Friday Round-Up: The Little Mistake That Kills Your Productivity

Over at CBS MoneyWatch this week, I’ve been returning to some classic productivity advice (with one wild card thrown in).

The most read post? “The little mistake that kills your productivity.” As with “What the most successful people do before breakfast,” I now know that is an incredibly click-able title. “Little” implies that it won’t be hard to remedy. It’s practical — just like anything you do before breakfast is, by definition, limited in scope. “Mistake” and “kills” hits at that center of the brain that suffers from loss aversion. What is it that I’m doing that’s screwing my life up??? The reader wants to know. And so she clicks. And when she does, she discovers that the mistake is scheduling low-priority work or other distractions for your most productive times. I know that I can focus well in the mornings. I have a long stretch of time when I can just crank things out or plow through an editing project. Yet all of a sudden, three of my five weekday mornings are no longer guaranteed to be free. So I’m working on remedying that now, especially in the month heading toward book launch.

I also wrote that “Beta-testing isn’t just for software.” Long-time readers of this blog know that I “beta-tested” my book. I gave an early draft to dozens of test readers. Their feedback was incredibly valuable. I wound up re-writing whole chapters based on it, and cut paragraphs where people’s attention wandered. Just because you think something is done doesn’t mean it’s done until some users get to kick the tires for a while.

Finally, a classic list: “9 tasks to ax from your to-do list.” People like numbers! These nine tasks are things that people spend a lot of time on — like filing their emails — that I think don’t deserve such an investment of minutes. What tasks have you cut from your to-do list in the interest of being more effective, overall?

Please go have a look, a read and a share. Comments are appreciated, too. My traffic is slowly creeping back up from the whole BNET switchover, but it is taking time. Thanks for sticking with me.

6 thoughts on “Friday Round-Up: The Little Mistake That Kills Your Productivity

  1. Hi Laura! Two things are really boosting my productivity for 2012. One is Workflowy, to organize and manage my to-do list. The other is to set aside one 3 hour block of time per week to do the phone calls and the soccer class applications and the thank you notes and all the Household CEO stuff. For the rest of the week, I add stuff to that list (and to that email inbox folder) but don’t actually do it until the following week’s block of time. Getting SO much more done on the projects that MATTER.

    1. @Amy – I will have to check out workflowy. And I love the block of time for those little things — otherwise they distract you all week!

  2. When my son was little (he’s now almost 16) I used to get up a couple of hours before my son woke up. I got more done in those two hours than any other part of the day. In the past few years I’ve slipped back into my old late night habits and am not nearly as productive in any area of life. When I do manage to stick to my ‘early to bed, early to rise’ habits of the past, I feel so much more accomplished and that feeling oozes throughout every area of life! It’s sticking to that habit that’s tough for me . . . thanks for the fabulous information and support!

    1. @Darris- I, too, know I work pretty well in the AMs, yet I often wind up losing these hours for one reason or another. Or I fritter it away on unimportant work. Well, know better, do better. We all keep trying.

  3. Have fallen behind on some of my blog reading, so I’m a bit late with this comment. I enjoyed the articles above, though I do have to so I do not at all agree with your comment about getting inbox to zero. It’s totally a personal choice but I find that I can’t concentrate well when I know that my inbox is so disorganized. It’s constantly bothering me. So, for me, spending time to organize it is well worth the effort. Nonetheless, I like the way you try to get your readers thinking about doing things differently in a way that maximizes the use of their time and money. I enjoy picking and choosing the bits that would work for me.

    1. @Rinna- I agree, somewhat, on the personal choice thing. We all have something in particular that drives us crazy, and if it happens to be your inbox, then yes, you should organize it. My beef is with the assumption that it should be cleaned out and organized just because it’s there. My take-away from studying how people work is that many of us give way too much priority and power to our inbox. It becomes our to-do list, rather than what we’ve actively decided should be our to-do list. But that doesn’t have to be inevitable, I guess whether it’s organized or not. I’m glad you pick and choose the bits that work for you!

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