I recently submitted the manuscript for my book “Operational Empowerment: Collaborate, Innovate and Engage to Beat the Competition” to my editor at McGraw-Hill. The experience of writing a book taught me several lessons about how to dramatically increase productivity getting more done in less time.
Have you ever taken on a project that was something you’d never completed, and at the outset felt near impossible? I recall an editor at Penguin books who interviewed me when I was looking for a publisher asked “Shawn, you’ve written literally hundreds of articles that contained 700 to 1000 words, how will you use this experience to write a book that contains 70,000 words?”
My response… One thousand words at a time.
That may sound like a sarcastic response, but I was referring to the idea of “burst productivity,” that is being highly productive for short periods of time.
Here are the three lessons on productivity I learned from writing a book, all of which helped serve to increase my burst productivity.
If I can use these to achieve such a milestone, so can you!
1. Preparation is key to productivity. For years I’ve spent 15 minutes at the end of each day preparing for the next. Specifically I outline the key tasks that are a “must” to complete the next day including preparing for coaching calls, sending follow up emails and identifying next steps in client project work that must be complete. Preparation is key. This was no different in writing my book. I spent significant time before writing to map out the chapters, sub-chapters, examples and interviews I was going to include in each chapter… I did this well in advance of sitting down to write in order to ensure that I never had to stop writing once I began doing so. Do you prepare for each day before the end of the current one?
2. Leave white space. I’m the first person to admit that I often “over-schedule” my day. I’m eager to get as much done each day as I can, however this can sometimes lead to a feeling of failure. For example not being able to complete several tasks I had planned to achieve can be disappointing. Recognizing this tendency, when I wrote my book I was sure to leave additional time between tasks in my calendar. This “white-space” ensured that I didn’t sacrifice the quality of my writing in order to complete a task. White-space is key to overcoming unforeseen obstacles. Are you leaving white-space in your daily calendar?
3. Eliminate background noise: When it comes to being productive I’m confident that you’ve been told to eliminate distractions at least a dozen times (in the last year alone), but what about background noise? Writing requires the ability to allow your mind to think ahead, forming the next idea, example and sentence. Listening to music, checking your phone for text messages, being interrupted by colleagues or family all serve to create distraction and interrupt thoughts. Whether it’s writing a book or taking care of other detailed thought provoking work, the less background noise and interruptions, the faster you can complete a task. Do you turn off your phone, email and telephone when trying to get urgent or thought provoking tasks done?
Being productive is a conscious state of mind. The more effort you place on eliminating background distractions, the more productive you will be.
Question: How can you incorporate these ideas to ensure today, this week and this month are the most productive you’ve ever had?
© Shawn Casemore 2015. All rights reserved.