12 August 2008

What is GTD?

GTD (Getting Things Done) is an almost ultra simple system for improving your productivity. It has gained huge popularity in recent years, although its basis lies back in the late 1960s early 1970s. David Allen, who structured the system into something usable as GTD has written a very useful short definition on his site, which you might find useful.

Find out about GTD.

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18 June 2008

Tools & Gadgets (Use Wisely...)

Earlier today I came across Emily Chang's eHub, a great collection of browser plug-ins and add-ons that can help you work faster and smarter (if used judiciously). There are loads of very interesting small apps, but remember that too much of a good thing can be... well, too much!

If you would like to see if there are any gadgets that can supercharge your browser and online work, head on over to eHub.

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10 June 2008

Will New Apple iPhone Increase Productivity?

OK, so it's exciting as it's a new product from Apple, but is the new iPhone really going to increase your productivity just because it promises faster web browsing? Answers on a postcard after July 11th when it is released in the US.

Head on over to the Apple iPhone micro site to see the swanky new phone, the Steve Jobs show announcement and the new ad.

The greatest news about it seems to be that the prices have been slashed with the cheapest starting at $199 and that the phone now has in-built GPS capabilities in addition to the 3G, which will allow significantly faster web browsing. Which makes me think... how often do you REALLY browse the web through your mobile devices?

Even though Apple are taking aim at RIM's Blackberry, the financial markets were underwhelmed with Apple shares dropping 4%.

For once users in the UK won't be waiting for eons to get their hands on the phone as it will hit our shores at the same time as our cousins across the pond get it.

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08 June 2008

The Problem With Blackberries (And Other PDAs/Phones)

I read an excellent post written last Summer over on Cube Rules about so called productivity tools - that don't necessarily raise productivity, but just allow us to be "connected" 24/7. As you know, I'm not a great fan of Blackberries not used well and the idea of dropping everything in your hands in order to check and respond to yet another email that is neither important nor urgent.

Scot has some very good points about what the problems are and how we need to start using productive thinking, rather than just productivity tools.

Head on over to Cube Rules for the full skinny.

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02 May 2008

Do not spend too much time on a task!

Last week, I was having a discussion with some people at a conference about the relationship between productivity and quality. It dawned on me that not everybody had come to the realisation that you can too much time on getting something done well and this is something valuable to both individuals and organisations as it impacts both the enjoyment of our work and the bottom-line of our companies.

The big issue is that most people are, at heart, perfectionists. They want to make sure that everything is JUST RIGHT. Unfortunately, the economics of it do not make sense. Some years ago I realised that in advertising, clients will usually be happy with something that is perhaps 70% good and, because they don't know any better, this is exactly what the agencies deliver. Developing and executing an idea at 70% is, generally, quite easy and not necessarily that time consuming. Getting it from 70% to 100% will take ages and will add very little value to either the client or the agency's bottom-line. Personally, I've learnt to set my levels at about 85% (still a bit more of a perfectionist ;-)), but the last 15% would make no sense as I've come to realise that I'm the only one who would appreciate the extra effort.

Therefore, I was quite pleased to see that I was not the only one thinking about this and over at Lifehack.org there is an article about how to avoid overspending time on a task. If you've ever fallen into this particular productivity trap, I recommend you read the article as it could lead to a more productive and happier life - as well as increase the financial results.

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Get the most from Excel 2007

I have just realised that I haven't written a single post on how to get more from any of the Office applications that we all end up spending an inordinate amount of our time working in. I thought now might be a good time to make up for that oversight and bring you some wisdom and knowledge about how to increase your productivity when using Excel. If you've found similar great walk-throughs of Word 2007 and Outlook 2007, please let me know.

Over at Techmender, I came across this great walk-through of Excel 2007, its main features and you can quickly see how to get the most from it.

If you would like to read this great set of tips about Excel 2007, go to Techmender and read the full article.

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5 Quick Tips for Email Productivity

I just came across this old post at 43 Folders, where Merlin Mann has some great trips for email productivity.

The tips are as follows:

  • Don't use auto-check
  • Pick off easy ones
  • Write less
  • Cheat
  • Be honest
They all make a lot of sense - particularly the first one, if you've read my previous posts about ensuring that you are focused and only checking emails at certain times so as not to get distracted by trivial and unimportant issues.

If you would like to find out more about these five tips, head on over to 43 Folders.

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10 April 2008

Productivity guru launches personal blog

Claus Møller, the Dane who invented the Time Manager® results tool and is well-known for his productivity enhancing seminars and corporate turn-arounds for the likes of British Airways, SAS and other global service organisations has recently started his own blog.

