Want to get stuff done? Trying to overcome procrastination? Can’t seem to get started? That’s why we launched BuddyHive.com. The site inspires users to get stuff done by linking them up with random buddies to whom they are accountable.
Our time study research shows that procrastination in the workplace is among the top 20 productivity inhibitors that employees face. And procrastination is not just a problem for those at work. Stay-at-home mothers and fathers, students, and those who are in between jobs also find that there are some tasks that are simply hard to get to. You may have support systems in place; a spouse who offers advice or a boss who provides direction. But for some reason, the support you get from the people you know doesn’t always work. No matter how much nagging your receive from your spouse, those unfinished tasks just never seem to get done. You can take a time management course that gives you lots of theory. There are numerous ways to overcome procrastination; break large tasks into smaller ones, give yourself a reward for completing a task, visualize a positive outcome rather than a negative one. If you can do any of those, you’re on your way.
But in many cases, you just might need to be more accountable. And that’s where you need a buddy – someone who is looking out for you. And what if that person needed your help in return?
BuddyHive.com has just launched a new feature that builds the community aspect of the site. From the start, the idea was to link people up with each other to provide support, encouragement, tips, advice – mostly to provide accountability.
Now there’s a new community feature. As always, buddies are teamed up. Now, anyone who is registered on the system can “drop in” to look at messages that have been sent within the last two weeks. Then they can offer their own advice. The buddy relationship comes first, but now the community can help as well.
At www.BuddyHive.com, just go to the “Hive” tab and click on “Tasks Underway” to see all the tasks where buddies have been in touch with each other during the last two weeks. Think you can offer help? Once you’re registered, just click on the “Offer Advice” button, and add your comments to the conversation
You can receive advice from others too. Once you send a message to your own buddy, your task will go to the top of the list, and you can receive support from registered users.
Meanwhile, buddies are getting all kinds of things done. From work to hobbies to household tasks to studying, accountability makes a difference.
Here are some of the recent tasks that buddies have accomplished:
- I was able to clean my storage room
- I was able to redo my resume
- I was able to produce a business plan within two weeks.
- I was able to practice for an English Essay
- I was able to complete a consulting report for client in the UK
Buddy up and get stuff done. You never know who you’ll meet.
Tags: accountability, get stuff done, overcome procrastination, time management, time study
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You can learn a lot about productivity from watching line-ups. At the Eiffel Tower, for instance, a line-up results from a bottleneck – a pinch point in a process where the capacity of the system is surpassed by the demand for it. Line-ups are almost always risky for business. Sooner or later a potential customer will come along and say, “I can’t be bothered to wait.” That’s a lost opportunity for a business, as I outlined in an article entitled “Bottleneck Busting” (Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy). It includes references and data to a number of our time study consulting projects where we measure productivity using our TimeCorder devices.
So what does productivity have to do with the Eiffel Tower? We visited it recently and discovered that only one of the main lifts up the tower was working. As it turns out, that was the best time for us to visit the top of the tower. Who would have thought?
You’ve seen the Eiffel Tower many times – an elegant iron structure supported by four legs on the ground. Elevators usually climb up at least two of the legs to the second level. From there, another bank of elevators with less capacity takes you to the top. But when one of the main “leg’ elevators wasn’t working, a long line-up snaked under the Eiffel Tower – two hours long, we were told – to go up the single remaining elevator.
Ah, but if you don’t mind a bit of exercise, you could walk up the stairs to the second level, and save part of the fee as well. So we did. And up there, we discovered a very short line for the second elevator that whisked us to the top. On the second level, we could see the barriers where the line usually jogged back and forth. But not on the day we were there. There was no bottleneck that day .
Of course. When only one elevator, instead of the usual two or three feeds people to the second level, only a small number of people arrive there. The capacity to handle stair climbers was almost infinite, but the capacity to take people up by elevator was limited. And evidently most people weren’t interested in the stairs. Too bad. They missed all the fun. The usual bottleneck on the second level had shifted to the ground, where all the lazy people waited impatiently. We and the other stair climbers had gone around the bottleneck.
The lessons for business? Find out where your bottlenecks are and direct resources to reduce them. Consider a mortgage process for a bank. We have conducted a number of time and motion study projects where we measured the productivity of mortgage processes. They can take a while because of internal controls, regulatory requirements, input from credit bureaus, etc. That’s where the bottlenecks are in banking. But when banks offer pre-approved mortgages, or encourage customers to calculate their own monthly payments, or create on-line applications, they allow customers to bypass the usual bottlenecks. This is what we did at the Eiffel Tower.
You can learn a lot about a business by how they handle their lines. Do the same for yours. Your time is worth it.
