Organize Yourself In 2015–Create Buffer Zones in Your Schedule


In the 17th chapter of his book Eat That Frog! about combating procrastination, Brian Tracy brings up one of his signature ideas on boosting productivity, and that is to have specific times of the day, and specific days of the week where you cut yourself off from input in the forms of electronics and concentrate on getting work done.    He also in the 19th chapter talks about “Create Large Chunks of Time”, but I find that goal to be pretty much the same as that of Creating Buffer Zones, in that a) you need to screen distractions out in order to pull creativity and productivity in.

I call these times “buffer zones” because they stop input from coming in and adding to your work load.   This will help you have certain dedicated hours usually the very first part of the morning and the very first part of the afternoon after lunch, where you will be able to concentrate on your top priority tasks, or “frogs” in Brian Tracy’s special parlance he explains in his book.

John Cleese of Monty Python fame says that creativity or what he calls the “open mode” of thinking requires five elements:  a certain regular space where you seal yourself off so you are not disturbed, a beginning and ending time (think of “office hours” for a teacher at college), a certain level of confidence and lack of fear of making a mistake, and sense of humor that evokes your sense of play.

Element

Explanation

1. Space Create space for yourself away from demands that accompany the closed mode. Seal yourself off where you will be undisturbed.
2. Time (endpoints) You need to create your space at a specific beginning time and a specific ending time in order to create an atmosphere which is closed off from the closed mode in which we normally operate.
3. Time (duration) You need to create sufficient time within which to allow truly creative solutions to emerge.
4. Confidence Allow yourself to play and suppress the fear of making a mistake.
5. Humor Use humor to become more spontaneous and creative.

Although you may work in an office where inter-connectivity with your bosses, your colleagues, and your team members is important, you need to be able to create, as much as possible, at least two zones of “open mode” time in your day so that you can use your best self towards the truly important problems you need to solve.   Obviously, the “open mode” works for groups as well as individuals when you are brainstorming, but you need to be able to nurture some time in your schedule, or buffer zones, every day so that you are not constantly buffeted around like a snowflake in a blizzard of incoming e-mails, phone calls, and websites.

Once a day (most people do this on Sunday), he recommends going for the whole day where you unplug from the normal stimulants of news programs, newspapers, etc., and you allow yourself to look at the previous week and at the upcoming week in a sort of 10,000-foot view, where you can reflect back on what you have done, what has worked and what hasn’t, and where you can plan out the various areas of your life for the coming week and really try to brainstorm to make sure you capture everything as best you can.

The existence of these buffer zones should be communicated to those around you so that, at a certain point, when they see it is a certain time of day, they won’t even bother trying to get a hold of you until the buffer zone is past.   And if somebody does call you and leaves a message, usually an hour delay in response will not make a difference.   Of course, if you are working on a high-profile project, you need to have a signal, such as someone texting you, that you will accept if it means that a response is truly urgently needed at that second and cannot possibly wait for an hour.   In reality, few situations except real emergencies will warrant such intrusion.

In this way, you can put your best self to work during the week and every day during that week!

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