Wednesday, 23 February 2011

#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity

This is a blog post I've been planning for a while but it got lost in the system. It's particularly ironic because it's about Doug Belshaw's excellent book, '#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity'. 

I've read a few books on productivity before, but I've never read a book which gives such honest, practical and realistic advice for how to be productive. I just wanted to reflect on my main learning from the books.

I loved the way he tried to formulate a definition of what productivity means to him:
"Productivity is as much about being creative and enjoying what you do as it is about churning through laborious tasks... Productivity is the development of a personal system that: empowers you to make decisions; enables to enjoy life; encourages you to get stuff done."
The way that he explains that productivity is a personal system spoke to me immediately. The books I have read were fine, but this book, more than any other, makes it very clear that you need to find what works for you.

Through his book Doug encouraged me to consider the things that my productive system needs to maximise time for. I will be adding these to a blog post later. He writes about different types of motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), a concept which hadn't occurred to me before. It makes me wonder what I do because I love or do because I have to.

He writes about three things that will motivate:

  • Controlling your time
Well this is something that will be crucial for me to do over the next few years after our baby is born. Since reading the book I have redesigned my office and classroom to make me try to work more efficiently. I am beginning to value me time more highly, considering what is manageable.
  • Choose something to get better at
I have a board in my office which is devoted to targets and time scales. This has made me more focused. I guess working in a school means that what I planned to do in my non-contact time isn't always achieved, I believe I have a clearer idea about the things I need to achieve.
  • Write your obituary
As mentioned earlier, my life really is 'evolving' at the moment and I have to adjust to the responsibilities and opportunities that becoming a dad involves, and so writing an obituary about the things I believe in and the things I stand for is something that will change.

Motivation and exercise
Well, I've never had anyone explain why exercising makes you more motivated. I always thought those people out jogging whilst I am driving to work were just crackers. But Doug explains how exercise makes you more motivated. But this is one area of the book that I must really work on, and quickly. I love the quote he gives from Plato:
"In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but the two together, With these two means, man can attain perfection."

Productivity killers:
  • Unhealthy food
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much alcohol
  • Tinkering (perfectionism)
  • Lack of discipline
Oh dear, I'm guilty of partaking in all of these activities! One of my new year's resolutions was to introduce more discipline into my life and I have and it is working. He also suggests that creating routines helps to increase productivity, and this is something I have tried to do this year.

Doug offers advice for helping to remain disciplined, many of which I am trying to do now:

  • Exercise at the right time - I am playing football more regularly now, and trying to do a little more walking.
  • Set aside time to read - over the last three months I've read more than I have in the last three years!
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Write lists - I seem to have tonnes of lists at the moment!
  • Don't multitask
His list of ideas for practical ideas for increasing productivity will also help to make people happier. I won't publish his list here though - read the book!

#uppingyourgame: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity is well worth a read, and I would highly recommend it. You can purchase the book here, and it is available in a variety of formats.

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