Part of being of the best man you can be is learning to maximize your potential, to push yourself to the limits of what you're capable of, to be the most productive you that you can be.
But for some of us this is easier said than done. On a day to day basis men may find themselves swamped by responsibility, overwhelmed by commitments or deluged with distractions that take them off their plotted course of accomplishment.
Given that dynamic, I thought it a worthy topic to explore ways for men to overcome those obstacles and unlock more of the work potential they have inside of them. But being no expert on the subject of productivity (read: I'm a complete slacker) I knew I was going to need to enlist help in order to do this right.
Enter Mark Shead. Mark is a business management consultant whose focus is using technology to streamline businesses for maximum productivity. He is also runs a website called Productivity501 whose mission it is to disseminate useful tips, tricks and skills on topics ranging from saving money to time management to work space optimization.
Through the course a of a conversation with Mantuitive, Mark generously shared his insights into strategies for productivity, personal organization and the age old foe of every man, procrastination.
A Strategy for Productivity
In conversing with Mark one of the first things I asked him about were for some essential habits that every guy should have if they aspire to be more productive. What he fired back with was a process that could be broken down into three basic parts:
1. Learn to constantly identify what value comes from a particular activity.
2. Find a way to measure whatever it is you want to become more productive at. In short, create metrics.
3. Once you know what activities create value and how to measure their progress, focus on tasks that build towards meeting the metrics you've outlined.
Identify, measure, focus. Pretty simple, right? Of course one of the keys here is to choose quality over quantity when you prioritize your tasks. Rather than creating a laundry list of daily requirements, choose a couple things of value that you want to get done and focus on doing them well. The keyword is value.
According to Mark:
Some of the most productive people I know have the shortest list of things to do every day. They have identified the things where they can create the most value and have designed their lives around doing those things. Being busy makes you feel productive, but being busy is not a reflection of how much you are actually accomplishing.
Speaking of lists, I can't count how many times I've seen self help gurus or read books that advocated sophisticated list making strategies.
But Mark suggests that while lists are an invaluable tool for keeping track of priorities they also can be a trap sometimes. The problem is when the act of making a list substitutes for doing the actual work. You may feel like you've accomplished something important when in reality all you've done is reorganize your thoughts or allocate time accomplishing menial tasks. As Mark points out:
Task management shouldn't get in the way of actually doing work and that is what seems to happen with a lot of people. It also shouldn't make you so focused on a large number of trivial items that you overlook doing the really important things that are truly valuable.
Mind, Body and Health
Diet, exercise, sleep and other peripheral factors shouldn't be discounted when attempting to maximize a man's productivity. Consider two stories that Mark retold as evidence to illustrate this point:
Years ago, a friend of mine and I were doing some consulting for a business on a pretty tight deadline. Things weren't going very well and we were hitting some significant snags without finding solutions. I asked if he thought we should skip lunch or have someone run get us something to eat so we could keep working. He said, no because he thought we'd work better if we had a break. We took an hour to go to lunch and when we came back we immediately saw the solution to the issues that had previously had us stumped. We may have been away from the problem physically and consciously, but our minds were still busy at work looking for solutions. Sometimes taking a break can be the most productive thing you can do.
Contrast that story of success to another one that Mark tells of a project that he was working on in college:
My undergraduate degree is in music composition and I remember one time where I stayed up all night composing. It was slow going, but I felt like I was making progress and was happy with what I had written when I finally went to sleep at 6am. When I got up around noon I went back and took a look my proud creation and was horrified. It was absolutely awful. Not just bad in the sense that it needed some work, but bad in the sense that I just scrapped the entire thing. Sleep deprivation had made it seem pretty good in those early morning hours, but the end result was worse the not trying to compose at all. So I don't trust myself to do much of anything when I'm tired. It usually is just a waste of time.
While blocking off time and having a 'work it till it's done' attitude can be effective, there is a point at which returns start diminishing and the work that is produced is of such low quality that it would better to simply take a break and come back later.
If you've reached that point then take care of yourself and you'll be able continue creating great value once you return to your task fully recharged. But neglect your sleep, diet, exercise or anything else that keeps you at your mental and physical best and you'll likely find your results suffering because of it.
Next Page: Routines and Procrastination