Extraordinary Productivity

This post was seated in my draft since early March when I came across this great Chronicle’s article about being Extraordinary Productive. What really caught my attention was the word productivity (oh…it also said extraordinary) as I have become quite obsessed trying to be more productive. Needless to say, I’m not always successful so I’m even more obsessive to find out more. Since I have finished grading my first batch of exam scripts today, I thought it’s best to revisit my drafts and publish this particular post.

Anyway, according to the article, this new book about The 5 Choices we need to make to become more productive. It’s actually an updated version on Stephen Covey’s productivity tool on Important/Urgent matrix which I’m sure many of us are already familiar with.

Let’s take a look at the updated matrix below with some guidelines of what should be done in each quadrant.

It does look quite clear that obviously we should be doing more important but not urgent tasks but by looking at the list I wonder how many of us (academics) have been doing proactive work, high-impact goals, creative thinking, etc. Definitely not me. What have I been doing so far? Attending emergency meetings is way too a common practice here because apparently we often have crises to solve. Unnecessary reports or paper works are definitely part of my lecturer’s life, though they are sometimes not really urgent. Replying to emails is the most tedious task and now I understand what other academics have been talking about Inbox Zero. Although I always keep all my emails read, I have a very hard time sorting them out. Retrieving or searching for old emails is a nightmare to me. Now ever since I became the leader for Industrial Training Committee, my other more urgent tasks are solving students’ problems and dealing with unforeseen events. I guess I can proudly say I don’t waste time on gossip but I do relax a lot after work while at home by playing game or watching TV series. Have you noticed that I have nothing much from the Q2 quadrant? Perhaps I did do some planning and learning but that’s all.

Okay, let’s look at what are the 5 choices that I should have considered:

  • Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
  • Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
  • Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
  • Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You
  • Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

Interesting! Especially the “Don’t Burn Out” part as I did feel burn-out recently. I guess I need to look for the book to learn more. Anyway, the article does mention one important process we can do: Pause, Clarify, and Decide. It’s important that we don’t rush into a task without thinking about its value and then decide whether to do or not do. Sound simple but sometimes it’s hard to achieve when others are pressing you for urgent tasks. I have always known productivity is about the choices we make on what to do at what time in order to get things done but many (including myself) are still not good at being productive because we are too overwhelmed with so many (never-ending) tasks that need to be done. Oh, not forgetting the distractions from so many sources, especially the social media and the Internet. Guilty as charge!

Have anyone read this book yet? Do you have any good productivity habit you want to share?

[Image from Chronicle.com]

6 thoughts on “Extraordinary Productivity

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      1. I try to organise my to do list by urgency, but not so much by important / not important. What I liked about this matrix, though, was the labels in each cell.

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