February 29, 2020
Achieving lofty ambitions requires you to work hard and be highly productive. You ideally want your career to take an exponential trajectory, not linear. Exponential career trajectories are possible if you are amazing at what you do - top 1% in the world. It allows you to work with other 1 percenters at some point and that leverage is what allows people to achieve unbelievable things.
Being productive is actually not hard, it just takes motivation and discipline. When you “feel productive” you’re actually happier at work and it compounds.
The following is a framework that has worked for me and a few others that I’ve shared this with. Interestingly, it’s not the nuances of the framework that will help you, it’s the discipline of following a specific framework that will. So if you want this framework to work for you, take it in it’s entirety and be disciplined about it.
The framework is broken into five components
Create a clear plan of objectives you want to achieve by the end of the week. Here’s how you can go about it:
What do you want to achieve this week ? (in line with the monthly goals, the OKRs, or whatever your longer term objectives are). Also consider what Asana tasks are already on your plate for this entire week so that you are mindful of the time those will take.
→ Write each task as one sentence which leaves no ambiguity on what it means to call this task completed (It’s important to write in such a fashion that when you get to working on this, you shouldn’t have to remember what you meant. It should be very clear. Eg: You should write “Evaluate Rohit’s assignment and take a call on his candidature” vs “CS Rep Evaluation”. Another eg: Write “Create outbound campaign plans for next one month - especially plan out the recycling of old lists.“ instead of “Outbound Campaign plans”
→ Split these roughly into four days of the week immediately. Monday thru Thursday. Leave Friday mostly open. Inevitably you will have spillover and you can handle that on Friday. Sometimes when you do this you’ll realize you took on too much or too little and you can adjust the weekly plan accordingly. It’s important to do this while you make your weekly plan rather than doing this every day.
The weekly plan in it’s entirety shouldn’t take more than 1.5 hours. If it’s taking more than 2 hours then you’re either going into too much detail for each task or you don’t have clarity on what you need to do to achieve your objectives.
It’s very important to have a structure to your day that is mostly consistent. Barring uncontrollable situations, you should try to follow this structure every single day.
Broadly speaking, each of us have two kinds of work we do — one is driven by tasks or emails or calls - reactive work. The other is proactive and needs to be driven by you based on long term goals, OKRs, or even experimental initiatives. Most of us end up spending too much time on reactive work and left with too little time to do proactive work. Often the proactive work adds a lot more value to the company’s outcome and therefore it’s critical to ensure your not treating that as secondary. The key is to balance the reactive and the proactive work well.
I usually recommend a structure where the first few hours of your day should be completely focused on proactive work. Then slowly transition your day into reactive work. This would also depend a lot of the specific job you do. As an example: When I’m in India, I plan to do most of my proactive work before 3 PM and then get into reactive work. When I’m in the US, often my mornings are filled with meetings so it’s mostly reactive - I use the evenings to do proactive work. Use whatever structure works for you but stick to one at least for a month to see the results.
Within each bucket, generally speaking, batching of similar work is usually more productive. So try to batch up similar pieces of work and do them together.
When you start every day, have a rough plan for each of the daily objectives you’ve allocated for that day (from your weekly plan above). Allow for some slack here, don’t plan it too tightly where you have no breathing room. It could look as simple as this:
* 11 AM to 12 noon - Objective 1
* 12 noon to 1:30 PM - Objective 2
* 2:30 PM - 4 PM - Objective 3
While you are doing this, see if there are spillovers from previous days on your weekly plan and readjust the weekly plan. If it’s clear that a certain objective will not be completed this week be ok to take that out of your plan early and don’t wait till the end of the week to see what happens. This reduces your cognitive load.
The above two will not work effectively without the productivity tracker. Because getting the above two right is an iterative process and without data you’re not improving. Just like everything else — “what you can’t measure you can’t improve”.
The template is here - https://bit.ly/2uLFjkW
Make a copy of it with your own name and start tracking your work.
Once you make this a habit this will become very easy. I recommend that you add a line of work here as soon as you complete some work or at least as soon as possible. It’s generally not a good idea to only do this once a day. The minimum block of work I track is 30 mins - anything smaller than that, I either bunch them together with other such pieces or ignore it. Just to keep the tracker from getting overwhelming.
Remember that the tracker is your guide, not a tool used by external people to evaluate your work. So try to be honest and measure as accurately as possible.
Find someone who will help you with this exercise. Ideally find someone who’s not very closely involved with your own work in your team or even someone external to the team.
This is what you should do with your accountability partner:
* Once you weekly plan is ready on Monday morning - send them your weekly plan (not split by day but overall objectives)
* At the same time, send them last week’s plan with an update on what’s done and what’s not done.
* Every day in the morning - send them the total number of hours you tracked the previous day. Eg: “Total number of productive hours last Friday: 9.5"
I recommend asking these questions once a month based on the data you have. Wear a data analyst hat:
1. Is there a pattern to what objectives I am achieving and what I’m not?
2. Is there a pattern to my productivity?
3. Am I spending the appropriate amount of time on each function/goal/OKR as I think I should ?
If you’re doing this for the first time, you will have a lot of interesting insights that come out of these questions.
Would love to hear your experiences!