The 5 Ds of Productivity: How to Use Them to Your Advantage

When it comes to managing overwhelm and juggling multiple priorities, the 5 Ds of productivity come in handy.

The 5 Ds are: Do, Diminish, Delegate, Defer, and Delete. Your mental obstacles and bad habits can get in the way of implementing them.

Here are tips to overcome the psychological barriers and self-sabotaging behaviors that can stop you from using the 5 Ds effectively:


1. Do

Procrastination often leads to long to-do lists without the necessary follow through. Putting things off can create more overwhelm, reduce the quality of your work, cause you to miss deadlines, and damage your reputation.

In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen advises that if an action will take less than two minutes, do it as soon as it’s defined. You also first need to prioritize what’s most important to you, then break down the task or project into small, manageable steps that you can readily execute. Carve out non-negotiable time to complete each step.

In certain situations though, procrastination can work. Sometimes you do need to reflect on things, clarify your intentions, and determine your ultimate goal before you take action. Some problems take care of themselves if you stay out of them. Some circumstances improve over time and with little or no effort on your part.

Choose the right things to do. Doing the wrong things might offer temporary relief, but no long-term value. If a colleague fires off an angry email to you, the temptation might be to craft and send an immediate, defensive response. But it’s best to wait until you’re in a calmer state of mind and address it on your own terms. Or you could just ignore it.

Do the things that really matter. Embrace procrastination when it works.

2. Diminish

Being a perfectionist can cause you put in too much effort, energy and time into minor things that have minimal value. Perfectionists tend to be perpetually anxious, generally dissatisfied, and overly goal-oriented.

When a task or project must be done by you personally, focus on the most critical aspects rather than the trivial pieces. Perhaps a timely first draft is more important than a flawless but delayed final version. Strive to deliver a good, workable product instead of perfecting the parts that don’t matter. If the client wants a simple solution that takes care of the basics, there’s no need to deliver one loaded with bells and whistles.

Pinpoint what you can’t control — such as how critics feel about you — and let it go. Focus on what you can do to influence the situation, improve your circumstances, and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

At times, being a perfectionist can present advantages. Maintaining impeccable standards and high expectations, and aiming for them, can work to your benefit. Catching damaging errors and paying attention to critical details are typical strengths among perfectionists, including many lawyers, surgeons and accountants.

Diminish tasks that aren’t valuable to others or meaningful to you. Allow your perfectionist tendencies to help you hone your craft, without forcing you to lose sight of the big picture.

3. Delegate

Delegating tasks or projects to another person is hard when you’re a control freak or a micro-manager. You want things done a certain way and you’re hardly ever satisfied with the results of others’ efforts.

But in many instances, you need to delegate and hand over control to others — especially when the task doesn’t have to be done by you and can be done better by others. L. David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders, describes levels of leadership in which you move from telling people what to do to not telling people what to do. The levels he sets forth are as follows:

Level 1: “Tell me what to do..:”

Level 2: “I think…”

Level 3: “I recommend…”

Level 4: “Request permission to…”

Level 5: “I intend to…”

Level 6: “I just did…”

Level 7: “I’ve been doing…”

When you encourage others to take responsibility, you free up your time to focus on strategic matters and critical tasks that are better handled by you. You also reduce overwhelm due to taking on too much, as well as boost your productivity in areas that truly count.

Normally, however, you cannot delegate until you have defined what tasks need to be accomplished or what problem has to be solved. Setting healthy boundaries and reasonable limits also doesn’t mean you’re a control freak or a micro-manager.

Delegate responsibility to others who can do the thing just as well, if not better than you. Channel your desire for control into communicating assertively when lines are crossed.

4. Defer

Overachievers have trouble deferring goals and dreams for later, even when they are at peak capacity. They load up on stimulants, work around the clock, and attempt to multitask to get the maximum amount of things done in limited time. But going into overdrive – with no breaks for refueling and recharging – adds wear and tear. Running out of steam compromises your ability to accomplish your highest priorities.

If something is important to you, and you just don’t have time for it now, deferring it is a viable option. Set a reminder for when you will start to take action on the deferred item. Keep a journal for all your creative ideas that require fleshing out. Create a bucket list or someday list for things that call for more planning, but can wait.

Realize that setting goals and having the desire to achieve them can move you out of temporary dips. Knowing your ideal direction allows for strategic thinking, deliberate choosing and achieving your top priorities.  But you can still lead a purposeful life, even if you experience disappointment from not achieving a goal, big or small.

Defer pursuits that you still consider worthwhile, but must give way to more important matters and true emergencies. Use your ambition to get you to the next level without running yourself to the ground.

5. Delete

When you’re a people-pleaser, it can be very uncomfortable to say no. You say yes to projects that are boring or stressful to you because you want to help someone out of a jam. You agree to commitments that aren’t in line with your priorities because you want to be of service.

Your time, energy and attention span are limited. Say no to requests gently, directly and compassionately, while nixing the guilt.  Consider moving goals off your someday list if they have lost their luster and reflect an old version of you.

The habit of striving to make others happy, to the detriment of your well being, can be transformed into a more positive quality. There is a big difference between a kind person who genuinely cares about others and a people-pleaser who depends on others for validation.

Decline unsuitable job offers, re-negotiate commitments that don’t match your values, and delete icky tasks you don’t have to do. If you want to serve your community well, hit the delete button to clear out unnecessary clutter and create desired space for what really moves you. Give yourself room to breathe.


