ProdPod, a Productivity Podcast The Podcast of Personal Productivity Lessons in Two Minutes or Less

January 10, 2014  
Thanks to the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and father of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman, the scientific community has a deeper understanding of well-being. To wit, Kahneman revealed that humans live with two minds--our experiencing and remembering selves. In this episode I'd like to discuss these two selves and how it relates to your personal productivity.

The experiencing self is that which answers the question, "How do I feel right now?"…what you sense is most important to your experiencing self. Sensory-specific, the experiencing self is mostly focused on the present view of sights, sounds, smells, physical sensations, and tastes.  

The remembering self, on the other hand, is a past-focused mind and makes decisions intuitively based on what our brain memorializes of our experiences. It answers the question, "What happened?"...what you perceive happened becomes the story you remember and reenforces it as reality.

One way of looking at it is that the experiencing self renders facts now while the remembering self tells stories about what happened.

Do you remember the last time you worked on a really difficult project or task? Well, it turns out that Kahneman's research explains why we dread, procrastinate and even remember projects or tasks as difficult. You see, Kahneman writes about moment-utility (which I've provided a link to his paper explaining it below); the idea is to capture much more in-the-moment data as you experience a situation, such as working on a really difficult project or task. It turns out that when your experiencing self does the tracking and analysis, you have a better assessment of your experiences and you also have a better feeling about positive outcomes. Using Kahneman's findings, I recommend that when you're dealing with a difficult project or task to answer these three series of questions:

1. "How do I physically feel right now?" (The likelihood is that physically you're fine.)

2. "What does success, accomplishment or complete look like for me in the next five to 15 minutes?" (This gives you a more realistic view of the project or task.)

3. At the point of ending a project, task or a period of finishing some part of either, ask yourself (and even better, write it down somewhere), "how good/accomplished do I feel? What have I learned that I can use in the future?" (Ending on a positive message will give your remembering self something to look back on to equate your productivity with a positive affect.)
You see, ending on a high note, or on a less negative tone, than the initial upstart difficulty will inevitably teach your remembering self that difficult projects or tasks usually only start off that way. And, even if there are challenges along the way, it's usually only difficult in peak periods. This rewriting of your brain patterns will make you leap at new challenges instead of sulking when you look at your project or task list and see something that might be tough...and this will make you sincerely more productive.

See also:
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December 24, 2013  

Having just finished the ProdPod series on Hoarding, I've got workspaces on the mind. And, when it comes to personal productivity, there's nothing like showing up to your home or work office workspace and seeing it set up just for you. So, in this episode, I'm going to discuss a method for making your workspace work for you every day.

Assess Your Workspace

Organization doesn't naturally happen. So, the first step is to assess your situation. Do you feel like the way things are set up in your workspace flowing well? Or, do you find there is friction when you try to access your files, when you see clutter or piles of things in particular places in your workspace, or do you trip over a coat hanger when you enter the office every day? These are the things to note that need to change to make your workspace more productive.

Brainstorm and Design Your Ideal Workspace

Now that you know what needs to change, create a new project in your productivity system. Rome nor your workspace was built in a day, so you can't fix all these minor nuisances or hiccups in your productive flow in a day. Now, what do you physically need to do with each problem you noted? Do you need to call an electrician to move a light switch? Do you need to call a carpenter to put a bookshelf in just the right place for your reference books? Write down or input those actions on your written list or in your task management software or app.

Create Your Workspace Rituals

Finally, one of the most productive moments of your day is setting yourself up for success tomorrow. At the end of every day, I have created a checklist of the things I need to physically do so that I leave my workspace (desk and office) in exactly the way I need it so that I start tomorrow productively. I put away anything I'm not working on or with tomorrow. I clear my computer of any software apps that are running that don't need to be. And, I make sure to put out the very first thing that I need to work on in the morning (or the next time I'll be in the office). You can revisit episode 30 where I discussed the End-of-Day Ritual by Peter Bregman.

In addition, I have created Morning and Midday Rituals that help me break my day into productive chunks and makes sure that I'm tidying my workspace, filtering through my RSS feed reader and then purging that inbox at least daily midday, and creating time to process my email inboxes as well as making outbound phone calls to clients, vendors, staff, colleagues and my family.

