Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Red Light, Green Light

By Kevin Payravi (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)],
via Wikimedia Commons
Did you ever sit through a traffic light, only to have it turn green and only allow enough time for two or three cars to go through before it was red again?
Every time this happens to me, I begin to have delusions that I am a civil engineer and I could plan traffic flows better than the folks that do it. Maybe I could, maybe not, but ultimately that's not my job. But I have to think that for me, the driver, having a non-stop green light in my lane would clearly be the most efficient way for me to get to my destination.

Likely, you (like me) have erected stop lights throughout your day to prohibit you from being as productive as you could be. Or perhaps you have set up obstacles to accomplishing your goals throughout the year. Some of those obstacles may just be other goals or tasks.
When we try to do too much at once, we really accomplish less. There is a certain sweetness to the flow that we can get into when we focus on important tasks and clear everything out of their way until they are accomplished. Several studies show that our desire to multitask actually impedes our ability to get tasks completed. So why do we continue to bite off more than we can chew?
Imagine again that traffic light, cars lined up in every direction. The light turns green for three seconds at a time. Only a few of them are ever making it through that collision spot that is the intersection, even in a ten to fifteen second window. Now imagine it as a single lane of cars with a green light in their direction and no cross-traffic. How many cars make it through the intersection in this fifteen seconds?
The key to getting your productivity to look like that second line of cars is to treat it the same way. Align your goals so that they are heading in the same direction. Clear obstacles or directional changes out of the way so they can go full speed ahead. And then work them serially. Most important first, then the next, then the next. Make those interruptions that would skewer your productivity fall in line, somewhere in the priority list of actions. And press down on the accelerator (for the front car, at least).