In his latest blog carnival (in German), Ivan Blatter asked “Which are your three most important or loved tools to work more productively?”
It would be easy to answer with three software tools. Regardless whether they are the best or not: Outlook on my laptop and TaskTask on iPhone are my two most important tools, completed by WriteMonkey as Markdown editor.
But I want to scope “tools” wider here.
A tool can also be a tool of the mind, a method. The advantage of methods is that we always have them at hands, regardless which computer infrastructure is available in the moment.
For me the three most important and loved mind tools are the following:
This post is available in German, too.
1. Live Getting Things Done
About David Allens »Gettin Things Done®« I wrote in multiple posts in this blog.
The core of Getting Things Done is to write down everything, as laid out in my other article (in German). All other elements of GTD are consequences of this principle.
My most read posts explain how I set up my Getting Things Done system with Outlook and iPhone.
Planning projects with Getting Things Done (German post) is as effective as lightweight and very useful for me.
With that I can proudly confess that getting to know GTD has sustainably changed my live in a positive way. Where before I got overwhelmed by the multitude of inquiries and tasks I now maintain a good overview what and when to deliver.
2. Check Back and Say No
What do you do when somebody approaches you in your job with an inquiry or request? Jump up and start?
Not so fast.
Before I accept a task I ensure that I understood it right and I am clear about what it is good for.
A colleague emails me and three other colleagues a request to send her information on past conferences that our groups attended by filling multiple columns of an Excel sheet. I decline and ask her to research our internal trip report library for those conferences, since I would have to do the same.
Our managing director asks me for some charts of an analysis that I presented some time ago. Do I instantly spend the next half hour to create an updated version of that analysis? No, I ask for his desired use and find out that he wants to have the charts as example illustration in a process document. The old charts are totally sufficient. I immediately send him two examples from the old analysis and have finished in two minutes.
While I am presenting in a meeting, one attendee asks me for detailed numbers that I do not have with me. Before by offering to provide these, I ask what decision those numbers would influence or for what they would be useful. “Oh, I am just interested.” Thank you for the conversation, then I do not have to research those numbers.
The things you do not do often influence your productivity more than the things you do.
Checking back and saying no is my second most important productivity tool.
3. Delegate Projects
Regardless of what I can achieve, I am just one person. The ladies and gentlemen in my team can achieve much more, and colleagues in other departments have still more specialties and capabilities.
To use these is my third tool of productivity.
Every day I learn to delegate more intentional and more holistic.
If possible I hand over small and large projects, not just single tasks. Of course it happens for me to delegate single tasks, too. But the biggest leverage for our team I cause by delegating a project, by handing off the responsibility for the path to the result. Often I also hand over the definition of the result.
The fantastic thing with team members I can trust is that I can give them confidence in their own abilities and own decisions. Sometimes I manage to make clear that I am responsible for the result even when providing the biggest possible freedom on result and path. The safety net thus is to assure that’ll be on my head if anything fails.
Since I started to use this kind of delegation, the productivity has increased and people integrate their own ideas much more. And again: They simply can do more than I ever could.
Delegating projects is my third important tool for productivity.
Take It Easy
Taking it easy and not take myself so seriously could be a fourth tool, but Ivan Blatter only asked for three.
What makes you more productive?
Please let the other readers and me participate in your thoughts and leave a comment.