Do What Is Important

Whenever I realize I’ve been running ragged, I know I’ve fallen into a rut of reactive rather than proactive work. Instead of going about my day steered by plans and intentions, the unstable “whatever comes up” gets to dictate my day.

This schedule of working deadline to deadline, fighting fires and flying by the seat of your pants racks up time debt. You’re borrowing from other areas of your life like spending time with your family or on your wellbeing.

Humans tend to be bad at understanding how we’ll feel in the future. In our mind’s Pollyannaish eye, the future is a world of order and excellence in which you exercise everyday, you don’t bring work home with you, you finally learn Spanish, you catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in forever. In reality, something always comes up, there is always something to do.

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How Benjamin Franklin Stayed Focused on What’s Important, Every Day

image Benjamin Franklin was a man who got a lot done. He was “a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat” — in addition to being one of America’s founding fathers.

But early in life, Franklin was just another guy who struggled with time management. At age twenty in July of 1726, on a sea voyage home to Philadelphia from London, Franklin began to think more about what productivity really meant and how to achieve it.

What was important to Franklin was not the external goals of making money or being famous. It was about the type of man he wanted to be. Out of that thinking, Franklin developed his thirteen virtues, a list of character traits to live by.

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Boost Your Productivity! The Best of the Internet

keep goingHappy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week! 

Priorities that come in threes are the magical productivity boost. Triorities!

How WooThemes makes distributed culture succeed.

70% of organizational change efforts fail.

The 3 basic elements of productivity and happiness.

4 Lies to stop telling yourself about productivity.

Quality is not a tradeoff.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week: We’re hiring! Looking for a software engineer that loves to help people get stuff done. Head over to our posting.

Priorities in Threes to Spur Your Productivity

Named by Business Insider as one of the 30 Most Important Women Under 30 in TechStacy-Marie Ishmael is one of the most productive people we know. Currently VP of Communities at The Financial Times and creator of the #awesomewomen newsletter, Stacy-Marie offers one of her most effective productivity tips.

I think a lot about lists (a side effect of an ongoing and enduring fascination with GTD) and I make quite a few of them. One of the most valuable lists I make is my top three priorities for the day.

I’ve long been an advocate of taking a moment every morning — after coffee, before email — to set my priorities down on paper or in pixels. This simple process that takes no more than ten minutes has had a consistently profound and positive effect on my productivity.

Why after coffee? Because part of my morning ritual is brewing coffee or steeping tea before I get down to the business of the day. This ritual is one of the highlights of my day, and it makes waking up at unreasonable hours that much easier.

And why before email? Because once you get into your inbox, you’ve handed over control of your schedule to other people, and priorities are about what you want on your agenda.

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Figure Out Priorities With A Productivity Matrix

Just Slow Down: A Note on Busyness

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

Tim Kreider writes about modern life’s worship of busyness in The “Busy” Trap for the New York Times Opinionator.

Find the balance between idleness and hustle, for “Life is too short to be busy.

Slow down!

Focus and Ignore Lists

The key to success is not just focusing on what’s important but knowing what to ignore, to say “No” to. The decision to achieve something requires decisions not to achieve other things.

HBR’s Peter Bregman recommends looking at Focus and Ignore lists every morning to direct your day to success:

List 1: Your Focus List (the road ahead)

What are you trying to achieve? What makes you happy? What’s important to you? Design your time around those things. Because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can’t work 25/8.

List 2: Your Ignore List (the distractions)

To succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complementary questions: what are you willing not to achieve? What doesn’t make you happy? What’s not important to you? What gets in the way?

What makes your Ignore List?

A Lesson on Setting Priorities

Coffee in the morning


We don’t know about the origin of this story but it’s a nice reminder about setting priorities:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day isn’t enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open area between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions…and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home and perhaps your car.

The sand is everything else…the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Enjoy a romantic dinner with the one you love. Play another 9 or 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the faucet.

Take care of the golf balls first…the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.