I listened to a great productivity talk by Scott Hanselman the other day. While this speaker is more on the tech end of his profession the ideas that he talks about cross over the barrier to the birth industry. Here is an overview of the ideas he had and how they relate to those in the birth field. This includes those just starting out and those who have already been working in the birth field. Here are a few tips to get you on the way to a more productive space.
Start Now and Go All the Way
According to a survey from AtTask, employees only spend 45% of their time doing primary job tasks. Wow! That means less than half of your day is spent doing unproductive things. Some of the things that take up this time include checking emails, interruptions, talking with other employees, sitting in meetings, and tending to personal tasks. Who really wants to run their birth business this way?
Less can be More
Many of those who have a birth business are not working for someone else. This makes it even more important to not fall into bad habits like staying up late to “catch up.” It can be hard to set aside time to work when you are not heading into the office from 9-5.
Effective Vs. Efficient
Sort Your Incoming Information
Incoming information needs to be sorted. This includes e-mails, invoices, newsletters, bills, phone calls, blogs, instant messenger, phone alerts, ect. We sometimes find ourselves so wrapped up in details that are not important. It is like we are trying to put a band aid on a hemorrhaging mom while in the other room there is a mom that needs help deciding what evidence based practices she wants to include in her birth plan. We need to focus on the things that are within are ability and are important to us. The hemorrhaging mother may be something we want to help with but unless we are a midwife we are not trained or capable of helping. While the above example is a bit extreme it gets the point across. If we are too busy trying to answer questions on the homebirth Facebook group that we missed an message from a women wanting to know if today is a good day to come for an interview, then we are focusing on the wrong details.
It is Okay to Drop the Ball
There are three different kinds of work; work that has been scheduled, work that just appeared, and defining work (where you sit down and think about what you are going to work on). We should be spending more time on the last type and plan what our work time will look like.
Hansleman mentions David Allen’s practice of using the “Four D’s”:
Example # 2 You get a pop of survey to find out what kind of personality you have. It will take more than a few minutes to complete. In order to be productive you need to pick an option. Will you drop it and not come back to it because it is not important? Will you delegate it for one of your partners? Will you save the link and do it later because it is something that truly will help you understand yourself and how you run your business?
According to Hanselman, we should be “dropping as many good things as you can.” Dropping the ball is sometimes the right answer. Many of us, including myself, fall into the overachiever section. This makes saying “No” incredibly difficult. You must remember that the guilt of saying “Yes” is often more difficult than if you just say no in the beginning. If something is important enough it will come back.
Get that Weight Off Your Back
Another big productivity downer is what is known as psychic weight. This is the intangible feeling of weight from our list of to-dos in our life. Get as many of these to-do’s off your list if they are not important to your goals. Those 15 hours of back seasons of Lost or Breaking Bad will still be there when you have time to get to them. They should not be scratching at the back of your mind as you are trying to work.
This is when you will reflect on the things you were able to accomplish and if there were things that you were not able to accomplish than you should think of ways to better set yourself up for next week. It should not be a day to beat yourself up for not meeting your goals. Set yourself up for success. Don’t set up “guilt systems.” Guilt systems are that huge list of things you want to get done or read for the week that is really not feasible.
Schedule Your Pomdoro
Identify your incoming data streams: Twitter, Facebook, Google, E-mail, direct mail, texts, Skype, comments, contact forms, Instagram, live video streams, DVR, live TV shows, voicemail, ect. Sort through these data streams and choose which ones need to be turned off in order to be productive.
While in your Pomodoro be aware of your internal interruptions. This is all the times you hear your Facebook messenger go off and you pop over to see who it was or you just pop over to check on your e-mail. The first objective is to be aware of the number and type of internal interruptions you have. Observe them, accept them, and schedule them or delete them. Just being aware of these interruptions will help you participate in them less frequently. You may have a note on your internal interruptions that looks like, “I had 10 internal interruptions during my two Pomodoro session on Monday,” and then “I had 3 internal interruptions during my two Pomodoro session on Friday.”
Establish E-Mail Habits
Do not check your email in the morning. If you respond, they will respond back. Tending to e-mails first thing in the day can promptly take over your work time. Your behaviors teach other people how to treat you. If you want to spend your mornings responding back and forth to messages than go ahead but if your do not want that to happen don’t do it. Don’t put energy into things you don’t want more of. Schedule a time to check email. Put it on your calendar. Then be done with it. When responding to e-mails try to match them to the length of the sender. If they wrote a few lines, then respond in a few lines. If they wrote a few paragraphs consider making it a longer e-mail.
You could also go with the five sentences approach. This is when you make it your personal policy to only write five sentences as a response to an email regardless of recipient or subject. If you are using email as a chat you are using email wrong. Unless you are doing an e-mail campaign. E-mail is not where business happens. Meetings is where business happens. Email is where you start to establish plans and then you build upon them in meetings.
Don’t Multitask Unless you are Doubling-up
Get Tools to Help
Get some tools to help you get on track. We live in time where there is an app for everything. Get some. Evernote is a great app to take notes and make lists that is available in the cloud so you can access it where ever you go. OneNote is also a great app to organize notes, to-dos, and other things you need to keep organized. Instapaper is a program that takes all the things you want to save and read for later into your own personal digital newspaper to read when you have time. Bookmark things. Don’t keep 20 tabs of things you are going to come back to later. You won’t and it is distracting.
Think about what you can downsize and what interruptions you can throw out.
If it is not helping me to make money, if it’s not improving my life in some way, it’s mental clutter and it’s out.” _Christopher Hawkins
Let someone else be your expert. We live in a very DYI culture. You do not need to be an expert on everything. Let other people be an expert for you. Know what you need to know and let other people know things for you.
About the Author
As a seasoned birth worker and business major I wanted to take my two passions and combine them into one. Over the last seven years I continue to push myself to learn more and give more to those around me.