimonials”.

Imagine—actually getting to the end of a week and accomplishing what I intended. No excuses, no exceptions, and no late-night marathons anchored to my desk.

My routine is to start each day with 3 priority items. Typically, none of them are completed at the end of the day, which makes the week a bust. So, this past week was gold-medal stuff.

Now the question . . .

What is the Lesson to be Learned?

If I can discover the reason, maybe every week will be like this one. Goals will get checked off my list every day, major projects will actually finish. The secret to my success will be my very own personal Productivity Hack!

Before I get too carried away, I need to figure out what was different about that week.

Some possibilities . . .

  • Am I becoming better at estimating scope?
  • Was I rested after a week’s stay-at-home vacation?
  • Was I simply more focused?
  • Why was I more focused?
  • Did I have more specificity in my tasks?
  • Did I feel more accountability for results?
  • Was I working on first-things-first vs house cleaning?
  • Did the week have fewer than average fire drills & detours down rabbit holes?
  • Were my journaling practices hitting their stride?

A Post Mortem on My Productive Week

Reviewing the list, there is some truth in all of them. Nothing jumps out as the silver bullet. Maybe the stars finally aligned perfectly. Great, I can look forward to another week like this in 75 years.

Not exactly a Productivity Hack.

Unless  . . . Maybe there were 1 or 2 items that were catalysts in a chain reaction.

Three items stand out.

Productivity Hack #1: Task Specificity

One of my goals for the week was to complete the eBook for my course called The Clarity Journal. Each day I wrote an objective such as, “Complete Chapter 1 & 2.” Compare that to a task such as “Work on eBook”. 

“Complete Chapter 1 & 2” can actually be completed at the end of the day. The task “Work on eBook” is never ending. Is this just semantics?

Yes and No. Mostly NO.

If I review my tasks at the end of the day, and I worked on the eBook, then that task is complete, right?  Well, not if I have the same task written down every day of the week. There are 13 Chapters.  “Work on something” isn’t really an objective.

There’s no closure.

There’s a psychological impact of having a specific task with boundaries and checking off the task at the end of the day. It gives us confidence and energy to do it again the next day and not break the chain.

It’s SMART Objective setting 101. The S” is for specific.  One could argue that “work on ebook” is specific. I would argue it’s NOT.

Back when I was developing IP, one of the tests for a well-written patent application was: “Can a person that is proficient in this area take the application and build the darn thing.” In other words, is there enough specificity. You won’t have much luck getting a patent granted that is described as a flying carpet unless you include the details on how to build it.

Apply that patent logic on a task such as “work on eBook.” Is that enough for a person to start work? Not really.

Productivity Hack #2: First-Things-First

Sure, it’s an old cliche. Modern updates abound, such as The One Thing. It’s mind-numbingly obvious.

Here’s the gotcha.

Some people (me) have a tendency to prefer order. Not to the Felix Unger level. But, sometimes I’ll write down my priority tasks and before I start, I have the urge for a little housekeeping. (Not vacuuming the floor.) Mine is in the form of cleaning up my Inbox, or looking at all the tabs I left open in my browser or reviewing the FB update notices that have magnetic power.

All of this is a clear violation of First-Things-First.

For this one magical week, how was I able to overcome this habit of cleaning house before real work?

Productivity Hack #3: Accountability

I had publically informed several people of my intentions. By the end of the week, I would complete the eBook. This raised the accountability well beyond my commitment to myself.

This is a powerful hack. So powerful that a few apps have sprung up. I find accountability to people I actually know to be more logical.

Looking back at my list, all the other items either sprang from these 3 or were insignificant.

Final Thoughts

If I had to pick just one of the three productivity hacks, the most important one is obvious. First-Things-First. 

Even if the task isn’t terribly specific and I don’t have external accountability, at least I’m working on the most important task at hand.

I’m not starting the day with my Inbox, social media or other distractions. I’m using the most productive time of the day to work on the essentials.

Are these 3 hacks repeatable on a weekly basis? The next post will be an update.

Man on the Pole

What does the image represent? Singular focus. I doubt there is anything on his mind but the task at hand.