Where you work matters: 4 Ways To Increase Productivity

Where you work matters: 4 Ways To Increase Productivity

Being a business owner is challenging but it has some perks, like being able to work almost anywhere. Many of us work out of home offices, which in theory is great, until you realize the reason you’re working without pants is because you’ve gotten complacent with your work environment and pretty soon you realize you need another cup of coffee and some sunshine. So you grind up some that special Sumatra/Kona blend you picked up the other day, and dip your toes in the pool while thinking about the work you should be doing after you finish that 4th cup of the morning.

Thats just a metaphor for being unproductive of course, and not reflective of my day at all. Or maybe thats exactly how some mornings go for me.

Working at home isn’t a good option for everyone. It’s a slippery slope if you’re not careful. Luckily, with evolving technology like tablets, laptops, and more, we have the freedom to work virtually anywhere. If you’re finding yourself getting distracted at home, it’s time to take a look at your options for work environments

1. Revamp your home office

Clear off your desk, get rid of some clutter, and bring in some plants! Make an effort to make sure your office is somewhere you actually want to spend lots of time. You don’t have to spend lots of time on making your office perfect, but keeping everything neat and pleasant does wonders.

2. Get an office

If you’re coming out of a corporate gig, it’s easy to cringe at this one, but the fact is that we’re more productive if we have a place we can go that we associate with the act of being productive. Essentially, if you have a place where you know work happens, more of it is likely to happen.

3. Go to a coffee shop

Find a spot, stake it out, and let the manager know you’re setting up shop and just became a regular. They’ll love you for it, especially if it’s a smaller, local shop.

Bonus: This is a great way to find new clients, too.

4. Find co-working space

There’s something to be said about working around other people. Not necessarily working with them, but there’s a little magic that happens working around people who want their dream as badly as you want yours.

Getting out of your head and talking out ideas or a problem that’s had you in a bind is the best way to start making progress again. Great connections lead to great ideas, and knowing you have in-person support when you need it is relieving.

They say you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I think you can say the same for places. Where do you spend your time? And how’s that working out for you?

Find a new spot, and rejuvenate your creative process.

10 Ways To Be More Productive

10 Ways To Be More Productive

Like many self-employed people I get to enjoy the freedom of taking on diverse creative challenges and consulting work. And like so many others, I’m trying to juggle a pretty full plate. I’m an advisor for the HOW Design Live conference, write for HOW, teach at Columbia University, serve as president of the board at InSource, volunteer for a public art study in my town… oh and I’ve got a consulting business which means lots of clients, and lots of projects, and each of those projects have multiple tasks to get completed. And then there’s my home and family life on top of everything else.

One of my fellow board members at InSource and I spent some time together in Seattle for an InSource event. After talking about what we’re both up to outside of InSource she said “Andy, I don’t know how you do it all”… and that’s honestly not the first time I’ve heard that. The director of the program at Columbia asked the same thing, as have several other people.

I could very easily feel overwhelmed if it wasn’t for my system for staying productive, and not just busy. I’d like to share some advice, tips, and tricks to help anyone who feels too busy and unproductive to gain more control over all the stuff and information we consultants have on our plates.

So lets start with 10 ways to be more productive.

1. Just start. Starting a task makes it easier to finish; our brains are wired to complete tasks

2. Work in short bursts. You can do more in less time, if you’re focused and energized.

3. Be unavailable during your peak performance hours,  so you can use your energy for big projects.

4. Quit whining.  You don’t have to ‘feel like’ doing something in order to do it.

5. Forget perfection. Get things done.  If you aim for perfection, most tasks will never be completed.

6. Take breaks. Increase productivity by 16% by taking 20-minute breaks in between 90-minute work sessions.

7. Take a vacation.  For every 10-hours of vacation, performance improves by 8%.

8. Work in bursts. The best performers across many disciplines work in 90-minute sessions, for no more than 4-hours a day.

9. Create a productive office space. Warmth and natural light make us happier and more productive.

10. Take a nap.  Recommended nap time varies from 10-minutes to 30-minutes. Pick a length that energizes you.

Bonus: Practice meditation. Studies prove mindfulness meditation improves concentration and strengthens memory.

The Basics of Getting Things Done (GTD)

The Basics of Getting Things Done (GTD)

Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a system for getting organized and staying productive. It may seem complicated on the outside, but the end goal is to spend less time doing the things you have to do so you have more time for the things you want to do. Let’s break it down and see how you can apply a simplified version to your life.

What Is GTD (Getting Things Done?)

Getting Things Done (GTD) is actually two things: A productivity method, and a best-selling book by author and productivity consultant David Allen. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s a staple of productivity enthusiasts everywhere. Put simply, GTD is a method for organizing your to-dos, priorities, and your schedule in a way that makes them all manageable. One of GTD’s biggest benefits is that it makes it easy to see what you have on your plate and choose what to work on next. It also has a strong emphasis on getting your to-dos out of your head and into a system you can refer to. This clears your mind of any mental distractions that will keep you from working efficiently.

