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DO MORE OF THE STUFF THAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO. Productivity is all about getting to the stuff that you really enjoy. It’s about minimizing the time you spend doing boring stuff and maximizing the time you spend doing what excites you. But it’s not easy.


Stuff gets in the way. That’s why this free ebook* is about igniting your productivity. About being so on fire that you actually enjoy getting it all done.


STREAMLINE. AUTOMATE. ORGANIZE. CREATE. This ebook is short. It’s divided into four sections. Each one is a step in a process that should lead to you being, in the eyes of those around you, #onfire.


COMPANY NAME Work Street Work City, Work State Work ZIP T: Work Phone, F: Work Fax Phone Work Email, Work URL

*If you’ve paid for this ebook, demand a refund!

Preface. Who needs one of these? Lesson 0 Cut out unnecessary stuff. Be ruthless.

I blog at

Streamline. Doing what you already do, but faster a n d m o r e e f fi c i e n t l y i s c a l l e d streamlining.

You may not need them, but if you work with others theyʼre an excellent way of demonstrating any productivity bottlenecks.

You do it already, automatically. Think of making a cup of tea or coffee. You know which order to do things in so that you get the required outcome.

Invest in the power of parallel-tasking. What can you be doing whilst:

Itʼs the same with anything you do. Break it down into sections and make sure you do them in the most efficient order. • Scan through your new emails making sure you read all from an individual/ about a situation before replying. • Find the fastest route between home and work. Stick to it. • Have a place on your desk for everything. Flow charts are a good, visual way of demonstrating where you can streamline best.

• The backup is running? • The kettle is boiling? • Somebody pops out of a meeting? Parallel-tasking effectively means youʼre working at 200% capacity (which is better way of looking at it than saying you were previously working at 50% capacity). Think about your inputs and your outputs. What time of the day/month/year do your inputs usually arrive? What time are your outputs due? Use Gantt charts. Use any method that allows you to break down projects and work into achievable goals. Always work from the end point backwards, from your deliverable to inception.

Sample flowchart: " Bob writes outline doc

Jane checks doc

Sue signsoff doc

Doc goes to client

Automate. How many times should you do a repetitive task by hand? Once. Any task that can be done by a machine should be done by a machine. Automate. If you donʼt know how to, find out. Ask in the office. Look online. Ask your social network. If thereʼs a repetitive task you have to do often, itʼs worth spending time finding out a way to automate it. Just think how much time it will save you in the long run.

Extrapolate. How many other times do you do something similar? Itʼs not only worth finding that automated way to save you time, but it also leads to you doing less soul-destroying tasks. Save everything, even if only for a short period of time. Create templates from documents you use. Even if you only use it on one more occasion, youʼve saved time. You can share it with other people saving them time. Thatʼs important. Use services that sync folders so you donʼt have to manually check for changes in files and then laboriously transfer them.

Take image resizing. If youʼve got 100 images that all need resizing for the company website it might take you a minute to:

Is it in your best interests to spend your money on something that can automate something it currently takes you a minute to do manually every day?

1. Open each file. 2. Resize it. 3. Save it.

365 days/year - 25 days leave - 110 weekend days & public holidays = 230 days = 230 minutes/year = 3 hours 50 minutes

If you get really fast it might take you 30 seconds. Youʼve just spent the best part of an hour doing what a computer can do in one minute. Itʼs taken you 50 times longer than necessary to do it.

Yes, it is. Iʼm @dajbelshaw on Twitter

Organize. Have a hub. A mission control. Somewhere that gives you an overview of everything youʼve got to do in a given time frame. Calendars are good. Project management applications even more so. Something defies categorization? Put it in a Misc. category until something like it comes up. Then make up a new, emergent category. Explain to others (if appropriate) your rationale. If they think differently, negotiate. Talk about it. Do whatʼs best. Organization is about bringing together things in a way that makes sense. If thereʼs a standard way of doing something, thereʼs probably a reason for that. Follow it. Learn what it is, how it works, and why people do it that way. If the way doesnʼt make sense, challenge it. Ask questions. Probe. Come up with a solution, donʼt just identify the problem. ʻThinking outside the boxʼ just means applying ways of doing things from one sphere of life to another. Think about other organizations youʼre part of sports, church, social clubs:

• How are they organized? • What procedures do they follow? • Why do they do things like that? Suggest changes. Draw diagrams. Spend time discussing workflows, methods and documentation. Itʼs important. Who does what? If Bobʼs off sick who answers the phone? If Janeʼs on leave whoʼs got the company credit card number? If Sarahʼs in another country on a business trip, whoʼs dealing with her clients? Have a system. In any given situation, PROBE. Define the: • • • • •

Procedures Responsibilities Outputs Boundaries Expectations

Make sure everyone has an appropriate means of communication to become, and remain, organized. This is especially true for yourself. Email me:

Create. Creativity is what makes us human. It takes many forms. You donʼt have to be artistic to be creative. You donʼt even have to do something brand new. What marks you out as a creative person out is your commitment and reflection. Commitment to owning your outputs. Reflection upon what youʼre doing and how youʼre going to achieve their goals. Creativity can be fun. It can be playful and enjoyable. It is also likely to be extremely hard work. Real life is not Hollywood. Going from conception to execution takes more than a 30-second montage of trying-and-failing and concentrated expressions. Productivity has creativity as its goal. The whole point of streamlining, automating and organizing is so that you can be more creative. But creativity is scary. • What if you have no ideas? • What if the finished product/deliverable is no good? • What if it turns out someone has done it before?

And therein lies the problem: fear. You will fail spectacularly at least once in life. You will fail so badly that people will laugh, and continue to laugh about it for the rest of your life. So youʼve got a choice. Are you going to laugh with them? Are you going to laugh at your failures? Or are you going to let your failures define you? Itʼs a sad fact that, for many people, the reason for their lack of productivity is actually a fear of creativity. A fear that what they could actually produce if there were no barriers and no constraints. Engage. Imagine the possibilities! Change your little corner of the world. Streamline. Automate. Organize. But most importantly, Create. Share what you do with the world. Be prepared to be laughed at. Laugh with them. Ignite. Doug Belshaw July 2010

Recommended resources: • 43 Folders • Five Sentences • Lifehacker • Scott Berkun • Sethʼs Blog • Signal vs. Noise • Stepcase Lifehack • Zen Habits

Many thanks to Dai Barnes, James Michie, Paul Lewis, Nick Dennis & Stuart Ridout for feedback on earlier drafts.

#onfire: ignite your productivity  

Productivity is all about getting to the stuff that you really enjoy. It’s about minimizing the time you spend doing boring stuff and maximi...

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