Jake Trent

Define Limits for Greater Productivity

As we define limits in our life and work, we gain the freedom to be more productive.

Happy Boundaries

Some may view boundaries as constraining. An alternate view would see boundaries as guide rails for life and work that lead us to where we want it to be. If a body of water sits at the top of a mountain during spring runoff, it has a lot of potential energy. As it falls to the valley, it will create a beautiful mountain stream when channeled. If that same water with the same amount of energy existed without the channel, it would certainly be less beautiful and probably more destructive.

If we can set clear limits in our life, we’ll open up new possibilities that we didn’t previously have. If we edit the non-essential out of our life, we’ll have new time and attention available for what we find more valuable. We need to be comfortable with saying a graceful “no” to opportunities and letting our boundaries guide us to our desired destination.

Don’t Check Email Until Noon

We are fairly addicted to the dings of our phone. If we have a new alert or message or phone call, we rush to attend it. It is a powerful interrupt in our life – an event that supersedes most else.

If we wake up and check our email, we’ll be sending replies and getting replies within the day. Email begets more email.

If we command-tab to Slack to reply to a message the moment that we receive it, we train others to expect this quick response to their urgency. Wouldn’t it be great to train others to expect great work from us instead. Great creative work requires plenty of flow time which Slack is antagonistic toward.

Define Your Work

I love working in a Kanban style, where I can think about and complete a single, small, high-priority task just in time. But this style of working has a potential weakness. Working this way, I can often overlook the strategic direction and long-term goal I’m working toward.

We spend a lot of time working. But how much time do we spend defining our work? Without planning, we can work really hard but essentially flit away our time. If we are more thoughtful and intentional about what we do, we will be more prone to doing work that really matters in moving us toward our objectives.

We might consider the “Rule of 3”: Choose 3 things for today, this week, this month, and year, where if we accomplished those things, we’d be very satisfied. We will find the purpose and direction we seek that will help us escape the hamster wheel. It’s easy to feel like our day was super busy, but then we look back and don’t know what we actually got done. We can add to our satisfaction by actually knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing.

What strategies do you take to give more definition and direction to your work? What are the things that help you feel most productive?