This sounds great, but some people thing GTD is too complicated. It doesn’t have to be, but part of the reason why it’s earned that reputation is because there’s no one, rigid, “right way” to practice it. There are lines to stay inside of, but there’s no “do this, then do that, and put these into that category” kind of rulebook. There’s no preferred app to use or journal to buy to make it work. Part of that vagueness makes it easy to personalize it to match your needs, but it also makes it difficult to approach. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basic tenets of GTD from a beginner’s perspective, and offer some tips to help you apply a simplified, more accessible form to your hectic schedule and overflowing to-do list.

The Five “Pillars” of GTD

GTD is an organizational system. It doesn’t put rules around how you actually do your work. Instead, it focuses on how you capture the work you need to do, organize it, and choose what needs your attention. At its core, GTD stands on five “pillars,” or steps to getting and staying organized:

1. Capture everything. Your to-dos, your ideas, your recurring tasks, everything. Put it in a pen-and-paper notebook, a to-do app, a planner, whatever you prefer to use to get organized. GTD doesn’t say to use a specific tool, but whatever you use has to fit into your normal flow. The barrier to using it should be so low that there’s never a reason for you to say “I’ll add it to my list later.” You want to capture everything as soon as it happens so you don’t have to think about it again until it’s time to do it.

2. Clarify the things you have to do. Don’t just write down “Plan vacation,” break it down into actionable steps so there’s no barrier to just doing the task. If there’s anything you can do right away and have time to do, get it done. If there’s anything you can delegate, delegate it.

3. Organize those actionable items by category and priority. Assign due dates where you can, and set reminders so you follow up on them. Pay special attention to each item’s priority, as well. You’re not actually doing any of the items on your list right now, you’re just making sure they’re in the right buckets for later, and your reminders are set. In short, this is quality time with your to-do list, inbox, and calendar.

4. Reflect on your to-do list. First, look over your to-dos to see what your next action should be. This is where the clarifying step pays off, because you should be able to pick something you have the time and the energy to do right away. If you see something that’s so vague that you know you won’t be able to just pick up and run with it, break it down. Second, give your to-do list an in-depth review periodically to see where you’re making progress, where you need to adjust your priorities, and determine how the system is working for you.

5. Engage and get to work. Choose your next action and get to it. Your system is, as this point, set up to make figuring that out easy. Your to-dos are organized by priority and placed in categories. You know what to work on, and when. They’re broken into manageable, bite-sized chunks that are easy to start. It’s time to get to work.

Those are the basic principles of GTD. At its core, GTD gives you a way to get everything you need to remember out of your head and into a system that can remember them for you, organize them, and break them down into pieces you can work with. That way the next time you look at your to-do list, there should be no confusion over what you have time to tackle, or what’s most important. You can spend less time thinking about what to do and how to work and more time actually working.

5 Key Steps to paperless productivity

5 Key Steps to paperless productivity

I love paper. I hate paper.

Regardless of format, print or digital, what I want is information at my fingertips when I need it, wherever I am. I want instant capture of ideas, to-do’s and notes (which for me still requires paper) but I don’t want a lot of paper laying around creating clutter.

Less paper helps me focus. Less paper makes me more efficient.

This isn’t about being totally paperless. I’m not there, and doubt I ever will be. But I’ve eliminated at least 80 percent of paper from my life with a significant, measurable improvement in efficiency, access and results.

Here are the eight steps I use to make paper-less (not paperless)a reality in my life.

1. Use paper as a capture tool first. I keep a notebook with me most of the time (see below). I take it to meetings and use it during phone calls. Throughout the meeting, I sketch-note, capture to-do’s, and jot down creative ideas.

2. Process to-do’s into an online system. The actionable tasks from those meetings are transferred into my digital task management system – Currently Evernote and Trello. Meetings get scheduled, outsourced tasks get assigned.

3. Process all other paper similarly. This includes business cards, letters, bills, anything else you get that’s paper-based and worth keeping. I use Evernote as my digital filing cabinet, but Dropbox, Google, Box, or some other cloud file service to save copies of your paper files will work too. It doesn’t really matter where you keep files. The key elements are organization and access. These documents are available to me literally anywhere – at my office, on my laptop, my iPhone and iPad.

4. Use mobile apps for information capture. Whenever I can, I capture information straight into my digital systems. Again, I use Evernote for capturing notes, ideas, and to-dos where carrying just my iPhone is ideal and I don’t have my paper notebook.

5. Paper notebook. During the day I usually carry this with me at all times. It natural, easy, and fast note taking and to-do recording when I don’t want to interrupt the rhythm of a conversation by taking out my iPhone. Any next steps or to-do’s are processed using GTD principles and the steps above, and indexed so I can quickly flip to the pages in the notebook when needed.

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely either interested in trying something similar, or think I’m a nut. Whatever you choose as your own process (online or offline, digital or paper) clearly isn’t going to work if it doesn’t make you comfortable and isn’t something you can sustain on a daily basis.

All I know is, this basic process makes my life easier, less stressful and far more productive.