Not Using This Makes you a Productivity Rookie

I was having lunch with my friend Dusty today. I was recounting all the projects that I have going on in my life, and she just looks at me… eyes glazed over. A few months ago, I heard Pat Flynn’s interview with Jessica Turner about her book The Fringe Time. Jessica is a mother of three, works a full-time job, and is a successful author. Her thing is teaching people how to take back the little pockets of time. And I remember thinking… this is awesome! I’m not the only one who finds productivity in my fringe time. I just didn’t know that it was thing. Though I haven’t written a book on productivity, and using fringe time like Jessica, I too feel like I have some gems to contribute.

 

 

The fact it is that we have all been equally blessed with 24 hours in a day. Even if we squander it, the next day, when we wake up the next morning (if we are blessed to wake up the next morning), we are again bestowed the gift of another 24 hours. We are not penalized for having wasted it the day before; we can’t borrow any from our future. So the quest is to make every single minute of it count. Really, it doesn’t mean that we have to maximize every single minute of our day all the time. If we employ only a fraction of these principles, we just might find that our productivity is substantially boosted.

 

Getting Started doesn’t Take Hours. It takes Minutes.

As the Chinese say, ‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Often we don’t start our journey because we don’t think we have enough time to devote to it. Writing an email doesn’t take hours. It takes minutes. Crafting a proposal takes hours to complete, but only minutes to start. No one said that you have to complete it all in one sitting. In fact, that would be highly implausible. The best way to eat an elephant is in little chunks. (Not that we should ever be eating elephants.)

 

 

In a given day, we have invisible pockets of time in which we have slack. Think of all the times you showed up to a meeting only to wait for the rest of the party to appear. Think of the times that you are waiting in line at Costco to return the lamp you thought was pretty at first, but then decided you could better use the $75 for something else. Think of the times you’re warming up your lunch in the kitchen, or waiting in lunch line at the food court. These are golden minutes or seconds that, before you read this post, were completely invisible to you. It is however, part of your precious youth you’d never get back.

 

How to Love with Standing in Lines Again

Let me bring this to life for you. I’m not sure about you, but I hate returning stuff. As we approach the holidays, we inevitably will find ourselves standing in the return line waiting to get our money back for the fourth TV that we decided we didn’t need despite we valiant battle for it on Black Friday.

We usually underestimate the amount of time we stand in line. Standing in line fools us. It seems like a long time, but somehow we never expect it to be anymore than a few minutes. 20 minutes later, you’re still fourth from the top.

The other day, I had to run into Costco right before we met my family for dinner in the south side. I approached the return line, and cringed. Looking back at me were 25 other people standing in line already. Crap. Frustrated, I begrudgingly took my rightful spot at the back of the line. Then I remembered: fringe time. What could I do? Oh… yes. I could start reading Andy’s book that I had bought in the last few weeks, but haven’t had a chance to crack it open (virtually, of course.. it’s an ebook). The frustration evaporated. I excitedly opened up The Consultant’s Code and polished off the first few chapters. I gotta say: it is a really good book. Lawrence joined me in a little bit, thinking that he would relieve me, but I didn’t need it. I wanted to stay in line so that I can read more! That was the best 20 minutes I ever spent standing in the return line.

 

Lining up is Now a Thing

Did you know that people have actually made a business out of standing in line? In New York, a guy started Same Ole Line Dudes, a business is built on purely standing in line for people for Broadway show tickets, Cronuts, whatever the latest craze is. Granted, this is in New York, where seats to Hamilton, and Saturday Night Live are highly coveted by many an out of towner, let alone a New Yorker.

 

 

Clearly, people know have better things to do with their time. And I’m not suggesting that we should be hiring others to stand in line for us, although if you want Hamilton tickets in New York, there are plenty of people who will gladly do it for you for a fee. But if you have to spend even a 15 – 20 minutes in line, use it to your advantage.

As I’m sitting here in my kid’s Chinese lion dance lesson, where I’m never seen without my laptop, I’m writing this. Every Monday, I know I have 90 minutes of mostly uninterrupted time to work on my blog. It’s my writing time. Guess what the other parents are doing? Yep. Facebook, youtube videos. We all still pay attention to them. Sure you can argue that they want to see you in their class. They look for you. It’s not like watching a movie though. You can look away, and still know what’s going on.

 

Bite-Sized Chunks from a Clear Plan

What if you’re thinking of starting a project? Starting a project doesn’t take hours. It takes minutes. But it only takes minutes if you have a plan. If we can have a clear picture of what needs to be done, we can start to see small individual tasks, most of which take only minutes to do, not hours. The key is to have one. Anything with a target completion date requires a project plan. Even when you go to school to get a degree, you have a plan. The plan is illustrated in the course outline and further in the syllabus for each class.

 

Project Plan It

If there is anything that I learned from my 20 years on implementation of IT projects, it’s this: By putting everything in a plan, you leave nothing to chance. Now, I’m not saying that you need a 4000 task project plan for every personal project on which you take. Some will require more complexity that others. But all projects do well with a plan. Why wouldn’t you organize your personal projects like a million-dollar project? Your life is worth way more than a million dollars.

Back a few years ago, we asked a then 3-year-old Zane what he wanted to be for Hallowe’en. His answer? A Chinese lion. (Go figure) I don’t know if you know this, but a Chinese lion costume for a 3-year-old, (or anyone for that matter) isn’t something that you can readily get at the nearest Walmart, or anywhere for that matter. Lawrence and I looked at each other, and I put on my PM hat. Letting my creative juices ruminate for a couple weeks, and chanced upon an Elmo costume on Kijiji. Between Lawrence’s design background, and my DIY hack-abilities, Elmo got an over-haul.

We knew we didn’t have a lot of dedicated time to spend Elmo. And we certainly weren’t planning on pulling any all-nighters the night before to get it done.

We crafted a 3-week project plan to transform Elmo into Chinese lion extra-ordinaire.

 

 

What you will do for your only child.

 

That’s what it is. We all have fringe time. Some windows bigger than others. What you do with your fringe time determines your productivity. I challenge you to take back your fringe time and make your productivity great again!

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