While I was on a long vacation, I started reading the book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen. (I know, I know, that doesn't sound very vacation-like. But I did spend most of my days having fun. See photos below.)
What I read led me to examine the way I schedule tasks and how much I focus on the amount of time to spend on each.
As a result, I discovered that while I no doubt got more done compared to simply winging it, I could increase my productivity and feel less stressed by adding one simple step Pozen suggested.
That step benefited my writing and my publishing business tremendously, including in these four ways:
- Avoiding procrastination
- Increasing motivation and energy
- Eliminating unnecessary tasks that previously seemed vital
- Lowering stress
I'll talk about the first one today and the rest over the coming weeks.
The added step is to identify the purpose of each task. Seems pretty basic, right? Well, it is and it's not.
Knowing What You Plan To Accomplish
Under Pozen's approach, when you schedule any task or event in your calendar you list next to it what you intend to accomplish by doing it.
At first that struck me as waste of time.
For most things, I thought my goal too obvious to bother thinking about. For instance, the purpose of advertising books on Amazon or BookBub is to increase sales.
Why spend time writing that down?
The other downside I saw is that my calendar has limited space. I use a paper appointment book because it helps limit my screen time and it's easier for me to get organized on paper than any other way. I don't have a lot of room on it to put in extra info.
To my surprise, though, forcing myself to define what I hoped to accomplish made my entire week more productive, and I felt full of energy, despite that I’m still struggling a bit with jet lag.
Keeping my bookkeeping up to date for my author business, which includes balancing my accounts and paying bills, is a task I often put off. I do so despite that in my calendar I set aside one morning each month for it.
My purpose in scheduling the task seemed obvious.
Good bookkeeping is just good business so you pay bills on time, avoid overdrafts, and gain a good sense of your finances. So this task in particular seemed like a silly one for writing out what I hoped to accomplish.
But when I made myself think about exactly why I wanted to update my bookkeeping every month, immediately what came to mind was the end of last year. I hadn’t balanced my accounts in over 6 months. (Though I did pay my bills. I wasn't that much of a procrastinator).
Productivity And Time
Because I waited so long, the time it took for each bank statement tripled due to how much more difficult it was to track down missing entries. A month after an expense or of receiving income, I usually remember what a $35 payment was for.
Or I can easily find an email about it.
Finding the same charge or royalty payment 6 months later is much harder. Especially if, for example, the company to which I made the payment, or that paid me, has a different name from the brand names it uses on its products or platforms.
All that extra time spent on bookkeeping is time I can’t spend finishing a novel, creating a large print edition of a book, or practicing law and getting paid an hourly rate.
In short, spending more time on bookkeeping costs me money.
Putting off bookkeeping tasks cost me money in another way, too.
Productivity And Money
My mental picture of what I'm earning in royalties versus my expenses is usually overoptimistic. (For more on that, see A Major Mistake Using Amazon Ads To Sell Paperbacks.)
Balancing my books makes me take a good look at the actual numbers. If it’s 6 months down the road, it’s too late to get back 6 months of spending on an ad that’s costing too much. It's also often too late to double down on an ad with great returns. Things change quickly, and reader interests may already have shifted.
In contrast, a monthly snapshot of spending and earning means I can quickly adjust.
So what purpose did I list in my calendar next to my bookkeeping task? Increase income.
Seeing that purpose this past Wednesday prompted me to pull out my bank account statements and balance my books first thing in the morning. And I felt great doing it.
That's all for today. Until next Friday when we'll talk about increasing motivation and energy—