Category Archives: Productivity

The sweet spot between routine and spontaneity

Athletes thrive on routine. Their success depends on it. Humans in general benefit from order in a world where there is so much unpredictability, but we’re also impulsive creatures. Where lies the balance?

Mixing things up contributes to creativity, mastery, action, innovation and discovery. Routine gives us the means to practice something enough to become really good at it. Add unforced passion to the mix, and we can pretty much master that thing. That’s when we’re unstoppable.

Relationships flourish when we can surprise each other. When our partner whisks us away somewhere new for the weekend. When a night out with friends turns into story to tell for years.

We do better at our work when we’re given the opportunity to grow by doing something that’s outside our comfort zone. New sights and environments give us perspectives that ignite different parts of our minds. Being disciplined allows us to form habits, but having the flexibility to try new things fills our lives with excitement and adventure.

The right balance is different for all of us. Familiar is comforting, new is thrilling. Wake up and go to sleep around the same time each day but turn left instead of right until you find your ideal version.

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How to be more productive in 2013

Ahhh, that ‘New Year’ feeling. We feel motivated and unstoppable: “It’s a new year, I’m going to eat clean/not drink/read more/be more productive.” We all pick a few resolutions that ultimately do shape us and create new habits – even if they take a while to set in.

This year, productivity is key on my list. If something is taking up a lot of time and isn’t creating value in some way, it should be reassessed. If something important is taking too long and isn’t being done optimally, it should be improved on. The question is:

How can I get more done in a shorter amount of time and without compromising on quality?

And the answers:

Analyse. Question what you do. Research and discover better ways. Look at things that take time and either get better skills, get better tools, or outsource. Some things, you might even realise that you shouldn’t be doing at all!

The idea is applicable to everything – from mundane daily tasks to more complex challenges, but let’s take ironing as a basic example:

Problem: “Ironing takes ages / I hate it / I’m not very good at it.”

Your options?
1) Get better skills. There are techniques for ironing shirts to do it right and save time. There are YouTube videos by professionals!
2) Get better tools. Does your iron suck? Get a new, better quality one. Does your ironing board suck? Sort it out. Maybe your shirts aren’t great quality. Maybe you should buy shirts that don’t require ironing.
3) Outsource. It comes down to economics and the circumstantial value that you get in exchange for the price you pay for something to be done. Can someone do a job for you well, fast and at a price you’re willing to pay? Great. Will it save you time and possible injury? Even better. The challenge is that not every outsourcing opportunity will be as easy as finding a laundromat, but out there may be a person who could provide invaluable input to your projects or needs.

Take a conscious note of how you spend your time and identify areas for improvement. In the last while I’ve discovered:

  • Figuring out what I need for the next day is far quicker when I do it the night before rather than in the morning (better skills)
  • Just from having moved the icon from the front page on my phone to the back page, I am less likely to check Facebook (better skills)
  • Intense weight training sessions produce more of the results I’m after than longer cardio sessions do (better skills)
  • Ordering clothes online saves having to stress and spend time in a mall (better skills, outsourcing)
  • Replacing one meal every second day with a protein shake saves a load of time and gives me good results (better tools)
  • There are ways to mass edit photos (better tools and skills)

We all have the same amount of time in a day as each other but mastering how to spend it is a skill. In doing so, we can spend more time on what really matters, adds value and gets us closer to our personal and professional goals.

What are some of the ways in which you’ll save time and be more productive this year?


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