# # #

Photo by: Phil Dolby

Struggling to make a change? Here are key questions to help you gain traction.

change 4-26-15Whether you want to create a new habit, drop unhealthy patterns, achieve a big goal, or transform the way you live, change can be a gut-wrenching, nail-biting, teeth-grinding struggle. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you’re struggling to make a change, ask yourself these key questions to help you gain traction and move you in the right direction:

1. Do I really want to make this change?

You first need to determine whether the change is something you really want. Is it important or valuable to you? Will it make a worthy difference in your life?  Do you have the fire in your belly to go after it?

Real and lasting change is not possible unless you truly want it. You could still take a halfhearted stab at it and motivate yourself with external rewards. But without the inner drive, you will lose steam more easily and find it much harder to go the distance. Going after something you don’t really want depletes your energy and steals your joy.

Sometimes the change is not actually for you. Is it being forced upon you? Does it stem from unhealthy obligation rather than true aspiration? If that’s the case, do what you can to let it go and focus on your real priority. If you can’t drop it (because it’s necessary to keep a job you enjoy, maintain a friendship you cherish, etc.), stay open, consider the big picture, and cultivate your own reasons for the change.

Sometimes the change is really for you. When your commitment to change is unwavering and inner-directed, you welcome it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and align your actions with your values. When you appreciate the benefits of the change, and the consequences of the existing state, you are more willing to break through resistance and move in the desired direction.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

2. What can I do to make this change? 

You next need to determine what to do (and not do) to create the change you seek. Change starts with breaking old patterns, practicing new habits, and making conscious choices.

Although you can dream big, you generally need to start small. Break down your big goal into manageable baby steps. Then take the first step (and the one after that).

Success arises from dedicated effort, consistent practice, and effective processes and techniques to propel you forward and recover from setbacks. Success does not come from wishful thinking about the results.

In building and sustaining a yoga habit, the hardest part is rolling out the mat. If you commit to getting on the mat at a certain time of the day- without fail, without excuses – you will start to form a habit (or at least a regular practice).  Even when you don’t feel like it, you can still commit to doing just 1 Sun Salutation or just 5 minutes of yoga. Once you start, you often end up doing more. With small, deliberate steps, the full behavior will naturally emerge.

Instead of staring up at the mountain, look at the the individual steps you can take to climb it. Get the appropriate equipment and gear. Talk to experienced people. Map out your route. Steer clear of irresponsible and unnecessary risks. Tweak your processes and techniques, based on the feedback you get and the lessons you learn, along the journey.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

3. What is holding me back from making this change? 

When you truly want to make the change, but you engage in contradictory behavior, you need to look at what’s holding you back.

Some obstacles are real. They can include people who put you down, sabotage your efforts, and encourage you to keep your old patterns. (Find ways to minimize or eliminate contact with these people.) They can include old habits that get in the way of your accomplishing what you want. (Find ways to drop the old habits and make way for new ones. You can’t become an early riser if you stay up late at night surfing the Internet, checking emails, and watching TV.)

Some obstacles are excuses you make, based mostly on fear of discomfort, fear of uncertainty, and fear of failure.

Your excuse could be that you don’t have enough time. But if you track how you spend your time, you will likely see how much of it you waste on mindless activities. You also have pockets of time that you might consider too short to get things done, but all together really add up. You can make time to write your thesis, practice piano or take a nature walk for 15 minutes a day, even if you can’t devote a full hour to it.

Your excuse could be the labels you put on yourself or the life scripts you follow. When you tell yourself things like “I’m a nice girl,” “this is just who I am,” “I’m not cut out for this,” or “this will never work for me,” you stay stuck in old patterns. There are many parts of you that are due to conditioning that can be altered, circumstances that can be reshaped, and habits that can be broken. Stop blaming your DNA or the way you were raised.

Your competing commitments also lead to obstructionist behaviors. You want to become more fit, but you keep sitting on the couch eating bonbons. You want to be more considerate of others, but you continue behaving like a narcissistic jerk. You want to set boundaries, but you don’t speak up and stand up for yourself when someone stomps on your toes.

In their book, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey note that competing commitments often keep you from achieving your goals. Unless you become aware of these competing commitments, you will be immune to change.

Kegan and Lahey provide an Immunity Map Worksheet, which helps you define your improvement goal, identify behaviors that keep you from achieving your goal, uncover hidden competing commitments, and pinpoint big assumptions that support the competing commitments and lead to behaviors that undermine your goal.

If you’re lounging on the couch and eating bonbons, rather than going to the gym, your hidden commitment could be to maintain comfort. If you’re constantly attacking others, instead of having a meaningful conversation to understand their perspective, your hidden commitment could be to protect your own turf. If you’re giving in to demands and not standing up for yourself, your hidden commitment could be to keep the peace.

Once you unearth your competing commitments and test the assumptions behind them, you can shift your mindset and start taking positive action. By understanding what you really want, committing to new patterns, and beginning with small, concrete steps, you can make the change you seek.


# # #

 Photo by: ashley rose

10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends

friends 3-4-15Modern-day technology and social media make it easier to stay connected with friends and keep up with their successes, interests and status updates. But busy lifestyles, superficial communication, false intimacy and even neediness make it harder to develop and keep real friendships.

If you have good friends who enrich your life, bring you positive energy, boost your well being, and serve as trusted confidants, these 10 tips can definitely help you keep them:

1. Make time to connect.

2. Set and respect boundaries.

3. Communicate mindfully.

4. Be open to feedback.

5. Keep them accountable.

6. Get to know them personally.

7. Give them space.

8. Build trust.

9. Resolve disagreements in emotionally mature ways.

10. Be a positive force.

No matter what you do, some good friends will naturally drift away as time passes or when circumstances change. But applying these 10 tips will help you keep more good friends for many years to come (and even for a lifetime).

Read the full article, 10 Tips to Help You Keep More Good Friends, on Lifehack.


# # #

Photo by: mcconnmama