It should be mentioned that Claus is actually my father so as to counter any responses about similarity of names etc.

On the blog he will post articles and thoughts about not only productivity, but also the other cornerstones of his management philosophies: relations, quality and leadership.

It is going to be interesting to see the content that will be developed on this site. So far there is a link to a short article on Bnet about how leaders could and should learn how to manage.

I'm sure that all of you productivity fans out there will welcome one of the true productivity gurus into our blogosphere and help him through engaging debate about how individuals, teams and organisations can improve their productivity.

Visit Claus Møller's blog here.

If you would like to find out more about Claus Møller's books and seminars, you can visit Claus Møller Consulting.

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09 April 2008

Transparency and openness in the workplace create a better environment for productivity

A new survey by Deloitte shows that transparency and openness by the leadership of a company help foster a more engaging and productive workplace. Furthermore, the "Deloitte 2008 Ethics & Workplace" survey also shows that these traits lead to a more ethical workplace.

The background for the survey is that we live in a world where flexibility in terms of career paths and how we choose to spend our time are the most important factors for many employees and managers. Organisations must be creative when it comes to allowing individuals the flexibility in terms of working habits and being able to "customise" their career paths. The survey also showed that one of the key factors in creating an engaging and productive workplace was for the employees to be able to better balance work schedules and personal priorities.

The main findings of the survey can be summarised as follows:

  • 72% of respondents agreed that openness by leadership about why they need to take time off will lead to a more engaging and productive workplace
  • 84% said that openness by leadership would lead to a more ethical organisation, and 68% said it would lead to a more values-based organisation
  • 81% take advantage of customised work arrangements, whereas 74% agreed that they would be more productive and engaged at work if they were able to better balance their work schedules and personal priorities.

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that although 75% of respondents feel that overall most employees are treated equally when it comes to being able to set flexible work options, 50% still feel that the leadership set different standards for themselves.

For the summary of the survey, please go to the press release from Deloitte at the Sun Herald.

Do you agree with these findings? Are there other things in the behaviour of leadership that would have a greater impact on your personal productivity and work engagement? Please feel free to comment.

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Book of Tricks

Gina Trapani, of Lifehacker.com fame, has published the long-awaited second edition of her book full of tips on how to increase your productivity through software. Like the first edition, it is well-written, concise and has some great productivity tips for computer users at all skill levels. I highly recommend getting this book. Remember that if you only find one tip worthwhile, but it can save you 10 minutes a day - you'll get almost an extra hour's work done every single week.

Read more about Gina Trapani: Upgrade Your Lifehere and purchase it for the special low price of just £7.99 - 50% off at Amazon.co.uk.

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01 April 2008

Very useful articles for your business

I got an email today from Microsoft about some new research that they were giving away for free to members of the Microsoft Intelligence Service (MIS). If you already have a Passport account it takes no time to sign up and get access to great free articles from Harvard Business Review and The Economist. There is an article about "Britain's Digital Elite" and another one is The Economist's "Book of Bright People". By reading these articles, I'm sure that you will find some inspiration by finding out more about what motivates and drives these people. If you're more financially inclined there is a very interesting article for Finance Directors about why we should can budgets as we know them.

When you sign up you can also register to get a free copy of "Listening to the Future", the first book in the PRB Leadership Book series.

Click here to see more of the cool content that Microsoft are giving away.

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31 March 2008

Don't search... find!

Here's a quick tip: The Daily Telegraph have put together a quick list of the 101 most useful web sites for UK internet users. This ought to pretty much cover most of your needs for everything from social networks to entertainment, travel and technology. If it means that you can cut out some web surfing and instead go straight to the content you need then it will have worked.

Click here to see the list.

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28 March 2008

New productivity store

Today I've started creating a store on Amazon.co.uk, where you can find great books, software and training CDs/DVDs about how to increase your productivity; become a better project manager; lead a fuller and happier life; and obtain a better work-life balance. It will be an on-going project to extend this store to its full potential. If you know of any products which you think should be included then please drop me a line.

Click here to go to The Productivity Store

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04 March 2008

Does technology kill meeting productivity?

I just read an article at EffectiveMeetings.com about how technology can often limit (or even kill) meeting productivity as we spend all of our time playing around with our PDAs, cell phones and PowerPoint. I guess you've all tried sitting in one of the meetings where everybody turns completely apathetic and stare blankly at one slide after another as they're crammed with data and the presenter just isn't capable of rising above the noise that he or she has created through their presentation...

