Efficiency over Productivity

Or how we should get SAD about our workload

Once the joy of discovering we are multi passionate creatives wears off, we are faced with the harsh reality of what this actually means. We have to work out how to juggle all our passions, tasks, activities and new lines of inquiry. Which means we have to be twice as efficient as everyone else.

Before I embraced passion weaving, I used to focus on productivity as a solution to my busyness. This is a mistake.

Productive people work really hard on improving their productivity. They spend their lives organising multiple to-do lists and focus on getting as much done as possible. Are used to have a work rate that would make your mind boggle. I was the most productive person I knew and I wore this as a badge of honour.

The only trouble is, by focusing on what we are doing, we lose sight of why we are doing it.

There is an expression that goes something like “stop succeeding at the wrong things”. Instead of working hard on being productive, I have shifted my focus to being efficient. I now spend a large part of my week developing systems and processes to streamline and automate as much of my busyness as possible to clear space for the important work.

It might seem obvious to some, but it is so easy to get snowed under my emails, bills, and the daily grind. I sometimes feel like information, problems and requests come at me like a firehose.

So where ever possible I try to be SAD — which is an acronym for Systemise, Automate and Delegate.

Systemise

I pay attention to the tasks I do on a daily and weekly basis. If I have to do a task more than two times, I sit down and try to systemise the process. It’s not just about organising folders on your desktop, it’s having a flowchart of steps as to how to handle a particular task, and work out ways to get from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. 

I have a system for handling emails, a system for filling out enrolment planners, a system for posting to social media regularly and so on. I even have a system for writing Medium articles.

The biggest vortex of chaos in my life is always email. I have multiple email accounts and check some more regularly than others. To add to my worries, my pop emails stop sending and I also had mailing list coming at me from all directions.

I spent some time trying out email management apps and I have discovered Polymail handles everything I need. Unbelievably, this app is also free. I now have all my Gmail accounts feeding into there, as well as my work email. I have a series of folders which is where the action items get sent.

The great thing about Polymail is you can set up an action to archive after you reply to it. It also has a one-click unsubscribe, a snooze feature and you can see who has read your emails and set reminders to follow up if they don’t.

I have also set up an iCloud.com account for all my family correspondence and mailing lists. All my work and business emails go to Polymail and I sort through them on my phone.

Whenever I get a notification, I unsubscribe if it’s a mailing list, if I can reply quickly I do so on my phone and then it automatically archives. If the email requires a more detailed response, I funnel it into a folder to deal with later. If it is an FYI email, I simply swipe and archive or swipe the other way to snooze.

My goal with the phones to be at inbox zero all the time, safe and I was that everything I need to deal with is in an appropriate folder. The part I really love, is that the folders are only visible on the Mac version of Polymail if there is something in it. So when I open my computer, my goal is to get to folder zero.

Automate

I recently automated my bill paying and it was literally one of the best things I have ever done. Every month, my utility bills used to arrive by mail, so I would open them and stick them to the fridge. Then I would completely forget about them until the angry bill arrived. My Internet and mobile phone use to get disconnected more than I care to admit.

Eventually, I set down with my online bank and set up automated payments to coinside with my fortnightly pay. If my rates are due every three months, I divided the amount by six and repeat that amount into that the biller account using BPay.

My mortgage is already set up this way, but after 45 minutes, I had rates, water, power, phone, Internet, my car and computer repayments all automated. Holy crap that felt good.

The next stage was to switch all my paper bills and statements over to digital. I resisted this at first, because I thought I would definitely miss a payment if I didn’t have the bill staring at me from the fridge, but now that the payments are automated, it’s a no-brainer.

All up, automating my bills to 45 to 60 minutes. Setting up Polymail took four to five hours. A small price to pay for never feeling overwhelmed by those two areas of my life ever again. Obviously dealing with the action items still takes time, but the stress are used to feeling a daily basis that everything was scattered, and attended and all over the place has completely lifted.

Delegate

In this day and age of Internet services, it blows my mind when I hear of highly paid academics transcribing their own interview tapes. There are many online services such as Rev who will transcribe audios for a dollar a minute. If I have any menial tasks such as filling in spreadsheets, transcription and data mining I tend to use online services now. I’ve had moderate success with fiverr.com and elance for really basic tasks.

For more complex tasks, it is worth paying professionals to do things for you such as bookkeeping, social media, web publishing and so on. For many years I battled through doing all those things myself, and I have since come to realise it is false economy.

Spend some time this week auditing your activities.

Which of those can you get SAD about? Which repetitive tasks can you Systemise? Emails are a great one to sort out. Is there anything you can Automate, such as paying recurring bills? Are there basic tasks you can outsource or delegate to somebody else, such as bookkeeping or audio transcription?

The goal, as a passion Weaver, is to allow yourself as much time and mental bandwidth to handle all of your jobs, hobbies, businesses and creative activities.

Try to stop focusing on productivity and focus on efficiency instead.

Dominique Falla
www.dominiquefalla.com