Enjoy your productivity dividend

8276542657_96de0477c2_mIf you’ve been following this week’s #SuccessAtWork challenge, hopefully you’ve been making very short to-do lists. And hopefully you’ve been knocking everything off that you put on there.

Some days, you really need short lists. On Monday, I wound up spending two hours at the dentist and 90 minutes fetching my daughter’s new glasses. Neither had been budgeted in to that degree, but they took the time they took. If I’d aimed to do too much that day, I would have had a problem.

Other days, short lists allow space for opportunities. I was able to spend some extra time this week on a few media opportunities because I’d kept open space in my days.

But then sometimes, short to-do lists mean you wind up with open space when you don’t actually need the open space. That could give you an opportunity to dream up new projects, think through your goals and so forth, but if this open space coincides with an energy slump, you can start to feel like you’re really slacking. The internet gets surfed to the point of boring you. What then?

I struggle with this. When you’re paying for childcare, work hours are precious. And, of course, the memory of crazy weeks makes it seem like you should do as much as possible to prepare and perhaps take some potential tasks off future to-do lists. The storm will hit again. Sometimes you can even see it coming! There is always something else you could be doing to build a brand, boost readership, etc.

But I also know there’s no point filling time just to fill it. Sometimes the reason I have open space is that I’ve become more efficient at what I do. I’ve become better at finding sources for stories, so I seldom do interviews that I can’t use — a massive savings of time right there. Blogging has made me faster at cranking out first drafts, and years of editing my own and others’ work has made that process faster too.

So, especially as the weather turns nice, it may be time to enjoy that productivity dividend. Read more, run more, maybe even post more here. That may still be work in a sense, but it doesn’t feel like it!

What tasks have you gotten more efficient at over the years? How do you use that productivity dividend?

In other news: The paperback of All the Money in the World will be released May 28. (That’s the Amazon link). This version has new cover art, a different subtitle (“what the happiest people know about wealth”) and contains the text of my ebook, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, as a bonus section in the back.

Photo courtesy flickr user Tambako the Jaguar. Lionesses enjoy the productivity dividend of catching a gazelle faster than expected.


5 thoughts on “Enjoy your productivity dividend

  1. This post isn’t really about the energy slumps, but that’s the aspect I can’t figure out. I’m getting better at time management, but I’m still lost on energy management. I just don’t know how to figure out when I’m most likely to have energy during the day to accomplish certain things.

    My oldest son only has 3 days of school left, then we’re homeschooling. I actually think this will help because I’ll have few non-negotiables (school drop-off and pick-up) in my schedule.

    Any advice for figuring out how to manage your energy during the days?

    1. @Monica – a good question. I think that this is something you just have to learn to observe about yourself. It’s probably not totally random during the day when energy comes and goes. After tracking my time, I can see I’m better able to focus in the mornings. So I work hard in the AM, take a break for lunch, work for a bit, then take a break (usually to run, but maybe to run errands) then focus again for another 60-90 minutes. I try to match my task that requires the most focus to the morning session.

    2. I think it also changes based on your regular routine. Now that I’m home, I’m much more alert/useful mid-day than after lunch when I was working. Maybe it’s because I’m not going out to eat unhealthy stuff with coworkers as often as I used to 🙂 Or maybe it’s because I’m not staring at a computer screen for as many hours in the day either?

      So maybe observe while you’re homeschooling for a couple of weeks in, and it may be different from what you think?

      1. @ARC – I think a day’s rhythm, and peak productivity levels, have to be re-evaluated with all life changes…I’d love to work late at night but it doesn’t really work for me now.

  2. This post resonated with me because in my old job, I struggled with filling my time most days and only occasionally was overloaded. Since I had to be present 40/hr week at minimum, I viewed it like being “on-call”, a view management would have disagreed with.

    I didn’t have a great deal of control over my work, so I phrased the question as, “I’ve hit all the tennis balls out of my court. What do I do till someone hits one back?”

    Looking busy was often the toughest part of the job.

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