“Multi-task”, “wing it” and other disasters

I have been struggling with lack of focus, slow productivity and procrastination for the longest time. Of course I am not the only one and, over time, I talked to many people, read books, took time management classes and listed to podcasts, all in the hope that I will one day find the “cure” to my problems and become a super-performer.

The more I learned about how to be productive, the less productive I felt I was being. My head was trying to implement all the new tools, my heart was taking on new projects (because I would be so efficient with my new tools that I could juggle everything, right?), but the reality would always hit hard: an overwhelming pool of tasks that I do not know how to tackle.

The cost of context switching

And then I came across Gerald Weinberg’s theory on the cost of context switching.

Source: LinkedIn

What Weinberg is saying is that when involved in one project, your focus is 100% in that project, but when you are involved in more projects, you loose time by changing focus between them. This loss can add up to 80% of your productivity, depending on the number of projects you are involved in.

At leat now I know where my time goes and that is NOWHERE! Multi-tasking and starting several things simultaneously is not the way of being more productive. It is true that sometimes we cannot avoid it and, in that case, having tools, processes and/or procedures is essential to complete them all successfully and in the less time possible.

Trust the system

Tools and systems have been developed to make it easier for us to keep track of what we need to do and work more efficiently, and yet, so many of us think they can do it (at least) just as well without them.

Here is how I (used to) go about it:

  1. Using this and that tool takes too long to learn and it costs money.
  2. Applying this and that model takes too much time, so much administration, what’s the point?
  3. This process leads me to the same results, why spend time on following the steps?

If you think the same, you might want to keep reading and find out why that is not a sustainable way of working.

1. Automation

Using the tools available out there, like calendars, task management apps etc., it might feel like time consuming and uncomfortable at first. Taking advantage of the technology available today will only help you in the long run because:

  • It save you time.
  • Allows you to integrate them in different aspects of your life.
  • Are shareable.
  • Often they provide you with insights.

Finding the right tools for you will require some time and trial and error since it is very personal. Luckily, there are many platforms out there that you can choose from.

I am using To-do by Microsoft (now that Wunderlist will be discontinued) and Google Calendar for my schedule. We have a system at home with synchronized lists and calendars so we can always have a shared overview and speed up decision making.

2. Follow-up

Learning to apply a model (like the one I taught you in my previous post – Idea Rating Method)  and respecting that process from beginning to end can be challenging. It is tempting to think that some steps are not applicable to your situation or take too much time and you have a better method.

I do this A LOT. Freestyling is a way of being creative so it is very much part of my problem solving strategy. While this could save you time and provide you with fast results, it is recommended you use it only when you don’t have an alternative, like in an unforeseen situation. Learn to use models and processes because:

  • You will have a more structured workflow.
  • You can trace your steps and correct your actions if needed.
  • In time, you can improve the processes, making them better for you.
  • You will learn to use a common language and communicate better with other professionals.

3. Evaluation

You might argue that freestyling and processes will lead you to the same point regardless and this might be true (up to a certain point) especially in smaller projects. The biggest difference is that processes can lead you to similar results every time, while freestyling operate highly on chance. Invest the time and learn the right methodology so you can:

  • Create a workflow that allows you to replicate successful results.
  • Lean on a system that will deliver results regardless of the size of the project or of your disposition in the moment.
  • Learn from your performance and improve as you go along.
  • Record in a structured way your progress and results.

Creating a system for yourself rooted in methodology and TRUSTING that system, will allow you to take things off your head because you won’t need to keep all the balls in the air alone. It will also provide you with structure, insights and more time to spend on actual work.

The trap of perfectionism

I simply must touch upon perfectionism in this article about productivity because, often times, one (I mean me) hides behind constantly improving and learning before moving on. For example, I pushed myself to work on the We are Entrepreneurs project before I was comfortable in front of the camera, before I had content lined up and certainly before the platforms (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram) were ready.  I also push myself to get the videos out without them being perfect as an exercise for me to learn how to move forward before something is up to my standard.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Perfectionism is a productivity killer because:

  • Often, only you can tell the difference between your perfect result and the imperfect one.
  • It eats up valuable time that you can spend moving forward.
  • It does not provide you with new information or skills.
  • It builds up your expectations for the impact of the results, often leading to disappointment when the results are not appreciated according to the effort invested.

So far, I have shared with you two methods: the WHY + HOW = WHAT formula and the Idea Rating. Trust the system and follow their steps and you are guaranteed results every time!

Thank you

Follow Diana at We are Entrepreneurs DK on Facebook or YouTube and you will have access to all the content of my video series regarding the Hackathon and also to other content regarding entrepreneurship, motivation, structure and networking, among others.

 

Idea Rating Method

After the brainstorming session using the WHY + HOW = WHAT formula, you might find yourself with a list of ideas and interesting projects you want to work on.

In order to be productive and see projects through, it is important you choose one idea at a time to work on before moving to the others. The process of choosing an idea can be difficult, especially is you are excited about several.

I recommend using the Idea Rating Method (IRM) to visualise and (unconsciously) decide on the idea better suited for you in this moment.

Download the Idea Rating Method Template and work your way through the tutorial bellow while filling in your own criteria and values.

Here is how my assessment looked like: the Hackathon idea scored the highest, therefore it is what I am focusing on. Now let’s break it down.

The Criteria

In this method, the criteria represents those characteristics that are interesting for you in a project. They can be set based on your likes/dislikes (e.g. Should involve working with kids), on a time frame (e.g. Should be executed in 6 months) or even on a skill set (e.g. Should be done by Project Management methodology).

Imagine you ideal project and write down what would make it interesting for you and you will have your list of criteria.

