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Productivity framework for 2024

[PLACEHOLDER]

Recently I was at a Christmas party and I found myself giving advice to a friend on being more productive. I shared the approaches that I take which helped me become more productive at work and in my personal life. The conversation with my friend inspired me to share my approaches in this blog

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

 

My productivity framework has five key pillars and to remember them I use the mnemonic, POFOR = Plan your tasks, Organize yourself, Focus on your tasks, Optimize yourself with habits and Reflect to ensure you are being productive on the right tasks.

Plan

Planning is very crucial as it sets the tone for the rest of the pillars. I always found I was more productive when I planned my tasks compared to when I didn’t, and hence planning has become my rule of thumb. I recommend taking 30 minutes at the end of each day to plan your next day. This means prioritizing your tasks and blocking your calendar accordingly. By not doing so, you are at risk of others booking your time on your behalf, turning your calendar into "meetings' nightmare". This can negatively impact your productivity, force you to work off hours and disrupt your work for the following days. In the worst-case scenario, it can trigger a domino effect that can cause burnout. 

Pexels-eugene-shelestov-paper-burning-says-time

My productivity framework has...

...five key approaches and to remember it I use the mnemonic, POFOR = Plan your tasks, Organize yourself, Focus on your tasks, Optimize yourself with habits and Reflect... - Herak

- Photo by Eugene Shelestov

Organize

Another pillar of being productive is organizing your work, resources, and artifacts. I recommend using Brian Forte’s PARA framework to organize your digital work. PARA stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive. The key approach here is to have the projects you are actively working-on under the Projects folder. Once a Project is completed you move it to Archive. You keep your recurring tasks, like status updates, presentation decks, under Areas. You store your reference documents under Resources. 

Focus

Focus is key to ensure you remain productive during the execution of your planned tasks. I apply three key strategies to stay focused:

  • I avoid external distractions. I keep my phone away or upside down when I am doing deep work. I stopped my notifications from Teams, Slack, Outlook and blocked 30 minutes' time slots during the day to check my messages.
  • I time box my tasks. I personally use the Pomodoro technique. However a general time boxing of your preferred period works as well. The key is to break down tasks into smaller tasks and work on them during the timebox.
  • I resist intrinsic distraction: We are constantly being trained by social media to seek instant gratification. How many times have you found yourself reaching for your phone unconsciously when working on tough tasks?
    • My approach is to be aware of when this happens and apply a 10 minutes rule. I try to resist the temptation for 8-10 minutes', and often I find the need for that distraction fades away, letting me focus on my work.

Optimize

Every framework has optimization as part of its building blocks, therefore, in mine I focus on incremental improvements.

One thing that helped me with my productivity was to resist perfectionism on all tasks, thus giving all task the same "weight" which is not practical. Instead I adopted LNO framework, by Shreyas Doshi.

This framework has allowed me to prioritize my tasks by their potential impact and exercise perfectionism on the highly impactful tasks also referred as Leveraged tasks. Here's a breakdown of LNO framework. 

  • L stands for Leverage. These are tasks that can lead to double digits' gains (~10X). As Shreyas' says, these are the ones that you "Do a great job, let your perfectionist shine."
  • N stands for Neutral. These are tasks where the effort to gains ratio is approx. 1X. Effort = Reward.
  • O stands for Overhead. These are tasks that have less than 1X gain/return. Effort > Reward.

Reflect

Let’s assume your goal is to write and publish a book, of which you have drafted the idea three (3) months back. You managed to establish a cadence for this work, and have scheduled session in your calendar, leading you to a publication milestone in 5 months’ time. However you also have been focusing at learning how to code. You have set both with the same level of priority, and you have started to deviate your efforts towards coding, instead of writing your book. In this hypothetical scenario,  this will not help you reach your main goal of writing your book and hence when you reflect back you will realize that your "productivity" went to a completely different goal. The worst case scenario would be that we don’t fully accomplish any of the two, falling into a counter-productive situation.

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Agreed