Personally, though, I really do believe that mobile phones are the real bane of meetings. Some years ago I did quite a bit of consultancy work in Greece and the meetings were always the biggest waste of time imaginable. A meeting that ought to last about 60 minutes to do a status update, discuss key issues and make decisions could easily extend to four, five or even SIX(!) hours. This was due to the fact that the managers never arrived on time - sometimes showing up 1 1/2 hours after the meeting was due to begin and they would then invariable answer any incoming phone calls and step outside. This happened even when what we were discussing was the direct responsibility of the person taking the call. He would just ask his no. 2 to run things while he was away. He would then return and the no. 2 would get a call and stepped outside to take it. However, they just wanted to continue the discussions so by the time the no. 2 came back in the room neither he nor his boss had a full picture of anything and were therefore completely paralysed when it came to making the decisions - or, even worse, they would make them based on incomplete information!

Have a look at the article and think about how you use technology in meetings next time.

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03 March 2008

“The Ultimate Guide to Productivity”

Over on his Instigator Blog, Ben Yoskovitz last year started a very interesting Group Writing Project Meme called “The Ultimate Guide to Productivity”.

So far, people from all over the world have contributed their own top tips on productivity and Ben has been busy collating all of the top tips into a useful guide for all of us.

Among the best tips that I’ve seen so far are:

Clarity – Monk at Work (Adam Kayce) suggested this little gem and states that clarity comes from having a message: “Your Message is the sum of who you are, what your passions are, what your values are, and what comes to you naturally to give, share, and contribute to your world.”

Just do something, already – Lorna Doone at Something Good. Don’t let yourself feel “too down” by looking at your mile long to do list. Just start taking the first step and the next will follow.

The childlike secret to productivityKim and Jason at Escape Adulthood have got some very good and simple ideas about how you can plan as long as you remember your passions.

So without further ado, I’d like to add my own suggestion to this. It all comes down to the general principles of the "oldie but goodie" Time Manager® planning tool.

Plan using Key Areas

Pretty much everything you do in life can be organised under some major headings – whether it’s at work or in your private life. If you divide all of your tasks and activities into 7 – 9 major key areas then you can also plan how to spend your time more effectively. I.e. if it doesn’t relate to any of your key areas it is very unlikely that it is important enough to require your immediate attention.

An example of how my key areas as a company CEO look are as follows:

  1. Finance & Administration
  2. Sales & Marketing
  3. HR
  4. Product Development
  5. Organisational Development
  6. Personal Development
  7. Private

For each of these key areas you are likely to have some goals and it will require you to undertake a number of tasks in order to achieve that goal. Some tasks will be a lot bigger than others and you will therefore have to break the tasks down in a number of activities.

Let’s take a closer look at one area: Personal Development. I have a wide range of things that I would like to improve in my professional and personal life. My goals can be described as the following:

  • Be able to conduct a business negotiation in French by the end of 2009
  • Improve my ratings on public speaking engagements by 10% by the end of 2008
  • Speak at 5 major conferences

Therefore my tasks under Personal Development look like follows:

6. Personal Development

6.1. Improve my French

6.2. Improve my public speaking skills

6.3. Secure speaking engagements

If we proceed to break one of these down further, then what exactly would it take for me to learn enough French to conduct a full scale business negotiation? Looking at the level that I’m at now I know that it would require a lot of work and there are a lot of activities that I would need to undertake. As with any big goal in life you need to break it down into manageable portions (sometimes referred to as the Elephant Technique):

6.1.1. Learn 5 French business terms per day

6.1.2. Attend French classes weekly for 2 hours

6.1.3. Book extended stay in Paris with personal tutor – 4 hours per day

6.1.4. Spend Summer holiday in France to improve conversation

6.1.5. Sign up to and read French newsletters

6.1.6. Subscribe to Le Monde newspaper

6.1.7. Sign up for events at French chamber of commerce

Based on the activities that I have listed above I can then start to plan my time knowing that I will need to find the time for:

Learning 5 French business terms per day – 10 minutes per day

Attend French classes – 2 hours per week

Extended stay in Paris – 2 months

Summer holiday in France – 2 weeks

Read French newsletters – 30 minutes per week

Read Le Monde – 20 minutes per day

Attend events at French chamber of commerce – 2 hours per month

Based on this information I now know that I can plan my time around the following:

Daily activities: 30 minutes per day

Weekly activities: 2 hours

Monthly activities: 2 hours

One-off activities: 2 weeks of holiday and 2 months of leave

In reality this means that I will be able to get my French from zero to a very good standard with a daily expenditure of 30 minutes, attending one monthly meeting of 2 hours (instead of spending the time at the pub or watching a movie on the couch at home), fitting half an hour in weekly to read the newsletters, spending 2 weeks of my holiday and taking only a 2 month leave. Suddenly the project doesn’t seem completely insane and I will still manage to keep up my day job – even while I’m in Paris. It just means that 4 hours of my day are blocked off for learning French and that I will spend my spare time talking in French with French people. Hey presto!

