It's only January. You shouldn't be at the end of your rope already! Photo credit:  imelenchon, 2012/Morguefile.

Stay on Track With Productivity Plans

If you made a resolution this year to be more productive, there’s a new book out from the company that practically defined “productive people.” Three Franklin Covey staffers share the bill on The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, which promises to supply a “renewed sense of engagement and accomplishment.”

It's only January. You shouldn't be at the end of your rope already! Photo credit:  imelenchon, 2012/Morguefile.

It’s only January. You shouldn’t be at the end of your rope already!
Photo credit: imelenchon, 2012/Morguefile.

Back before any of us were thinking about “inbox management,” I always kind of felt like the Franklin Covey library existed mostly to sell leather-bound day planners. But I was actually somewhat impressed with this book. It’s certainly not revolutionary, but it does contain some solid methods for evaluating one’s performance in a variety of roles in both personal and professional life, and contains ideas for how to balance obligations and streamline complex processes.

Several chapters begin with a character speeding haplessly through their day without really being able to be productive. I’m not sure if all the Franklin Covey books follow this pattern, but I found it surprisingly effective and true-to-life. Self-help type books often try this tactic, but it usually comes across as cheesy for anyone who’s used to reading decent fiction. Though it does peter out to shorter snippets as the book grinds on, the initial narratives read almost as if they hired a ghostwriter to handle the creative end, with little details that make you believe the characters are at least somewhat real.

The writers also appear to have done their research in citing science to back up their assertions, with a decent end notes section to connect readers who want to follow up. I especially appreciated the explanation early on about why our brains are drawn to solve crises first. I thought I just tended to consume a block of unread e-mails from top-to-bottom because my inbox is organized that way. But a big part of why I don’t start at the bottom of the list has to do with how satisfying it is to put out the proverbial fires. Similarly, being able to resolve an e-mail that’s marked urgent immediately (even when it’s not urgent at all) gives us a rush of dopamine, which makes our brains feel awesome. This is certainly not a scientific statement, but the authors use a powerful comparison to show why being aware of this tendency is even more important this day in age:

Technology can amp up the addictive power of urgency tenfold. It’s like smoking crack cocaine, which is immediately more stimulating…addictive [and] dangerous.

The fifth chapter also includes some helpful research on how good proteins and fats help us think and act more clearly, as well as evidence of how work-life imbalance and sleep deprivation can hurt productivity even more that was previously assumed.

The book also contains simple but effective ideas for how to better organize yourself to tackle meetings, to-do lists, and scheduling, though a lot of these items rely on a willingness to explore productivity hacks that exist in the e-mail/calendar/task management software you’re already using.

Overall, The 5 Choices is a good place to restart if you feel like you’re beginning to falter on your promises to change your distracted ways in the new year. Bring on week two, 2015!

Meg White

Meg White is the multimedia web producer for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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