KOS Book Club: The Productivity Project

By: Bruce Kreisman, Kathy Stanley, Olga Bernick, Cameron Kinley and Abigail Schaffer

At KOS we recognize that a successful professional utilizes various skills while servicing our clients. The most obvious are technical skills, whether in accounting, auditing, tax or consulting. But a well-rounded professional will also be strong in the so-called “soft skills,” things they do not necessarily teach you in school but which impact the approach to life and work. To that end, KOS sponsors book clubs where staff members read (on their own time) and meet and discuss books with the aim of improving their soft skills in ways that will benefit themselves professionally and personally, and their service to you, our clients.

Our group recently read The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. As its name implies, this book’s intent was to get us thinking in ways that promote accomplishing more by managing time, attention and energy. We would like to share with you some of our takeaways. These are things we are incorporating and which you, in turn, may wish to consider should you be looking to improve productivity in your personal or professional life or in your organization.

The Rule of Three is largely an organization tool. At the beginning of each day and week choose three things that you strive to accomplish. The rule of three is extremely valuable because it is a good amount of challenge for your day/week while not overwhelming yourself with what can seem like an endless to-do list of items.

Prioritize what is important. The author does not just focus on work, but emphasizes looking at your life as a whole to prioritize and make sure you maximize the right amount of time for what you value and what goals you want to achieve. This includes work, household, leisure, relationships, etc.

Perform regular brain dumps. For example, when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with everything you need to do, write it down. It is important to be able to focus on the task at hand, and if your mind starts wandering toward other things you
need to accomplish, this will inhibit your productivity. The act of writing down whatever comes to mind helps you pull it out of your mind and on to paper so you do not worry about forgetting it but can focus on what you are currently doing.

Be cognizant of your peak performing hours. Everyone has times of the day when they are more productive than others. Try to perform more challenging work that involves critical thinking during these peak times, and less intensive tasks at other, non-peak times. Take breaks as needed. The author referred to a study that after 25 minutes on a task the mind wanders, affecting productivity.

Planning and preparation are essential for successful workflow management. Take inventory for the upcoming week, and revise your to do list to accommodate emergencies or unforeseen issues.

Recognize that productivity is measured differently than it used to be. When a larger percentage of the economy was manufacturing driven, productivity was more a matter of time and how many hours someone put it. Now that it is more technology driven, it is not time, but how you use that time, that is the key measurement. For example, find the hours of the day when you are more awake and efficient, turn off distractions (one suggestion being to check email at a few designated times during the day, rather than constantly opening email throughout the day), and be aware of what you eat and what foods might drag you down.

The author cited a study which concluded that work productivity is markedly decreased once the work week exceeds 55 hours, that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours. While an exact optimal number of work hours can be debated, it bears remembering that accomplishment, not time expenditure, is the goal, and implementing productivity elements will achieve the goal of accomplishing more in less time.