Nov 4, 2007

The bliss of raking leaves

We have a big yard with many venerable trees.. At times it is a blessing and at times it is a curse. When fall season comes around, it is a curse! I don't like raking leaves and I dread the chore every year.

When we first moved to our house, I used to invite a whole bunch of friends to come over and help my wife and I pick up the leaves. We'd take about a day, six or eight of us. Well... some of us would work, others would socialize. So for the cost of a few pizzas, and lots of fun, we filled up 60 to 75 bags of leaves every year.

But then, things began to change. Everyone got married, bought houses, and had children. All of a sudden, my yard was no longer as important. So I stopped asking them to come over to take care of the yard. Yes, if you can read between the lines, it was also to make sure I didn't have to go to their place to rake their leaves...

So these past few years, I've been doing it by myself. The routine goes like this: I wait until all the leaves fall, then I pick a weekend and in two days, I pick up all those 60-75 bags. It takeas about 14 to 16 hours.

This year, I only had one day to do the work and it had to be completed this weekend. So instead of raking the leaves, I pulled out my lawn mower and used it instead. It took me between 6 and 7 hours to do the entire yard and I filled only 33 bags.

So by now, you're probably thinking: "Ok, that's nice but what does cleaning your yard have to do with anything?" Bear with me, there is a point!

I did the same work in 50% of the time, using about 50% of the resources. And I did this simply by taking the tools I already had, but using them differently.

So how can this be applied in life and at work? What tools do you have at your disposal which could help increase your productivity? Which tools do you have at your disposal that you are not using to their full potential? I've taught Excel to many people in the past couple of years and many of the shortcuts I teach come as a big surprise to the audience members. Many have mentioned that those simple shortcuts would considerably increase their productivity.

When you increase your productivity, there are a number of benefits: you have more time at your disposal, you can get paid more, and if you do it right, it can also reduce stress.

Increasing productivity doesn't mean you have to shoot for 50% at a time. Alan Weiss, consultant extraordinaire, says that simply increasing by 1% every day is sufficient. If you do this continually, after 70 days you will have doubled your productivity. It just requires focus, persistence and determination. In other words, discipline.

Although it is a simple concept, I find it can be tough to decide which task or which aspect of my life will yield the best 1% yield. I guess it's al part of the learning process.

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