[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]
Increased productivity often comes more from better tools and processes than it does from new data. When you make it a regular habit to take time out to think about your commitments and organize your ideas, the logical next steps will reveal themselves. When you know what your potential next steps are for each of your projects, it becomes much easier to find one to fit your present context and energy level.
A best practice which can pay off more than any other is to stop trying to keep track of everything in your head. These days we've all signed on for more stimulating input than any one person can engage with fully in a lifetime.
"You receive too much information, and its not your fault. Just accept that there is more information than time, and that it's increasing every day." – good experience guru Mark Hurst, in his book Bit Literacy
The essential trick in the face of this daily onslaught is to think in advance and to respond appropriately in the moment acting in accordance with your priorities. This is as true for a creative professional as it is for someone who works with structured plans in an office.
"The randomness of my job is one of the most interesting things about it but that randomness feels less chaotic if I have all of that disparate clutter out of my head and categorized." – comedian and actor Rob Corddry
By learning the tools and techniques to regularly clear your head and review your goals and projects, you free yourself to act on new input in ways which help get you where you want to go. Distractions are transformed into opportunities or their negative impacts are minimized.
"In truth, I've found that any day's routine interruptions and distractions don't much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters." – author Stephen King in his book On Writing
Taking the real stuff of your daily life and using it to produce your best outcomes radically changes your experience of the world for the better. It is this practical approach to being focused and open to change which creates a better work/life balance and a happier you, even in the face of moment-to-moment chaos.
Gaining new skills and understanding is a gift which pays off both in the short and long term. There isn't a single one-size-fits-all answer, but the specific practices which will most help you are out there. As productivity guru David Allen put it in regard to his coaching practice, "I'm not here to tell you what's the content of your process; I'm here to find out what is it that's getting in the way of you being fully available to whatever is now. And now. And now. And now."