This post was originally posted on CoFounderstown.
My mornings have begun with a hot cup of adrakh wali chai, bleak sunshine and the melody of a pen scratching the surface of a blank paper… since the last three months.
Yes, as it turns out, I was not always organising my day on apps, or calendars. My life was perfect chaos. I hadn’t written, or read unless I was on vacations. My soul was aching for happiness — my choice of drug a.k.a. reading and writing.
Except when I started writing down my tasks something magical happened. As it turns out, I wasn’t mindful enough.My life was perfect chaos. I hadn’t written, or read unless I was on vacations. My soul was aching for happiness — my choice of drug a.k.a. reading and writing. Except when I started writing down my tasks something magical happened. As it turns out, I wasn’t mindful enough.
The Anatomy of a Traditional To-Do List
It is not pixie dust and miracles. It is logic and rationale. Giving yourself the clarity of what you need to wire your mind (and body) for provides that extra layer of padding that absorbs the shock from unexpected events. Even the lack of no breathing room. Things got better but there were days when I couldn’t do things that made me happy.
And on those days, I was miserable. I was doing something wrong again. The reins of my life were in someone else’s hands again. Often it is mis-labelled as controlling behaviour and we succumb to accommodate to the extent of unnecessary compromises. I was not modifying my to-do list to suit my needs.
The general anatomy of a to-do list is pretty basic. Tasks indicated against a specific number, and you’re focused on striking them off.
COULD IT BE ANY SIMPLER?
Except the simplicity restricts your personal growth.
Customization is The Key to Productivity
Theoretically, information is bucketed into two types: qualitative and quantitative. The traditional to-do list is primarily quantitative. The common definition of productivity when measured through to-do lists are the number of tasks on your to-do list and if you managed to accomplish them all on a working day.
Sorry to burst your bubble — but it is not!
The biggest essential to becoming productive is to respect your time. You can adapt yourself to see certain changes and circumstances but in the long haul, the change that you will see in yourself is fitting into a box.
The most successful people strategise and customise. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook resorts to jotting down the smallest of tasks: popularly known as the Sheryl Sandberg method now. David Nour, Founder, The Nour Group uses the SUG methodology.
For me, the important factor was to earn more time for myself. So I introduced two columns there: expected timelines of completion and actual time taken to completion.
After all, to-do lists are all about time management, right?
No, I did not reward myself with a doughnut every time I accomplished something. That would have been too easy. The goal I set was to switch to a four-hour work week and tailored my definition of these three commonly used giant words we come across in the corporate world. I simply defined my rules.
Scientifically, efficiency is the ratio of output versus the input. Now if your output is higher than your input, you can call yourself efficient.
The question is how do you measure your input versus the output?
For me, the output is the time I spend writing for myself and the input is the time spent on paid projects. A common mistake at this stage is to run a simple Google search on how long it should take you to write something. But that is just external validation. There’s no way in hell they were adopting the same process as me.
Conclusion: I was comparing my efficiency against someone else. And comparison is NOT a good color on anyone.
Fortunately, I found a middle ground. I collected by own data. I set reminders on my Google Home and let him record the time spent on a specific task. After doing a similar exercise three to five times in a row, I started reducing the allocated time for a specific task by 15 mins. For example, extensively researching and drawing the outline of an article takes 2 hours. Take that time for the next five times you are doing this and then find the means to reduce the back and forth. The result, thee ask? You’ll probably accomplish in saving thirty minutes of your time in a month’s cycle of recording, practicing and finding ways to reduce the length of the process. When you compare your past efficiency statistics, you will see the result for yourself.
I redefined effectiveness as well. The thought process is simple:
Hey, I reduced the time devoted to a specific task but is it at the cost of quality and the impact it should deliver?
Compromising on quality to gain higher rewards is the shortest route to the nearest exit door. Those exits are not pleasant. They are not the gateway to heaven. The hellish reality, is what it is, if you ask me. To ensure that I kept the quality intact, I measured these three things:
- Is the structure intact?
- Are the paragraphs and sentences too short, or too lengthy?
- How was the existing clientele reacting? Were there any feedbacks or potential scope of improvements highlighted on those projects?
Gauging effectiveness is a part of scaling the business and accomplishing the same number of tasks in a personal best timeframe without cutting corners.
And here it is, the ultimate checkpoint that would help you inch closer to the ultimate goal of this exercise. After all the information I had gathered, processed (naively) and put in execution mode, were they making a difference? Productivity in my case was directly proportional to effectiveness (impact) and inversely proportional to efficiency (time consumed.) I mapped these regularly for three months for three separate periods.
- Daily (Today versus yesterday)
- forecasts for tomorrow including action steps in the footnotes
- conducted for the first two weeks
- Weekly (This week versus last week)
- forecasts for next week including identifying strong and weak points
- conducted for the first six weeks
- Monthly (Last month versus this month)
- forecasts for next month including the focal points of the tasks on my to-do list
- conducted for the first three months
Three separate graphs — all leading me to my end goal.
A three-month-long adventure awaits you today. I understand that it might be tiring. But if you do decide to go through the pain, I’d love to hear your findings.