Monday, December 18, 2006

Not Getting Things Done

measuring timeI'm no expert on personal productivity, but I have at least learned to recognize a lack of it in myself and, with a little observation, have discovered certain behaviors which can prevent me from getting things done. What follows is my list. Yours may vary.

  1. Keeping it all in my head. I don't even like to think about the number of times I've gotten to the end of the day only to discover that I forgot to do some vital thing -- like call someone or pay a bill. It goes on a list or it doesn't get done.
  2. Multitasking. If I try to do two (or three) things at once. In general, it takes me longer than the total amount of time it takes to do them separately. There are very few exceptions to this. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is watching TV while riding the stationary bike. Even then, though, I think I get a better workout when I am fully focused on the exercise.
  3. Having a cluttered workspace. For me, a cluttered desk is the physical manifestation of multitasking. Each additional object takes up a small amount of my mental cycles. I'm at my best when the desk is clear.
  4. Overloading the "To Do" list. When I am working up my "to do" list for the day, I sometimes get over-ambitious and really pile on the tasks. The problem is, I then get discouraged that I can't get it all done. After that, it;s a short downhill slide into apathy and an afternoon of wasted time.
  5. Insufficient rest. I am a chronic night-owl. This wouldn't be a problem except that the rest of the world still wants me up bright and early. I can get by with only five hours of sleep, but too much of that and the best that I can hope for is a day of nodding off at my desk. The worst is that this can lead me directly to migraine-town, where I can't even beg to die.
  6. Irregular schedule. I love meeting with people and going to networking events. The difficulty arises when it chops up my day into small chunks of 30-60 minutes of usable work time. I barely have the chance to get into "the zone" before I have to run off to my next event.
I'll be fighting these pitfalls even more now that I'm going off on my own. I've been reading the books and blog posts on how to improve my chances at success, but I fear I will be fighting these battles periodically for a long time to come. I guess, though, that we all have our blind spots and our Achilles heels. At least I've started the process of identifying mine. Next, I'll need to find some ways to counteract them.

Any advice would be appreciated.

So, what keeps you from getting things done?

14 days.

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