Once your physical workspace is in order, and you have the morning, midday and end-of-day rituals designed to keep your workspace in tip-top shape, you'll quickly start to reap the productive rewards of flowing effortlessly through your days. Let me know your successes and challenges by email or in the comments!
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December 17, 2013  

Ray: In this final episode of this ProdPod series on hoarding, I asked Professional Organizer Sally Reinholdt to detail how hoarding is treated and managed. Sally, take it away.
Sally: The treatment and management of severe hoarding is very complex and needs to be addressed by a comprehensive team that can include mental health professionals, professional organizers, as well as junk removal and environmental clean-up companies. From a mental health aspect, traditional talk therapy has not been found to be helpful. Dr. David Tolin [ ], a psychologist who has worked extensively with hoarders, uses a cognitive behavioral approach that is active and solution focused. The hoarders he works with learn to sort and let go of their possessions in conjunction with thinking through their urges to constantly acquire. Hoarders are also taken on non-acquiring trips where they learn to see and touch items without keeping them. Using these methods, the majority of Dr. Tolin’s patients show significant improvement in their levels of clutter and their feelings around the clutter. That being said, a low number of patients are considered cured. Most patients will still have more clutter than the average person and will need ongoing support to prevent backsliding.

Ray: If you're interested in Dr. Tolin's work and how it may help you, check out his fantastic book, Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding [ ]. Also, Dr. Tolin is the founder of the Institute of Living [ ] in Hartford, CT, so you may want to seek them out if you happen to be the greater New York metropolitan area.

Ray: Well, thanks so much for joining me on ProdPod for this series about Hoarding, Sally. If you want to learn more about Sally Reinholdt and her professional organizing services head over to her website, COSOLVA.COM ].

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December 10, 2013  

Ray: We're discussing hoarding in the ProdPod series…and I have Professional Organizer Sally Reinholdt here to define hoarding and how it's classified. 

Sally: Hoarding is considered compulsive if it meets three criteria. First there is accumulation accompanied by great difficulty in discarding items that most people would consider useless or of limited value. The second criteria is that the clutter is to the point that the intended use of living spaces is severely limited or not possible. The third and last criteria is that the cluttering in combination with the acquiring and difficulty discarding causes significant impairment and distress.
Sally: The Institute for Challenging Disorganization classifies hoarding with a clutter measurement tool called the Clutter-Hoarding Scale. Homes are classified from Level I through Level V. A standard household is considered to be a Level I. Level II homes can have some narrowing of household pathways and inadequate housekeeping. Level III to Level V homes present increasingly serious situations. Clutter can be present outside as well as inside the home, there can be insect and rodent infestation and generally unsanitary conditions. Individuals working with hoarders in these types of situations need to have backgrounds ranging from but not limited to mental health and financial counseling to professional organizing, pest control and project management.

Ray: If you believe you might have hoarding issues, click on the link in the show notes here on to download the Clutter-Hoarding Scale [ ] tool to see where you fall in the scale. 

In the next episode we'll cover how hoarding is treated and managed.

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December 3, 2013  

These next three episodes will be on hoarding and I have with me to help explain hoarding, Sally Reinholdt, owner of Commonwealth Organizing Solutions [ ]. Sally is a Registered Nurse and professional organizer who uses many of the skills she learned as a nurse to help her clients become more organized and productive.

Sally: The short answer is that it can be anyone. Hoarding doesn’t discriminate. In some cases it appears to have a genetic component as hoarding can run in families. It can be the result of a traumatic experience but sometimes there is no clear trigger. Sadly, hoarders are many times very creative people who see all sorts of potential in the things they collect. Unfortunately their potential for using that creative energy is stymied by their need to constantly accumulate. There are also high levels of anxiety, depression and perfectionism associated with hoarding.
Sally: The number of hoarders in the United States is very difficult to calculate because in so many cases hoarders are able to hide their situations from family and friends until some sort of event or crisis brings the hoarding to light. Depending on the literature estimates for the number of hoarders in the United States ranges from 1.2 million to as many as 6 million people.
Sally: May, 2013, was the first time hoarding was included in the DSM-V with its own discrete clinical definition. It was previously categorized as symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Ray: Not that sweeping all your stuff under the carpet is the solution, but putting your clutter out of sight is a productivity hack in which you can reap immediate benefits. Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that when you clear physical clutter in sight, you are less likely to be distracted and are more productive. If you're feeling distressed from physical clutter, take as much as you can and put it away so you see less of it…the more clear surfaces in sight the better. Try it. [ PUNI article, "Top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in biasing competition in the human brain": ]

In Part II in this series on Hoarding, Sally and I will discuss how compulsive hoarding is defined and classified.

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