Lessons From SXSW: Here’s Why You’re Not Productive

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Business Posts, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

This is a great piece that really made me think about what habits that I had fallen into that were negatively impacting my productivity. Spend a few moments checking this out. I hope you find it beneficial for you as well. Thanks for the great post Francesca!

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Written by Francesca Levy,  Editor at LinkedIn

In a convention center packed with thousands of ambitious tech professionals and entrepreneurs trying to find time to choose from over 900 educational sessions, Scott Hanselman, Microsoft’s program manager of development, told hundreds of strivers they were doing it wrong.

“Somehow we’ve become convinced that we can learn all the stuff,” said Hanselman at a panel discussion Monday as part of the 2013 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Tx. But the drive to improve productivity by consuming ever more information only leads to confusion, disorganization and a sort of frenzied idleness, he argued. “I have a supercomputer with a quad-core processor in my back pocket, and I use it to show people cat pictures and argue with strangers on the internet,” he said.

Hanselman spoke with humor about productivity and how we can scale ourselves, combining big ideas with practical tips. Instead of constantly battling a mounting workload with the hope it will one day be vanquished, professionals need to step back and re-evaluate how they think about work, said Hanselman. “We think, ‘If I work harder, stay later, drink more red bull, it will all be OK,” he said. “But hope is not a strategy.”

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

People who are effective and efficient, said Hanselman, are goal-oriented. They seize on the idea that they’re going to do something, and at some point they decide that they have done it. The effectiveness part is choosing which priorities to focus on. Efficiency comes in when we streamline how we do those things.

“This is why you don’t see Usain Bolt texting,” said Hanselman. “He is trying to sprint. If he were trying to multitask, he’d probably be slowed down.” Effectiveness, said Hanselman, is doing the right things, and efficiency is doing things right.

Why we shouldn’t be trying to triage

Time-management experts often advise “triaging”: Putting virtual toe-tags on incoming tasks to make sure you’re attending to the most dire needs first. But “that brings to mind the walking dead,” said Hanselman, who thinks we should question the suggestion that the most important things you need to do will present themselves in your email folder. “An email from Bill Gates, an email from your mom and an email from Viagra are all peers in your inbox,” he said.

“How often do you see people blocking out time to figure sh** out today?” he asked. Citing productivity expert David Allen’s principle of four Ds: Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer, he noted that there’s one we overlook: “Drop it.”

“Sometimes dropping the ball is the right answer,” he said. He suggested we think about how to make our days and lives better by focusing on the things that really matter.

“Write down three outcomes today,” he said. “What are three things you could do in a single day that would make you feel awesome? Do that for the week and do that for the year; make sure your days, your weeks and your lives always meet that goal.”

If you’re Tweeting, you’re wasting your time

Hanselman looked at a room of digerati dutifully plugged into their social networks, Tweeting, blogging and Instagramming his words, and dropped a bomb: He told them Twitter wasn’t important.

“It’s really surprising how much time you guys spend on Twitter,” he said, adding: “Someone will always be wrong on the internet.”

Twitter wasn’t the only time-consuming product he dismissed. He suggested that our lives are filled with types of media we can do without. “I can drop Tivo and Twitter really quickly. It’s surprising how much people use Twitter as excuse. Twitter is a river of crap and you just need to let it flow over you,” he said.

A few more of Hanselman’s tips:

  • Make an email folder called “inbox cc.” If it isn’t directed to you, don’t do it. When your boss emails you to follow up, apologize and remind them that the request wasn’t addressed to you.
  • Don’t email in the morning. “Email in the morning is how you time-travel to 2p.m.” Instead, trust that truly urgent information will find its way to you, and focus on something that really matters.
  • Conserve your keystrokes. Joked Hanselman: “There is a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die.” He urges people to ask themselves why they’re writing. “Email is not a skill. Nor is using Microsoft office,” said Hanselman. “Delete those things from your resume and ask yourself: What is it that I do again?”
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