The No-Fail Way to Stay in the Productivity Zone

Do you find yourself busier than ever with little to show for it at the end of the day? If so, you may be spending your time on the wrong activities. In today’s climate of instant gratification, you may feel enormous pressure to do everything right now. When you feel this pressure, ask yourself, “does this need to be done right now or can it wait?”

What is the Urgency Trap?

If you feel like the hamster on the wheel of life running as fast as you can but getting nowhere, chances are that you’ve fallen into the urgency trap. The urgency trap is when everything seems urgent. Whether it is an expectation that you’ve placed on yourself or someone else has placed on you; you are feeling overwhelmed. It could be anything from a complicated report that your boss wants completed in 30 minutes or buying groceries for dinner tonight. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, life is full of demands. Even worse, many of those demands are unrealistic.

How Do You Get Off the Hamster Wheel?

If you have found yourself in the urgency trap, how do you get out of it? The key lies in the Productivity Zone. The productivity zone is the area where the Important Activities in your life overlap the Urgent Activities. The problem for most people is that urgent activities are usually trivial or not important; whereas, important activities are not urgent. For example, booking an airline ticket for a trip in three weeks could save you a tremendous amount of money. This is an important activity but it’s not urgent.

The critical underlying secret to time management is to understand that you must make time for the important activities. Unfortunately, if you’re like most people, you are so busy, you don’t feel like you have time to even decide what is and what isn’t important. Further, when everything seems urgent, you don’t want to take the time to prioritize. So, even before deciding what’s important, you need to create a block of time to relieve the pressure. This block of time is called a time wedge.

Create a Time Wedge

The place to start to get into the productive zone is to set aside some time to plan. Specifically, you need to plan your day, your week, and your month; if not beyond. But, first things first, you need to create a small slice of time to allow yourself room for planning. Here are some ways to create this slice:

  • Stop. Quit doing something that you are currently doing. If you are wasting time on anything, stop doing it. This could be something as simple as turning off the television for 10 minutes or checking your e-mail one less time during the day.
  • Double Up. Combine activities whenever possible. An effective way to create space in your day is to overlap activities. For example, you can listen to books on tape while you are driving or watch your favorite show on Netflix (on you iphone or ipad) while you are doing your laundry.
  • Schedule. Block off time on your calendar for deciding what’s important. You schedule everything else, why not schedule a little time for yourself?

Now, that you have created a time wedge, use that time to list everything that you are committed to do. For each item, write U for urgent, I for important for B for both urgent and important. Now, move the B items to the top of the list. These are the tasks that you will want to do first. This is the Productivity Zone. One of the B items that needs to be on your list is time to plan.

This planning time needs to be used for three activities. First, prioritize your activities as U, I, or B. Second, create a plan for accomplishing the B and I tasks. Third, develop a solution for eliminating or compressing the U tasks.

If you will use your time wedge to plan on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, you will find that you have learned the secret to stay in the Productivity Zone.

If you are caught in the urgency trap, we would love to help you get free with one of these daily planners designed to keep you in the Productivity Zone.


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