When Being Busy Is NOT Beautiful - These 10 Productivity Gems Are

Finest train of thoughts from top thinkers and doers that could strike you as timely — from my collections in my yellow book.

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When you read a lot — you quickly surmise that ‘the obvious’ masquerades as wisdom. Everything that needs to be said has been said about how to manage time.

In the world of plenty, here are a few select gems that stop you in your tracks. These gems are real, unusual and useful — under 4 sub board categories.

And all the gems are learned — learned from some of the best thinkers and doers — with due credit.

Attention vs. Time.

1. When you say, “You don’t have time,” You are actually saying, “You don’t have attention.” And there is a world of difference in that nuance.

The self-awareness that the distinction between time and attention brought to me was very helpful in my life — thanks to Jason Fried. In his words,

“I recently realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.

What I don’t have — and what I can’t squeeze in — is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”. I may have 8 hours a day for work, but I probably have 4 hours a day for attention.”

Thank you Tim Cigelske for leading me to this through your comment on HBR article link on time vs. energy.

2. Thoughts consume a lot of your “attention” and control your life. 99% of all thoughts are useless. What kind of thoughts are most useful?

When Darius Foroux writes on productivity, you sit up and notice — especially if you are the thinking kind.

I found his solution truly separates the wheat from the chaff within his aptly titled blog, “Stop spending so much time in your head

Thinking about how you can solve problems. A problem is just an unanswered question. Put your brain to use and think about how you can solve problems. There are a lot of those on this earth.

Understanding knowledge. That mean this: Try to internalize knowledge and think about how you can use that knowledge to improve your life, career, work, relationships, etc.”

3. Best magic words –“I love you, but I can’t give you my focus right now.”

This quote from Todd Brison has the power of “no” at its best. This honest no makes a clear delineation between the person across you and your challenge — your love is undiluted even when your attention is dimmed.

David Allen in his book, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Nalini MacNab hit it on the nail — “If you can manage one focused hour of uninterrupted creation time, a good amount of your time management issues will be solved.”

Learning vs. Time

4. “You have to spend more time learning outside of class, than you do in class.”

The quote may be from Nicolas Cole, but Steve Dodd said it best -“The most valuable part of formal education is not what you learn as most of that is antiquated well before graduation. The most valuable thing you learn is how to learn and the habit of being continually inquisitive. It’s not about what you know (because you’ll never be all knowing) but the fact you learnt how to learn it in the first place. And, have developed the desire to continually learn and practice throughout your career.”

Bottom line — the best productivity tip, in class –learn how to learn. In real word — keep learning from every interaction.

5. When convention for personal development is usually around “when I have free time.” The flip pays rich dividends. Plan your day around yourself — your personal development.

HerbiAR said it best , “Making yourself a priority is something we all seem to be forgetting recently. If we plan on getting somewhere we need to start with ourselves first.”

He was responding to sage advice by Thomas Oppong–“ Instead of planning to squeeze in personal development activities when you have a free moment, make them a priority.

Thank you Christine Denker for leading me to this post.

Habits Hacks vs. Time

6. “If you can do something in 2 minutes or less, go ahead and do it now.”

Quincy Larson would know what he is talking about. He provides support for a million people who use Free Code Camp each month!

I love this 2 minute threshold as it gives a nice balance between now vs. later. Has helped me a lot.

7. Best time to check email is neither morning nor night. It is in the afternoon.

Trust Tim Ferriss to come up with something simple and useful. He shares this gem in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

The why behind the suggestion makes sense. You do not want to drag the night and you do not want emails to set the tone for the day. After a lunch, it is a good time to catch up with emails. I found this hack immensely helpful.

8. Make life predictable on things that do not matter to you — for e.g. choice of outfit

Mitchell Harper eloquently harps on why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. The gist — Steve Jobs wore the exact same outfit every day so he didn’t have to think about what he wanted to wear. Choice drains energy — conserve it for what matters to you.

Graham Anderson’s funny meme lead me to Mitchell’s words.

9. Best question before tasks — “What would happen if this were not done at all?”

Inspired by Peter Ducker, best said in Charles Chu’s words “[Ask:] What would happen if this were not done at all? And if the answer is, Nothing would happen, then obviously the conclusion is to stop doing it.”

Most of us do this for big ticket items and tasks. The question is — do we enforce it for small tasks that build up? I found this simple question to be a great hack to cut off fluff.

Making money vs. Spending time

10. Correlation between time spent and money made is not linear.

Adrian Zumbrunnen , a designer at Google says, “Time is the most valuable and limited resource we have. That’s why good design is about saving time.”

And he goes on to share this statistic that made me sit up and notice.

“Amazon calculated that an increased loading time of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Google loses about 8 million searches (and ad displays) when page speed decreases by just four tenths of a second!”

On the flip side, Disney Parks understand that the value they provide are micro-minutes — adrenaline rush from riding the space mountain or our child’s beaming face when Mickey comes up. The long lines are build-up to the micro-minutes.

The best consultants work on project outcome and value to client — not on hours clocked. The major investments in your retirement portfolio are passive.

Bottom line — money and your time are independent variables. The conscious choice to keep them independent — as much as possible — is key.

Bringing it all together

Global Peter Drucker says our minds are fickle:

“Man is ill-equipped to manage his time. Even in total darkness, most people retain their sense of space. But even with the lights on, a few hours in a sealed room render most people incapable of estimating how much time has elapsed. […] If we rely on our memory, therefore, we do not know how time has been spent.”

In a few words — your busyness is often largely in your head. How does that correlate to how we learn, adapt our habits, make money and luxuriate in leisure?

I leave you with this thought.

“The real “right person” is timeless, and right regardless” — Kris Gage

Like the right person, practical advice is timeless. Busy is a cliche. The 10 gems above weave towards one power goal — banish busy as a response when someone asks “how is work?”

Wish me luck and wishing you the same,

Karthik Rajan

P.S. I have a little yellow note book. I make a note of gems when I find them. Hope you liked the digital version.

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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