Work Simply | Book Review

Know Yourself

Carson Tate’s detailed, sensible roadmap addressing typical productivity and effectiveness issues aligns tightly with Academy Leadership’s workshops and focus on self-knowledge. After first reading Chapters 1 – 3, targeted strategies, based on one’s individual productivity style, comprise a powerful and vital additional to our leadership toolbox.

Her overarching theme is personalizing our own productivity (pp. 13-14):

“Your work strategy is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods. This approach is usually unconscious and unsystematic…”

Two roadblocks to success are cited: Locus of Control & Guilt and the Shoulds. Locus of Control from Julian Rotter (p. 18) refers to the extent individuals believe they can control events affecting them. An internal locus of control means a person believes success or failure is due to themselves while an external locus of control means one believes success or failure is controlled by other people, environmental factors, chance, or fate. Tate cautions us guilt leads to shoulds (especially for self-starters), and our need to break free from them (p. 23) by establishing P.O.W.E.R. (Priorities, Opportunities, Who, Expectations and [Get] Real), very similar to essential Personal Leadership Philosophy elements.


Chapter 3 introduces Ned Hermann’s Whole Brain Model using Analytical, Practical, Relational and Experimental quadrants (pp. 27-28) leading to a Productivity Style Assessment (pp. 30-34).  Carson’s four productivity styles correlate to the Energize2Lead Profile as follows:

Prioritizer    is similar to dominant red E2L
Planner       is similar to dominant green E2L
Arranger     is similar to dominant yellow E2L
Visualizer    is similar to dominant blue E2L

Characteristics of the productivity styles are detailed on pages 35-44, and beginning with pages 56-57 (and afterward throughout the book) approaches based on style are itemized, offering a lifetime, personalized reference.

Academy Leadership Workshop Alignment

“According to a 2005 study by the productivity research firm Basex, interruptions, distractions, and recovery time consume 28 percent of the average knowledge worker’s day.” (p. 48)

Tate’s Chapter 4, Manage Your Attention findings correspond to typically low self-evaluation scores in Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, and she links our neurochemical dopamine (p. 50) as a key physiological culprit. Referencing Winifred Gallagher’s (see Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life) call to recognize and exercise focus, three saboteurs usually interfere: Intense emotion, Physical discomfort and Psychological insecurity. Her solution is managing voluntary attention, with five good questions (pp. 52-53) – akin to military situational awareness.

Four primary distractions (pp. 57-59): technology, emergencies, interruptions and meetings are called out; with specific notoriety reserved for digital distractors (see Erik Brynjolfsson’s productivity paradox). E-mail is the worst culprit. The Work Simply countermeasures on pages 66-68 are outstanding for addressing interruptions, a serious issue for most of us.

Chapter 5, Set Your Priorities, is an analog to the Life’s Compass Rose exercise (from Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshop) while Chapter 6; Invest Your Time Wisely (p. 83) relates Jeff Weiner’s (LinkedIn CEO) approach to addressing urgent versus important events, comparable to a Setting Leadership Priorities workshop. Tim Feriss (The 4-Hour Workweek) offers a personalized synergistic approach limiting tasks to the important while shortening work time to limit tasks (Pareto Principle) to the important.

Tame Your Inbox, Chapter 9, combats email, a ubiquitous beast during Feedback and Setting Leadership Priorities workshops. Tate’s E-Mail Agility Circle Read-> Decide -> Act -> Contain process is marvelous; moreover she reveals effective email message techniques. Likewise, Chapter 14, Lead a Meeting Revolution (akin to Meetings workshops), clarifies six meeting types: Informational, Decision-making, Problem-solving, Brainstorming, Team-building and Instructional or skill-development, and advises us informational is usually the most unnecessary type. Tate urges a POWER (Purpose, Outcomes, Who, Execution and Responsibility) agenda (p. 238) before agreeing to any meeting.

Planning, Energy & Delegation

Chapter 7’s Think, Ask, Sort, and Keep exercise is a terrific leader’s guide for action plan creation and delegation. Tate’s idea (p. 112) for grouping action items by energy level required (she lists 7 methods) is quite appealing. Get More Done: Complete Tasks and Projects with Ease, Chapter 8, goes further by considering (p. 120) time, resources, and once again, energy level.

Stanley McChrystal’s “situational awareness” headquarters from Team of Teams comes to mind in Shape Your Space for Mental and Physical Freedom, Chapter Ten and Tate proposes establishing (Chapter 11 Stop Pushing Papers) retrieval systems rather than outmoded filing systems (p. 173) – a great reorientation – especially since so much information is available on-line.

Many dominant Planners (Chapter 12, or dominant E2L Green) struggle with delegation. Tate advises only safekeeping tasks and projects (p. 187):

• That align with why the organization hired you.
• Where you are the only person in the organization with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to complete the     work and where your unique abilities are highlighted.
• That bring meaning and joy to your work.

Tate additionally presents five leadership principles for effective delegation (pp. 189-190) addressing skills alignment, delegation and feedback (coaching).

Your Personal Leadership Philosophy

Consider applying Tate’s numerous productivity ideas, especially asking for help (p. 257), in your daily routines, and incorporation into your Personal Leadership Philosophy.

After purchasing this this invaluable lifetime productivity reference, additional on-line resources and tools may be found here.

Note: Carson Tate generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | February 2016