Redesigning Your Days to Be More Productive

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I run a couple local Meetup groups for the arts and volunteering here in the Washington, D.C. area. One is quite large and the other much smaller, so naturally I spend much of my free time on the larger one. A woman named Nikki messaged me last weekend and said she noticed there isn't much activity on the smaller one. Could she help?

My first reaction was, "Oh I have this plan for that group and I will implement it soon. So I will tell her that and say thanks." And then I recalled that I was saying this six months ago and nothing has happened. I have continued to just pay attention to the bigger group and only think about what I want to do with the smaller one.

Fast Company had me in mind when they posted an article last week titled How to Redesign Your Days to Give You Back a Few Extra Hours Every Week. The author listed five categories where we can make changes:

  • Quit Something
  • Limit Something
  • Pause Something
  • Delegate Something
  • Add Something

My quick story would fall under Delegate Something. Someone was offering to help me, nothing was getting done, and I had to think about it? "As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead?" they write.

For the Pause Something, they write: "[Go] on a walk in the middle of the day. [Give] yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there's no time to slow down." Writes prominent author and speaker Daniel Pink from his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing: "Research shows us that social breaks are better than solo breaks—taking a break with somebody else is more restorative than doing it on your own." A trip to the office kitchen—where there is always someone—stimulates my thought processes. Or, if you're home, finding a community at the coffee shop. 

For Add Something, experts are predicting that companies will become less dependent on in-house email. Slack is being highly recommended to add. "I'm a huge fan of Slack," Jessica Matthews, CEO of energy startup Uncharted Power, told Fast Company. "It reduces email and allows for an 'instant message' form of communication that we find to be highly effective." Slack can also bridge the gap between in-house and virtual colleagues. "We have a team spread throughout the state of California," says Flow Kana CEO Michael Steinmetz. "In addition to daily communications, we've found Slack unifies us in many ways, bringing our team in different locations and job types closer together."

For Quit Something, they write "Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush." Facebook and Asana (which was founded by a Facebook co-founder) both have a company-wide policy of no meetings on Wednesdays. You can also "quit" a poor policy. Avoid cliché-ing generations, BIMS opening keynote speaker James Pogue told us. Generational connections need to be a part that deepens the relationship, allows us to see the different pieces of one another—"to encourage and peel back who we are [and create] the best ways to reach our members and our audience."

For Limit Something, how about email? Almost 85% percent of the people surveyed by Adobe Insights check their email before they get to work, and nearly a quarter take a look before they even get out of bed in the morning. (Guilty.) People even check personal email while watching TV (60%), talking on the phone (35%), working out (16%), and yes—I see it every day—driving (14%). "Why is email so ingrained in our lives?" Kristin Naragon, head of Adobe Campaign, asks. "One reason may be that it's so manageable—we can sort, file, filter, and generally get things done."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…