Personal Productivity & Knowledge Work: Hard Truths and "Hot Tips"


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A talk I gave on personal productivity and knowledge work. The talk begins with an overview of what knowledge work is and the barriers we face in getting to the work that is really important to us. This is followed by a very brief overview of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology and what I've learned from Merlin Mann's many online platforms, including, his great talks available on Youtube, and the Back to Work podcast on the 5by5 network. It ends with some practical "hot tips" that people can easily implement in their work environment today.

The "hot tips" part is in quotes because getting to stress-free productivity is REALLY hard to do.

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  • It doesn’t really exist, but there are enough things in this world that look like it to make a lot of people think that it does.
  • Switchtasking involves attention entropy—you loose attention, concentration, focus every time you switch from one task to another, and have to reset each time. It’s just the way your brain works.
  • Show the book at this point—dropped it from the slide deck.
  • The reason you get so stressed out is that you’re holding a million things in your head. Those things all get mushed together and weighed against each other and they’re in your head and not outside of yourself. This can drive you crazy.
  • Merlin Mann comparison between taking $100 and taking 45 minutes of time
  • Different content types on a to-do list: spring cleaning v. drop bill in mail
  • Timesheet and monthly report. At the end of the day, or after the completion of a project, write it down immediately, capture it, put in a place you know you’ll find it, and stop worrying about it.
  • If a project is a priority, it should be get equal or greater standing against non-existent meetings.
  • Personal Productivity & Knowledge Work: Hard Truths and "Hot Tips"

    2. 2. Why does this matter to me?
    3. 3. PersonalProductivity=when you take howproductive you arepersonally.
    4. 4. Congratulations!YOUARE A KNOWLEDGEWORKER
    5. 5. “In knowledge work, thetask is not given, it has tobe determined.” -Peter Drucker
    6. 6. THE BAD NEWSThis is how we livetoday:New demands +insufficientresources = STRESS!
    7. 7. THE BAD NEWS…can lead to DESPAIR
    9. 9. THE BAD NEWS (cont’d) 15 hours, 33 minutesThe average time a personspends on Facebook everymonth. Source:
    10. 10. THE BAD NEWS (cont’d)Social media isn’tfree. It’s just adifferent kind ofexpensive.
    11. 11. THE BAD NEWS (cont’d)Email is outto get youtoo.
    12. 12. THE BAD NEWS (cont’d)Facebook:CONTROL: HighEXPECTATIONS: LowEmail:CONTROL: LowEXPECTATIONS: High
    13. 13. MULTI-TASKING =
    14. 14. “MULTI-TASKING” = Background tasking or Switch-tasking
    15. 15. Photo:
    16. 16. LET ME INTRODUCE YOU… Photo: Photo: david-allen / David Allen Merlin Mann • Getting Things Done • Inbox Zero (just (call it “GTD” to show Google it) you’re in the know) • • Back to Work
    17. 17. “It’s possible for a personto have an overwhelmingnumber of things to do andstill function productivelywith a clear head and apositive sense of relaxedcontrol” -David Allen The very first sentence of “Getting Things Done”
    18. 18. GTD in one sentenceA system for transformingthe amorphous blob of“stuff” you deal with everyday into clear, meaningfulaction steps towardcompleting valuable,meaningful projects.
    19. 19. “Minds are forhaving ideas, notholding them.” -David Allen
    20. 20. TIMEandATTENTION• Scarce resources• Inelastic (in economic sense)• Irreplaceable• We don’t know how to properly value them
    21. 21. “The goal isn’teffective timemanagement.It’s effective attentionmanagement.” -Merlin Mann
    22. 22. So, where’sthe best placeto start?
    23. 23. How about email?
    24. 24. “Are you really checkingyour email, or is your email“checking” (and wrecking)you?” -Scott Bragg Just now
    25. 25. This is what most Inboxes look like:
    26. 26. This is what your Inbox could look like:
    27. 27. Inbox ZeroThe Goal:To process yourinbox to zero everytime you check youremail.
    28. 28. Inbox Zero: The 4 Ds1. Do it!2. Delete it! (or “Archive”)3. Delegate it! (then Delete it)4. Defer it (Whoa there!) (These 4 Ds are slightly altered from D. Allen and M. Mann’s original, by me.)
    29. 29. Deferring It (the basics)• Decide on a permanent place to collect deferred tasks or “things.”• Verb every task you collect.• Make it a habit to evaluate your collection of deferred tasks regularly.• Two different lists: “To Do” and “To Do Someday”
    30. 30. CONGRATULATIONS!You made it to the“Hot Tips” part of our programme!
    31. 31. Party
    32. 32. 1 Turn off the pop-up notification in Outlook.
    33. 33. 2 Make habits out of completing recurring tasks.
    34. 34. 3 Your Trash folder and Recycling Bin are great short- term storage.
    35. 35. 4 Turn on “Out of Office” when working on an important project.
    36. 36. 5 Check email only once an hour.
    37. 37. 6 Use your calendar to mark off large chunks of time for projects.
    38. 38. 7 F11 is your best friend.
    39. 39. Want more?Getting Things Done by David AllenInbox Zero talk by Merlin Mann for Google (link)Back to Work podcast with Merlin Mann at by Seth GodinThe Effective Executive by Peter DruckerFlying Without a Net by Tom DeLongThinking Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
    40. 40. Thank You!