Deconstructing A Yahoo Productivity List
Terry Braverman and Company

Deconstructing A Yahoo Productivity List

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “A society based on production is only productive, not creative.’  - Albert Camus

In honor of the multitude of professionals trying to accomplish more in less time, one of Yahoo’s in-house geniuses came up with a list of “15 Instant Productivity Hacks You Need to Know” (So now, making a list is a “productivity hack”? )

 

Let us examine these precious pearls of wisdom to determine if the word “hack” would best follow “journalistic,” in this case…

 

1. Pause your email inbox and turn off your phone. If you want to actually get things done, shut down everything and focus on the tasks at hand interruption-free. Pause the e-mail? By the time it is “unpaused” it may take at least an hour to slog through it, i.e., e-mail will still be there, only more piled up, which is why I check it often. Unless I’m in urgency mode, this top idea should sink to the bottom like a stone.

   

2. Clean your desk. Yeah, we know, a cluttered desk = a cluttered mind. While not a bad memory jogger, hardly a cutting edge notion. Next…

 

3. Work on next-day task lists. This needs a qualifier. Focusing on the present gets things done faster for me. Once I complete the day’s tasks by day’s end, then working on next-day to-do’s can war rant attention.

  

4. Establish a micro-routine. For example, you could break each hour down into a repeatable process: 15 minutes of communication catch-up, 15 minutes of simple tasks, and 30 minutes of a difficult, larger task. I’m all for coming up with workable routines, but routines become mind-numbing after a while. Many people require some variety within a routine, even if it means switching around the time you do certain tasks.

 

5. Break in the middle of a task. Again, a qualifier please. If it’s 4pm and the task needs to be complete by 5 and you need every second of focus to finish, a break is the last thing to do. I do like implementing breaks for stressful, complex, ongoing projects over time, just to clear the mind, refresh and recharge.

   

6. Set sprints for yourself. The idea of a large task can distract you or weigh on your motivation. Instead of trying to plow your way through it, break it up into sections of effort. Finally, an idea I can endorse without reservation.

 

7. Perform mindless tasks as a break. No such thing as a mindless task in my work book. Everything, even a break, is mindful. If I break to do some stretching or other form of exercise, I’m doing it consciously to breathe energy into my body and revitalize myself in every way.    Mindlessness can be more exhausting than an arduous project.

 

8. Deactivate your Internet connection. Unless you’re on a meditative retreat with a group of Trappist monks, seems like a silly notion for most of us. Yes, tempting distractions abound on the Internet, but if one is that undisciplined then perhaps a job without Internet is the answer.

 

9. Replace a meeting with a bulleted email. I agree that meetings can be superfluous and unproductive. A bulleted e-mail could work for general information or pointers. But will it be understood in the context of specifics, subtleties, or cultural differences within the work force? E-mails can sometimes create more confusion and chaos than clarity.

 

10. Work on Sunday night--just a little. OK, this is something I generally do in preparation for the work week. Yahoo writer gets one star.

 

11. Get rid of your low priorities. The low-priority tasks on your list will only serve to distract you or make you feel more pressure throughout the day…If they take less than two minutes to complete, do them. If they take longer, then either delegate them to someone else or schedule them for completion on a future date. Good advice for a high school business class.

 

12. Commit to starting your least pleasant tasks. Getting the worst tasks out of the way first can clear your path for the rest of the day, so commit to at least starting those tasks as early as possible. Is the “least pleasant task” a priority? That will determine if this is a good idea or not.

 

13. Say no. Your list is long and it grows longer by the day. Sometimes the easiest way to get something off your plate is to avoid accepting it in the first place. Don't be afraid to say no to a task or a meeting that you feel would be unproductive. There are some things for which you cannot simply say no. Skipping a meeting or refusing a task could cost you the job. Best to discuss the situation with those involved.

 

14. Optimize your commute. Depending on how close you live, you could have time to catch up on voicemails, listen to an audiobook, make voice memos for the day ahead, or just relax with some calming music. Make the most of your trip. This is decent advice, but works best if your commute is via public transport as opposed to driving, which should command your utmost attention.

 

15. Go somewhere else. The mind craves stimulation, and staying behind the same desk day in and day out can get stale and stressful. At least one day a week, make an effort to work in a new location. It can be a home office, a coffee shop down the street, or even a picnic table in the park. If this is possible, I support the idea. A change of scenery can spark new, creative solutions and regain perspective.

 

In summation, most of these “productivity hacks” are Elmer’s Glue patchwork fixes that won't significantly alter or reduce the workload, or magically create a system to get things done. At best, there are some general reminders; at worse, they are half-baked bromides lacking in qualifiers and details. What else is missing? How to work more efficiently with the people you work with, the topic of next week’s edition of The Weekly Manager.

 

 

 

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