Productivity Habits - Answers to #prodchat

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Recently the #prodchat group discussed the topic of productive habits. Unable to make the live chat (this is becoming a recurring issue) I'm taking some time to respond to the questions en masse.

What makes a habit productive?

This is a more complex question than you would think.  When you look at habits as a whole, they often carry the connotation of being negative rather than positive. The challenge to this notion is you can make a habit focus on positive outcomes rather than negative ones.  It's a matter of repetition and reinforcement.  What makes a habit productive is when it works within the confines of your productivity solution, garners a positive outcome, and is reproducible without adding work to your solution. A daily morning recap of your task list is an excellent example of a productive habit because it reinforces a positive outcome, can be done with minimal effort within the cycle of repetition you've outlined, and does not add work to your processes.

What is the benefit of making lists?

Not everyone thrives through list making, but I find it invaluable in keeping on task with what needs to be accomplished.  The important habit in regards to list making is not a matter of making the list, but checking the list after it's made.  You need to not only capture the work to be accomplished but also record when the work is completed so you have an indication as to your degree of progress.  There is a positive reinforcement aspect to checking things of your lists; this strongly enhances the value of your list making habit through that reinforcement.

Do you have a routine and does it make you more productive?

During the work week I take an hour each morning to recap the work from the previous day and update my lists of work for the coming day and week.  This planning / processing time is invaluable to me. Through this I can make sure I'm on mission with my tasks, deal with new items and changes, and walk into the rest of the day with a clear plan.  Some people do this on a weekly basis but I've found the dynamic nature of my schedule and requirements compel a daily level of introspection.

I can tell this is a productive habit because of three measures. One, I feel a negative impact to my productivity and my mental state when I don't complete this exercise. Two, I can track changes and adapt to new needs over an extended period of time. Third, and most important, I can see results improve when I perform this activity as a daily habit.

What are some productive workplace habits to develop?

This answer could go on for pages, so I'm going to focus on three key habits I recommend to everyone:

  • Capture interruptions but do not process them immediately.  If you are interrupted, acknowledge the interruption, gather the high level details as to what is needed, and communicate a time as to when you will get to the item.  Unless it is an absolute, drop-everything-else kind of emergency, the habit of capture is usually enough to keep you on task.
  • Practice "Follow-Up Friday" when it comes to your email.  During the course of a week we always have things we are waiting on from others. To be realistic, we often don't get responses back or updates in a timely manner because, well, that's just life. So what kind of a habit keeps things from falling through the cracks? Each Friday set aside 15-30 minutes to go through your emails from the previous week that have follow up items (which you should have tagged or flagged for easy reference) and send out a quick reminder to the recipient as a follow up. This keeps things flowing as part of your solution, avoids things being left behind, and demonstrates that you are on top of the work going on.
  •  Scanning time. Take time each week to convert the paper materials you have received into digital assets.  They're easier to manage, easier to search, and available to you at all times.  Whether it's photos from your smartphone or a dedicated bulk-scanner, allotting a period each week to convert those assets makes them part of your trusted system rather than wondering where they are when you need them.

What are some technology habits to make it's use more productive?

Technology habits are a tougher area because in most cases they are not mutually exclusive from analog habits.  With that in mind though you can turn some analog habits into solid digital ones:

  • Purging old records
  • Updating and organizing tags and labels
  • Tuning your solution to your changing needs

Self care is so important. What are some productive habits to maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health?

For me the most important catalyst for physical and mental health is down time.  I need time to clear my mind and reduce my stress levels so they don't wear on me both physically and mentally. I can tell a huge difference when I know my systems and habits are working well as compared to the times when they go off the proverbial rails. (We all know what that feels like.) Holding to my habits around set times for reflection as well as consistent maintenance of my tools makes all the difference for me.

What are some productive habits that make you resilient to unproductive forces?

It's less of an actual habit and more of a requirement in my execution of activities, but taking stock of what needs to be done and creating clear punch lists indicating what has been done, what is being done, and what needs to be done helps prepare me for uncertainty. The drive-by check in by a manager or family member around if something has been done or worse yet throwing another thing on the pile can derail the most carefully managed solution unless you have the strength of repetition that a habit brings.

What productive habits motivate you through your workday?

I've touched on these a number of times before but one I neglected to mention is to take advantage of journaling to give negative thoughts an outlet. We've all had those nagging things that chew up mental cycles; the clueless referee from last nights game, the inept driver on the way in to work, the carefully laid plan ruined because of last minute changes. Using a journal to vent into is my habit for clearing the mental cobwebs and staying on point.

Now I just need to make getting to the #prodchat live discussions more of a habit...


Other articles you may find of interest:

My answers to the #prodchat about focus and productivity

Regaining your momentum with @kickstart