Building Your House of Productivity: “Walls” and “Layout” (Part 2 of 4)

As I promised a couple of weeks ago, it’s time to start building your metaphorical “House of Productivity” (or HOP) so you can have a more enjoyable, sane, and fruitful autumn. (Go here for more on why I’m talking about productivity now.) Today we’ll go over the first two crucial ingredients: the metaphorical walls, roof and foundation, and the layout of rooms.

Unless you run a crystal meth lab out of it, you probably value your *real* house a great deal. You’ve put time and work into making sure it’s structurally sound, beautiful, and functional — in other words, a home. It serves you well and adds a lot to your quality of life.

It’s no different with your house of productivity, which, once built, enables you to work comfortably and well, to be high-functioning on tasks without being a robot.

To understand how to build your HOP, we’ll look at its brick-and-morter counterparts. What makes a good “regular” house? It’s not rocket science. Just four main ingredients:

(1) First you need a strong structure: the foundation, outer walls and roof. (If you don’t have this, you’re living outside, camping at best.)
(2) You also need a layout of rooms to help organize the areas of living inside the house. (Because living Flashdance style in a big open warehouse is only cool for so long.)
(3) Of course, you need doors for coming and going, and windows to let in sunlight and fresh air. (If you’re missing these elements you might be in solitary confinement — no fun.)
(4) Finally, you need furniture and décor subjectively pleasing objects — to add functional personality. (Otherwise you’re in a cheesy motel.)

Presumably you wouldn’t want to live outside, in a warehouse, locked up in solitary, or stuck in a generic motel room. You wouldn’t want the equivalent of those in your work life either. But chances are you’re missing at least one of the key ingredients to a healthy house of productivity.

Let’s look at the equivalents of the first two ingredients in your HOP

For any normal house, the foundational structure and the layout are the most important aspects. They protect the contents —  especially you — and organize the use of space. In productivity terms, your foundational structure and layout are your calendar and your system for processing what comes through your day into manageable chunks.  Your integrated time-and-task-management system does the crucial job of protecting you from the mayhem of overwhelm and disorganization. Anything that takes time or effort goes into this system, from the everyday tasks to the big kahuna ones.

You might question why you need this system. After all in earlier times of human history the sun was our clock, and seasons and survival needs dictated what to do at any given time of day or year. But things are different in our modern world. These days, without a time-oriented structure and action-oriented process to help guide you, you might as well be adrift on the moors of your unorganized mind and desk, overwhelmed by the winds and easily lost. (Is this how you feel when you think of all there is to do and don’t know where to start? Me too. It’s not a good feeling, is it? And it gets much worse when the floods, earthquakes, or unexpected accidents come down the pike.)

A comprehensive system makes it all so much easier, and is a must for anyone who wants to produce more than the bare minimum , navigate the flows and rapids, and enjoy life. The good news is that most options cost little and you have a lot of choice.

In fact, with so many planners, calendar apps, task-management systems and personal preferences out there, I can’t really choose the right system for you. But I can give you a few resources, help you weigh some pros and cons, and point you in the right direction — and that’s what I’ll do in the next two installments.

Right now just know that making and implementing this decision to build your “house of productivity” may be one of the most important steps you take this fall to decrease your stress and increase the amount you get done. Because with the “big bad wolf” — that X factor of hurricanes, tragedies and accidents — wanting to huff and puff and blow your house down, you need to make it as solid as you can to weather the storms of life, and handle your daily to-dos.

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