Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Improve your productivity: Establish your operating principles

Last week, I posted about some excellent analysis by Tim Ferriss ("You wouldn't like me when I'm unproductive...") comparing the "fighting styles" of various productivity gurus. If you aren't familiar with Tim's work, he is the author of "The 4 Hour Work Week," which is chock full of ideas to change you life. It certainly changed my mental models in a significant way.

Anyway, browsing around Tim's blog, I stumbled across his Flickr photostream where I saw the photo at right. It depicts a set of operating guidelines he developed while working with a department in a Fortune 500 company.

I really like this concept, and my colleague Matt and I are just beginning to experiment with our own variations of this approach. If you break down what's on the board, it has an excellent set of guidance embedded in it:

  • Throttle back on email. Don't check it constantly, and don't do work email away from work.

  • Focus on a few specific, high value activities per day.

  • Record your results - and if you're on a team, let the team know what you're doing (I love that they are using a Wiki for that).

  • Minimize unproductive chatting.

  • Focus on one thing at a time and avoid the overhead of multitasking. (My buddy Gene and I use the analogy that even though an air traffic controller has lots of planes queuing up, each one should only land one plane at a time.)

  • Get out on time. I think this has a good psychological effect for driving better focus, and helps prevent tasks from expanding to consume all the available time.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes with our experiment. I don't know if I can go quite as "purist" as what's on this board. For example, given how my work is structured, it's unlikely that I'll totally eliminate all after-hours email in the near future, but I can certainly do less of it.

Even so, I definitely think establishing some operating guidelines like these will help me and the others on my team.