I spent the past week reading the book Extreme Productivity by Bob Pozen in hopes of improving my work efficiency. The book was written by an older man who has held higher administrative positions in top financial companies and highlights many of the tips that he has used to lead a successful career. Overall, the book presented many helpful tips that I will use to improve my productivity.
What is the difference between productivity and efficiency? Productivity is a measure of the quantity produced. Efficiency is a measure of the methods used to produce a large amount with minimal waste.
*P=quantity produced; E=quantity produced/methods used
My biggest takeaways from Extreme Productivity are below:
- Part 1: Three Bid Ideas
- Articulate your goals and rank them in order of priority
- Agree with your boss on the priority of a project
- Focus of the final product
- Spend as little time as possible on low-priority items
- Accept that you can’t do every task perfectly
- Turn in B+ work for your low-priority tasks so you can create A work where it matters more
- Part II: Productivity Every Day
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night and set aside time during the day to mentally recharge
- Follow standard routines to minimize mundane aspects of your life
- Part VI: Managing Up and Down
- Take the initiative to submit a list of accomplishments to your boss
- Give plenty of warning if a project is running into trouble
- Part III: Developing Personal Skills
- Determine the type of information gathered by a source based on the the expertise of that source (i.e. gather international news from New York Time rather than a local newspaper)
- Part V: Pursing a Productive Life
- Think of your career as a series of steps (i.e. you don’t have to plan out your entire career)
- Maximize your number of career options by choosing careers with transferable skills
- Pick a job that will teach you how to lead and how to operate in different types of organizations
- Accept that you will frequently change positions and bosses
Although many of the tips highlighted in this book seem like common sense, it helped having them explained validated by a business professional whose success depended on these tips. The most important tip Pozen stressed in this book was to tailor the tips listed above to your specific situation. There are situations when these tips improve a person’s productivity, and it is up to the reader to identify these situations.
I will keep you updated on my progress. To learn more about Pozen’s take on productivity read “Managing Yourself: Extreme Productivity”.
For Martin Luther King Day the VISTAS in my area volunteered at a mental health home for veterans. We spent the majority of the time painting, but we also spent around 25 minutes landscaping (25 minutes exactly so that we did not get frost bite in the 6 degree weather). There were both positives and negatives to the experience.
- I built relationships with other VISTAs
- A VISTA questioned how the organization I volunteer with will achieve its ultimate goal of scholars coming back to the city to be local leaders. “What would be their incentive for coming back?”
- She suggested offering scholars a scholarship that requires them to work in the city for an allotted time after receiving their degree.
- A VISTA offered to give me ride to the bus station (again, it was 6 degrees outside).
- The organization that organized this opportunity provided jobs to a group of people who historically have had a hard time finding them (people of color, veterans, young men of color, people who have dreadlocks and tattoos).
- There was a disconnection between me as a volunteer and the community my work as a volunteer was supposed to benefit.
- Other than a hello and a smile, I barely interacted with anyone in the home. I was an outsider.
- Money was stolen from me while I was at the site.
I did not feel like the service I performed today was not the type of service Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fully envisioned. It was a step in the right direction, but I could have done more to serve with the intent of empowering a community. After all, a VISTA’s role is capacity building
High quality work that has taken too much time to produce is less valuable than satisfactory work that has been produced in a fraction of the time. Efficiency is the middle ground between the quality of work and the time used to produce it.
Last week my direct supervisor and I debriefed my performance review results. We assessed my performance according to the following categories: my project goals, service duties, professional competencies, and the core values of the organization. One a scale that ranged from critical to exceptional I averaged on-track, but my efficiency was brought up as a major area for improvement.
I admit that I am a slow worker, and I could see this feedback coming from a mile away. The feeling of eyes glancing over to my computer screen and unsolicited suggestions with the intent of moving me along were all too familiar. Thoroughness is my vice, and although my work is high quality, it takes a lot of time for me to produce it.
This is where school and work differ. In school the time it took for me to complete my assignments was never questioned; as long as the assignment was complete by the due date there were no questions asked. Of course there are penalties for turning in assignments late, and the quality of the assignment is assessed according to a rubric, but in school I was easily able to pass this “efficiency test”.
In contrast to school, at work the time it takes to produce something is just as important as the quality of the end product. An employee is paid according to the amount of time worked with the expectation that a minimum of X amount of work is produced during this time. Time is money in both settings, but when it comes to consistently finding a balance between time and quality, efficiency is more salient in regards to work.
I half-jokingly say that it is a good thing that I am not an employee, but I know I need to improve upon my efficiency. This is a quality that all employees want. Plus it will make my life easier. My plan is to improve gradually by reading articles and books on efficiency, and incorporating efficiency techniques into my daily routine. The goal is to find a middle ground between efficiency and quality. I’ll keep you updated.
This issue of Teen Vogue highlighted so many young leaders. From The Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg to Afghan rapper and activist Sonita Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, young people are doing amazing things. I’m looking forward to incorporating their stories into the program the curriculum of the program at my service site.
Tomorrow is my first day back at my service site since our 2 week winter break. Break has been great and has allowed me time to enjoy the holidays. It has also allowed me time to reflect about my service experience thus far, and there are 2 things I want to change this year: my hours, and my luch break.
First, I want to ask to change my hours so that I arrive earlier than most employees who primarily work in the office, but leave at the same time as them. Currently, we arrive at the same time, but I leave an hour later. The change would reduce my commute time and increase my moral. The early bird get the worm.
The second thing I want to change is taking my lunch break away from my desk and preferably outside of the office suite I work in. When it was warmer I ate outside, but now it is too cold. The change of scenery made me feel like I was actually on break.
Both changes are relatively minor, but will have a significant impact on my experience. I will keep you updated.
About a career choice.
But, maybe I have already…
Poem Form: Cinquain
Syllables: first line 2, second line 4, third line 6, fourth line 8, fifth line 2
One my goals for during my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA is to explore career fields. Thus far I have attended local events, researched online, and spoken with professionals, but one question remains. Have I seriously considered the career field that I am currently part of? It is not too late.
Happy New Year,