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Are you working like a PRO?

By Jeannine Jannot, Ph.D.

Do you ever feel like you need more hours in a day? Or experienced that sinking feeling that you’ve accomplished little at the end of a long, exhausting day of running errands and working? These are feelings common to our hectic, fast-paced reality. Personally, it’s waiting that triggers me – time that I could use to get something done.

I have always considered these pockets of waiting to be a colossal waste of time.

Sometimes you can anticipate them as in the case of a doctor’s appointment, but other times they occur unexpectedly.

Our lives are filled with examples of these time sucks – sitting in carpool, visiting the DMV, waiting on someone, and travel all have the potential to consume a lot of our precious time.

Without giving it much thought, we mostly fill these hijacked times on our smartphones surfing the web and using social media. It’s the ultimate time suck that makes our wait tolerable.

But, what if instead of viewing these time sucks as an unwelcomed waste, we view them as pockets of potential productivity.

Rather than experiencing this time as a frustrating inconvenience, we can consider these moments to be Productive Response Opportunities (PRO).

Embracing a PRO approach requires minimal planning and preparation and will substantially increase your productive output.

1. Identify any potential time sucks in the coming days or weeks.

If you keep a calendar or planner, you should be able to identify all the potential upcoming time sucks, specifically, any type of appointments or meetings. If you’re a caregiver, you will want to consider others’ schedules, too. Busy students can find pockets of time waiting in lines, waiting on friends and when plans or classes get cancelled.

2. Identify short-term goals, tasks and work that can be acted on or completed during these PRO times.

For me, these are my Action Items. A “to do” list sounds like drudgery, but “action items” elicits my motivation. Common action items on my list include prepping lecture material, research reading, outlining projects, ideas and timelines, calendar planning and email correspondence. For students, with so many apps and online resources available to them, it’s easy to always have a set of flash cards available for reviewing course material.

3. Have your materials at the ready.

To take full advantage of any PRO time, you will need to have access to the materials required to make progress on your action item. Using myself as an example, I may need access to a book, my calendar or the internet. And, in many cases I keep a running project folder that is easily portable and keeps everything together.

4. Commit to your PRO work in advance. Resist the urge to take a quick glance at Facebook!

This step is key. You need to have your PRO materials available to you AND intend to work on them when an opportunity presents itself. On the occasions when my time is unexpectedly sucked from me, the first thing I do is get on my phone. Even if my plan is to utilize my PRO, I can easily become derailed by a quick peak at my social media.

5. Acknowledge and be grateful for the time to be productive.

When my time has been wasted, I tend to get really frustrated and irritated. The benefit of using the PRO approach is not only more productive output, but also feeling positive about how I used my time to accomplish something important to me.

PRO Tip:

I’ve outlined how to work like a PRO, but you can also think like a PRO. There will be times when we may not have our PRO materials handy or we just don’t feel like doing the work. Rather than mindlessly reaching for our smartphones to pass the time, we can choose to take a PRO approach to reap the benefits of mental solitude. It’s in mental solitude where we think, make meaningful connections and cultivate creative ideas and solutions. No materials necessary! The only requirement is that your thoughts are self-contained and not engaged with external inputs such as listening to a podcast, reading, watching a video or having a conversation with someone. Direct your inner monologue toward problem-solving and contemplation about something important to you. It’s in these opportunities that we gain clarity and inspiration which further help to fuel our productivity.

Give the PRO approach a try and see how PROfessional and PROductive you can be! ■


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