This combination of using key areas and the elephant technique means that you can actually make a start on doing something and it also helps you keep clarity as I know that I:

  • WANT to learn French
  • And breaking it down into manageable portions I actually don’t fear the task and keep on putting it off – rather I now know what I have to do in order to achieve it

It might mean reprioritising some of the other things in your life, but then again it would probably be better to spend the 30 minutes a day spent focusing on learning French rather than surfing aimlessly round the net or however you spend the last 30 minutes before you go home.

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Six tips for getting the most out of your commute

I was recently inspired by reading a post on the Danish blog of my good friend Christian Ørsted. He was interviewed on Danish television about how you can utilise the otherwise dead time of a commute and came up with five good tips for increasing your productivity – or just getting some mental space, which is just as necessary.

After having read his post and seen the video clip I decided I wanted to share these tips with a wider audience as I believe there is some real value to be found in these simple tips, but I’ve also added a sixth tip, which, I’m sure many of you will agree, is something that is also a very good use of your time and can free up your time in the office and when you’re with friends and family so you can focus on other things.

I’ll let Christian start you off in his own words:
“Those who look forward to their commute make a choice: A choice about utilising their commuting time in the best possible way. They wave goodbye to the autopilot and instead think about how they use the time – and the energy it gives them.”

The people who spend their commutes – and all of their other travelling time whether it’s to or from a meeting, on the way to the airport, sitting around waiting for you gate to open etc. – working consciously on any of the following things are in both Christian’s and my experiences both a lot less stressed and generally happier. This time allows them to get ahead and get a lot of things done and allowing them to achieve a better work/life balance. So without further ado here are Christian’s five tips on getting the most out of your commute coupled with my own tip:

6. Prioritise and plan
”Spend your time deciding what you want to do; what you need to achieve so you can focus on what’s important when you arrive rather than spend the time thinking about all of the other things you have to do.”

5. Inspiring miscellany
“Fill your bag with inspiring, interesting and modular miscellany which you can deal with while on your way. Instead of buying meaningless magazines you can bring along good newspaper clippings you otherwise wouldn’t have the time to read; read email newsletters that are deep and insightful. Miscellany you otherwise don’t have the time for, but which can fill your waiting and transport time. Remember that they are miscellany! Send a ”I love you” text message, but save the deep and meaningful telephone conversation until you get home or you’re somewhere quiet and undisturbed... Do something you can do 100% without interruptions.”

4. Development and learning
”Learn something new. Buy an iPod, subscribe to podcasts, download spoken word books. If you find yourself aboard a train then watch a movie, read a book or learn a language from CD. Do the things that you’ve always wanted to become better at and learn more about.”

3. Empty your head
“Do absolutely nothing! Learn to meditate (on the train or the plane). If travelling by car then find a scenic spot of natural beauty, get out and breathe deeply. Enjoy the view. Relax completely and embrace the calm…”

2. Recharge your batteries
“You don’t have to listen to the radio – unless it puts you in a good mood! The music we listen to in the mornings can influence our disposition for the rest of the day. Think about what you need to do in order to arrive with the best possible energy for what you are about to do. Switch off your mobile phone. Take a break, take a deep breath. Do the James Bond trick (hint: he doesn’t walk through a door while on his phone and thereafter launching into a tirade about how awful it has been to have been shot at all day. Instead he pulls himself together in order to ensure a good start to the conversation – something you can do as well, both when you greet your colleagues in the morning and when you arrive home to the people you love.”

And finally, my own little tip which follows on from the previously written post about setting time aside to answer emails:

1. Read and write emails*
If you’ve got a long commute – or even just 20 minutes where you can sit down in peace and quiet and read the emails that you’ve received; prioritise your responses; and fire off some emails of your own you will have saved a lot of time where you would otherwise be doing this at the office. I find this to be particularly useful when sitting around airports and the flight safe mode of the Blackberry just makes it a breeze to also get something out of the flight. It also saves you from having to try and open up your huge laptop with limited battery life and balance it on the coaster which they airlines call a tray.
* Don’t do this while driving! ;-)

But at the end of the day – and at the end of the post, Christian puts it eloquently when he says:
“Think about what you can do with all of your heart. What you’ve got time for. What gives you energy. And choose to do it brilliantly – in your time and without stress and rush. You’ll still only get there when you get there. The only question is how!”

If you want to read the full post in Danish and watch Christian's interview on Danish national television head on over to his blog.

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