Tags: best time, bottleneck, productivity, queuing
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You can learn a lot about productivity from a home renovator. We had some work done in our basement recently. It’s the kind of work that anyone might do. We wanted to fix up an unfinished room, the size of a bedroom. We needed it because we rented out our house for the summer. We would be travelling to Europe, visiting museums, exploring cathedrals and remotely conducting our time and motion study projects. In the basement a small brick wall needed to be taken down – because of some previous renovations, it was redundant. And the ceiling needed new drywall to make it into a serviceable guest bedroom.
A while back, we met the contractors, agreed to a quote, and set a date for them to begin. It was a month out because they had another job to finish. That was fine with us. It seemed like good scheduling when they had a window to do our relatively small job. Maybe a week beginning to end.
But the job ended up stretching out over three weeks. On this basic productivity measurement, the contractor failed. His company had another job, and needed to give it priority. So someone showed up at our house for two or three hours to do some work, and then poof! They were gone.
The contractor thought he was being efficient by booking two jobs at once. Do a bit of work here, wait for something to be ready, then off to the other place to nail some studs, and then back to the first place again for the next bit. Two clients at once! Busy, busy.
Waste, waste is more like it. There is a huge productivity inefficiency to starting and stopping a project. First is travel time. If a job extends out for ten days instead of five, then that’s ten extra trips (there and back) for each extra day. Most trips are at least a half hour, so there’s an extra five hours of time right there. Also, most contractors clean up at the end of each day. So that means more clean up time. And more set-up time at the beginning of the next day. All those tools that were put away have to be brought out again.
And then there is reset time. All of us need time to get refocused after an interruption. Contractors are no different.
We know another contractor who is much more productive. He shows up early in the morning and works right through until the end of the day, rarely taking a break. If something has to wait – concrete drying for instance – he schedules that towards the end of the day. If it has to be in the middle of the day, he always finds something else to do. He plans out his work using basic project management techniques. As a result he finishes on time with little waste.
So the next time a contractor quotes you – ask how many other jobs he is doing, and what he does to minimize waste. Ideally, ask for a completion date, and build in a penalty clause for every day he goes over what didn’t result from a change you requested.
Your time is worth it.
Tags: interruption, minimize waste, productivity, productivity measurement, work scheduling
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We just launched a beta version of www.BuddyHive.com. It is a cool web site that allows people to buddy up with each other and be accountable in getting stuff done. It’s perfect for those struggling with procrastination. And fun because you never know who you’ll meet. (Give it a try!)
We’re testing different ways to promote the site. So, in seeking out those who were experiencing time management challenges, I went to Twitter on a recent Sunday night and searched using a procrastination hash tag. A hash tag is added to a tweet to indicate a subject. I was able to find all the tweets where people had specifically included the word “procrastination.”
To my surprise, the floodgates opened! Hundreds of students in a few hours, confessed to not doing their studying, or not making any progress on school projects. Some couldn’t even start packing for upcoming trips. I was surprised at how Twitter has become an on-line confessional.
Procrastination seems to be a particular challenge for students. My web designer, who is close to that age, suggested that students often face a massive block that is extremely difficult for them to overcome. Some do, and perhaps they are the ones who graduate from college successfully.
By watching the tweets throughout the week, one can see patterns of activity.
In the middle of the week, tweeters are reasonably nonchalant,
“Since 2pm, I’ve stared at blank manuscript, ate a mars ice cream, watched TBBT, & learned how to whistle and hum together.”
Or: “Still haven’t started my homework, well I guess it’s time for a shower.”
Then by Friday night, with the entire weekend stretching ahead of them, students are optimistic that they can eventually get to their school work.
“I always wait for Sunday to do my homework, procrastination at its best.”
And on Saturday night, there is still time: “Should I do my homework tonight? Pshh hah no thanks.”
But then on early Sunday evening, with only a few hours until an assignment is due, they express worry that they might not get it all done.
“I wait until the last minute to do EVERYTHING. “
“Damn… definitely just starting my history children’s book! Due tomorrow…. and have had 2 weeks to do it!”
“History paper due in 12 hours and I haven’t started yet.”
Then, late Sunday night, many are prone to resignation, doubt, and self-loathing. They realize that time is just about up, and they are in a precarious situation with little to show for all their distractions.
“Should have started this psychology before the day it was due!”
“Can’t focus on this homework.”
“I’ve got to stop doing this to myself.”
Few celebrate their successes. The majority use Twitter as a confessional. And almost none reach out for help. They will often confess to what’s distracting them; “My senior paper may as well be on twitter and Facebook, because it seems like that’s all I’m doing. “
Most tweets seem to be written by high school students, because “homework” is a popular topic. One would not expect to hear this quite as much among college or university students. Among that group, essays and papers need to get done, not homework.