The Relative Value

Now that you have your list, think about how important is every item to you on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is least important and 5 most important. These numbers will represent the Relative Value of each criterion on your list.

Idea Rating

Take your ideas and evaluate them based on the list you just made. How does each idea meet the criterion? I created the numerical assessment bellow to keep it easy (0=criterion not met 1=criterion almost met 2=criterion met), but feel free to create your own values.

Total

The Assessment Value of each idea is multiplied by the Relative Value giving it a final Value that is summed up in the Total. The idea with the highest score is the one that comes closer to meet your criteria and should be the one to focus on.

In case of a Total tie, choose the idea you are most excited about. Also, if the result of this test was disappointing for you because you were secretly ruling for another idea, then go with the one closer to your heart.

Disclaimer

The Idea Rating Method, while it is very useful because it quantifies criteria that is difficult to assess otherwise, it is also highly subjective since you are the one establishing the rules of the evaluation. This means that it is not a science, it is just a tool that can help you make decisions in a structured and informed fashion.

Thank you

If you try the Idea rating Method, I would love to hear from you with details about how it helped you or how it can be improved.

Follow Diana at We are Entrepreneurs DK on Facebook or YouTube and you will have access to all the content of my video series regarding the Hackathon and also to other content regarding entrepreneurship, motivation, structure and networking, among others.

Why + How = What

Based on a Project Management tool called “goal hierarchy” that allows you to focus on any project without leaving anything important out and without creating a too wide scope that will be difficult to realise, Diana created the WHY + HOW = WHAT formula.

The Secret Formula

This formula will allow you to create structure in the ideas you have going on in your head and break them down into actionable tasks so you can start today your journey of bringing that big idea of yours to life.

Watch the video to find out how WHY + HOW = WHAT can help you.

Start by writing down your idea, passion, desire – this will be your starting point in the brainstorming session. Here is what to do next:

The WHY

Now that you have one (or a few) items on a piece of paper, ask WHY to each of them to see where it takes you and write the answers down again. Answering this question will:

  • Help you understand the bigger scope of your project
  • Identify what it is actually important to you
  • Point out your vision for yourself and/or the project
  • Help you discover your true motivation*

*Be cautious and critical about your motivation. If you cannot discover other motivations than to make money, you might want to find a different idea. Making money is part of any business, but what drives it and makes it successful is someone’s vision and passion.

Repeat the question to your first round of answers and then do it again with the second and third round. After you are satisfied with the WHYs, try to see how they all connect to each other, if you can group them and if there is something more important than other.

This is how my WHY session looked like after I grouped everything:

First part of the brainstorming session: the WHY

The HOW

Start by looking at the image above and see how by following the connexions going up answer the question WHY and going down askers the questions HOW. This is a great way to verify that there are no loose ends in your vision and that you are not taking leaps on the way.

Take all the answers from the previous session and see if you can combine them in  a way that if you go upwards they answer to WHY and if you go downwards it answers to HOW and you will:

  • Be able to add and remove answers to make a detailed vision
  • Create structure
  • Narrow down the wide scope to projects, goals and event tasks that will help you achieve your vision
  • Be able to pick something to work on
  • Be able to identify what areas you are strong at and where you will need help

In my case, I decided to focus on the Hackathon because it is a great point to start in the research that I am planning to do in order to achieve my vision of exposing children to entrepreneurship. Here is how the Hackathon project looked like after I asked many HOWs:

Second part of the brainstorming session: the HOW

Please note that this just a sample of HOWs, since the there are many more goals and tasks to be added here before the Hackathon can happen. It is impossible for you to have all the answers to the HOWs right now, so just write down what you know and plan to fill it in as you go further into the project. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and make a plan on how to overcome your shortcomings.

The WHAT

You can start with the WHY or with the HOW depending on how concrete your ideas was at the beginning of the brainstorming session, but you always have to end with the WHAT.

Answering this question will help you:

  • Create a list of tasks that you need to complete
  • Establish a timeline and a ranking among the tasks
  • Identify the resources you need
  • Decide on success criteria that will support your journey
  • Identify sensitive points in your plan so you can consider them with time

The answers to the WHAT is what you will put into your to-do list, set the time line and get you to work. Here is an example:

Third part of the brainstorming session: the WHAT

The complete question is “What do I have to do to…”. Use it on all your answers to WHY and HOW and it will give you a pretty good idea on where to get started to make your idea a reality.

Thank you

If you try my WHY + HOW = WHAT formula, I would love to hear from you with details about how it helped you or how it can be improved.

Follow Diana at We are Entrepreneurs DK on Facebook or YouTube and you will have access to all the content of my video series regarding the Hackathon and also to other content regarding entrepreneurship, motivation, structure and networking, among others.

Welcome to Build your Project

Build your Project is an initiative by Diana Medrea-Mogensen to share her knowledge about project management and business in a series of videos and blog posts.

Through this video series, Diana hopes to:

  • Motivate you to start working on that idea you’ve been thinking about for so long
  • Show you how a project looks from the inside so you are prepared when starting your own
  • Give you some tools to work in a structured way
  • Learn from all of your experiences, so reach out to her with questions and comments

Follow Diana at We are Entrepreneurs DK on Facebook or YouTube and you will have access to all the content of my video series regarding the Hackathon and also to other content regarding entrepreneurship, motivation, structure and networking, among others.

Heads up!

Blog about

DianaMedrea.com is an initiative to connect with you and hopefully inspire you through sharing universal stories of success and failure with a good dose of humor.

Entrepreneurship, events in Copenhagen, finding a job in Denmark and life in general, are few of the topics I will be writing about.

Continue reading “Heads up!”