“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
Our mindset drives everything we do. In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the reader is introduced to two mindsets: fixed and growth. From her research, Dweck has shown the mindset with which a person operates will determine their success in learning new material, dealing with failure, assimilating new skills, and defining success.
A similar two-track mindset exists in productivity as well, and the one we pick to apply will determine the level of impact we have in achieving long term success and overall accomplishments.
Effective vs. Efficient Productivity Mindset
Here’s a quick explanation of effective and efficient productivity mindsets:
Dissecting each mindset further, we might look at these two productivity mindsets residing on a continuum running from no productivity methodology (Level 0), through an efficiency- focused methodology (Level 1), to an effectiveness-focused methodology (Level 2).
Most people progress from Level 0 to Level 1 and this is where they stay. To be fulfilled in our professional and personal lives, however, I believe we each have to make the shift to Level 2 – an effective productivity mindset.
The good news is that Dweck’s research into fixed and grown mindsets revealed that we can shift our mindsets. That means the evolution from efficiency to effectiveness can happen given the personal commitment and the structures to help us practice operating for effective productivity.
Tactics and Tools To Sustain The Productivity Mindset Shift
The mindset shift is one that takes time to accept and embody as a habit. To this day, I still find myself able to downshift to a Level 1 efficiency-focused productivity unless I refocus on the tools and structures I’ve put in place to keep me at a Level 2 effectiveness-focused productivity. Seem a bit structured? It is.
“Process isn’t glamorous. But the confidence it can provide is precious. Trusting a process can permit us to take bigger risks, make bolder choices.” – Chip & Dan Heath
So here are the tactics and tools I use to keep myself in an effectiveness-focused productivity mindset:
Pomodoro Technique. This is a tactic that I first employed on a project to churn out three scripts of over 40,000 words for a training project this past April. Daunted by the sheer quantity of writing that lay before me, I sliced it up into 25 minute increments. That simple step made a project that seemed unwieldy, completely manageable.
The Pomodoro Technique gets its name from Francesco Cirmino, who back in the late 1980’s was working on his doctorate and not getting anywhere on his dissertation. So he started using a timer that looked like a pomodoro tomato to break his work periods into 25 minute intervals – called pomodori – followed by short three to five minute breaks:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set a time interval for work. The prescribed length of time is 25 minutes, but I’ve used 50 minute intervals before without loss of focus.
- Work until the timer rings. On a piece of paper record an “x”. This will help you keep track of how long you’ve been at your work.
- Take a 3-5 minute break.
- Reset the timer and get back to work.
- After four pomodori, take a longer 15-30 minute break.
I’ve found that the Pomodoro Technique has helped me in two major ways:
- I remain focused on a task because I know that I can be fully committed for 25 minutes at a time.
- It’s helped me destroy procrastination because I know that I can do just about anything for 25 minutes. Especially on larger projects, disassembling it into small increments makes it manageable.
Note: It took me three 25 minute pomodorii to put this article together for you! My average for an article is 2 pomodorii.
Ivy Lee Method. Ivy Lee was a productivity consultant working with the likes of Thomas Edison and Charles Schwab nearly a century ago. His simple method of daily task accomplishment was embraced by the later, so much so that he required all of his subordinate managers to follow the simple yet effective way to get the right things done each day.
Lee’s simple method for achieving peak productivity:
- At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
Weekly Project/Task Reviews. Each week I review the status of all projects and subordinate tasks that are in my portfolio. This includes not only in-progress projects, but those projects I’ve delayed. Accomplishing this 1-hour review session does three things for me:
- Reorients me on all work I have in progress or in the queue so I can decide to continue doing it, delegating it, deleting it, or delaying it.
- Offers me a weekly opportunity to gauge each project against my annual and 5-year goals.
- Provides me a weekly milestone check for my on-going projects.
Daily/Weekly Checklist. My actions each day are driven by my daily/weekly checklist. I create a new one from a template each Sunday evening and update it as my week proceeds. My goal isn’t so much to get everything accomplished on that checklist, but to get as many of the things done as feasible. It starts with my daily Most Important Tasks – the six tasks I identified using the Ivy Lee Method. Then it goes into my daily and weekly routine tasks such as meditation, PT, or ensuring that my articles (like this one!) are ready to release on the right day as well as in social media.
Scheduling. I use a modified version of Michael Hyatt’s methodology for scheduling my week that includes:
- Filling in all mandatory/recurring engagements.
- Scheduling topical / specific creative activities in the morning.
- Scheduling less-creative work / phone calls and meetings in the afternoon.
- Including ‘margin’ between each event/task/call to allow myself time to breath and shift mental energy/focus.
- Review each day and where necessary, coordinate with my assistant or others.
Tools. I tell everyone that the best tools to use to support productivity and workflow are the tools that you find the easiest to use. Period. Otherwise if they are too hard to employ you’ll drop them the minute you become overwhelmed with the friction of life. This said, here are the tools I use to support the tactics above:
- Evernote. Maintains my Daily/Weekly Checklist, as well as a lot of reference material I use on projects, in coaching and other activities in my portfolio.
- Omnifocus. I use this as my task database, something Anthony mentioned in his article last week on productivity . All of the projects in my portfolio are located here with their subordinate tasks. Where appropriate, I apply due dates. However, my true “task management” system is the Daily/Weekly Checklist and my 6 Daily MITs.
- Asana. This is an online task management system that I use solely for delegated tasks to the teams I work within.
Again, rely on the tools that will make it easy for you to sustain a Level 2 effectiveness-based productivity. Doing so will greatly improve your capability and capacity to take the incremental steps necessary to achieve the big goals in our lives.
Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
Engineering Management Institute
Photo courtesy of StockMonkeys.com