Another curious item, noted around March break, is the difficulty people have with getting ready for travel, particularly packing:
“Leaving in 6 hours, haven’t begun to pack yet.”
“It’s seriously not setting in that I’m moving in 11 days. I need to start packing. “
Clearly putting things off is a huge challenge for this group. As one of them put it, “I’m a big fan of procrastination, or as I like to call it, postponed time management.”
They need to set goals, they need discipline, and they need accountability. That’s why we built www.BuddyHive.com. They need it.
Tags: student procrastination
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We like to complement the time study results with additional data, so we often provide employees with a brief questionnaire prior to beginning a study. One of the questions asks: “What things, outside of your control, get in the way of your productivity?”
The idea of this question is that some productivity inhibitors such as procrastination are within employees’ control. Some are outside their control. Or apparently so. It’s our contention that many of these hindrances can in fact be managed by employees through better time management training. Nonetheless, employees often believe productivity is spinning out of control through no fault of their own.
The most popular responses to the question are listed below. Read more »
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In the coming weeks, I’ll be launching www.BuddyHive.com. It inspires people to get stuff done by randomly connecting buddies who become accountable to each other for achieving small tasks, usually within a week.
In the meantime, here are a number of defiintions of procrastination. Do any of them fit?
- To voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay – Piers Steel
- The intentional and habitual postponement of an important task that should be done now. – Harold Taylor Read more »
Tags: why do we procrastinate
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The world of work is massively unproductive. Or so reported a Microsoft survey from 2005 that a colleague recently sent me. While a few years old, time study data doesn’t tend to shift much over short periods – the data is still relevant. The survey was based on input from 38,000 people from 200 countries.
In the survey, employees reported work hours of 45 hours per week. This closely matches data from our own time and motion study projects from the last 22 years. Our data shows the average work week is 47 hours, including breaks.
The key finding from the Microsoft study that causes alarm is that employees consider about 17 hours per week to be unproductive. That’s more than a third of the work week!
Some of the common “productivity pitfalls” that were reported include unclear objectives, lack of team communication, ineffective meetings, unclear priorities, and procrastination.
Microsoft is in the technology business, and no doubt a couple of its survey questions were designed to support its mission. Sure enough, 55 percent of respondents said they relate their productivity directly to their software. Not surprising. But wait. That leaves 45% who relate productivity to something else. Whatever that is, it is not about technology. It’s likely that employees are thinking about soft skills that enable them to run better meetings, overcome procrastination, set priorities, and enhance other time management skills.
Those are the skills that get overlooked. An on-line service called Google Trends shows relative search volumes over the past few years – what terms people are interested in. A search on “training” shows a decline from a score of 1.5 in 2004 to a score of about .75 in late 2011. Meanwhile “smart phone” skyrocketed from 1.0 to over 2.0 between 2009 and late 2011. Clearly, smart phones today have a greater appeal than training.
Yet what if everyone who lined up for hours to buy the latest version of a smart phone spent their money on training instead? Something needs to be done to address all those unproductive hours. As we study the use of time, our data confirms that employees are not becoming any more productive in achieving their highest priorities than they were twenty years ago. Much has improved about how we do our work, but there is farther to go. Do we need the latest app? Or should we invest in new training methods to improve personal productivity?
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Microsoft has produced a film that portrays the world of work a few years from now. I remember seeing one of these from 1990 – a bright cheery world of the future where a woman talked to a computer in her car while the computer arranged meetings and prepared presentations. At the time I wondered if the world of the future would match the utopian vision. Well, the future has arrived, and it isn’t always pretty.
The reality is quite different. For instance, our work measurement studies show that employees spend 3.2 hours per week reading miscellaneous emails that have nothing to do with their main activities. And many employees spend 30 minutes per week fixing technology problems.
The film omits these and other technological glitches that are part of daily life. When it comes to time management, technology can often hinder as much as it can help. Consider this list of hassles that no one predicted:
- Voice mail jail
- Unnecessary emails
- Dropped cell phone calls
- Unwanted telemarketing calls
- Car crashes caused by texting
- Drained batteries
- Ringing phones at movies
- Phone interruptions at restaurants
- Broken web site links
- Computer viruses
- Costly smart phone apps
- Expensive downloading costs
- Identity theft
- Billing problems from service providers
- Help desks that offer no help
- Inadvertent pocket dialing
- Blackberry service interruptions
- Social media obligations
- Advertising everywhere
If the world of today includes all of these things that no one predicted twenty years ago, then the world of the future is just as likely to be fraught with frustrations.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s what will make life interesting.
Feel free to add comments with your own hassles.
Tags: future, technology
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