Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My #1 Productivity Trick (That I Didn't Even Know I Was Doing): Parking Lot Productivity


Photo Credit: C. VanHook (vanhookc) via Compfight

Today I showed up for an appointment about 10 minutes early. I hate running late, but the extra time cushion wasn't about timeliness. It was about getting things done. I needed to make a  phone call about a prescription, but I'd put off doing it because I knew it wasn't going to be the kind of a call where I could just follow the prompts to get what I needed.

So, the night before I put the paperwork in my purse knowing that I could do it this morning. Then it dawned on me that I'd done the exact same thing the day before. I had arrived at another appointment a few minutes early so that I could check some dates and then respond to a sign-up email. Unintentionally, I've formed the habit of intentionally arriving somewhere early and then using those few minutes to stay in the car and complete a task

None of these were big To Dos, but they were all nagging tasks that needed to be done. I've tried adding these things to my to do list but they frequently get shoved aside because while they are important, they aren't significant or urgent. 

I've tried to reserve time to do these tasks right before I leave for an appointment but then they get swept into the later category or they end up spiraling into something else and then I'm late. There's something about doing them in the car once I've arrived that makes them get done. After all, what else am I going to do? Plus knowing that the task must get done within a set amount of time makes me stay on schedule. 

The key to this tip really is that you have to stay in the car to complete the task. The car has far fewer distractions. It's a zone, if you will. After all, how many times have you carried paperwork to and from the office or an extracurricular activity telling yourself you'll do it there, only to not get it done?

When you think about it, this really isn't a productivity tip so much as it is common sense. But isn't that exactly what every productivity tip is? There's nothing really revolutionary about: Everything in its place and a place for everything? Or only touch a piece of paper once? Or if something can be done in under a minute, do it immediately? All of these tips are just common sense boiled down into an catchy sentence or slogan. So, in that spirit, I've decided to name mine. I'm calling it "Parking Lot Productivity." 

Use it to: 
  • Make a phone call
  • Send an email
  • Read (to yourself or your kids)
  • Send a text
  • Pray
  • Meditate
The somewhat crazy thing about this is that I didn't even know I was doing it. It wasn't a "system" or a "habit" - it was just one of those things that I did to get things get done. It helps keeps the wheels on the rails, and isn't that what we're all really trying to accomplish?

This reminds me of of a passage from Cheaper By the Dozen where Frank Gilbreth was asked about his line of work, motion study.

"'But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?"

"For work, if you love that best," said Dad. "For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure." He looked over the top of his pince-nez. "For mumblety-peg, if that's where your heart lies."'

Here's to more time for mumblety-peg.

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