Uptime: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Uptime: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity and Wellbeing
Laura Mae Martin
HarperBusiness/An Imprint of HarperCollins (April 2024)

How to achieve and then sustain high-impact productivity in all dimensions of your life

Laura Mae Martin immediately captures her reader’s attention: “Uptime in the computer world is operational and productive. In your world Uptime is the time that you’re operational and productive, no matter what you’re choosing to do…Uptime is when you’re feeling ‘in the zone,’ getting things done, checking items off your to-do list. It’s also when you ‘re relaxed and present during the time you’ve chosen to detach and unwind. It’s feeling great doing whatever you’re intended to do.

This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihályi (pronounced “ME-high CHEEK-sent-me-high”] has in mind in Flow, published in 1990. In positive psychology, flow, also known as being “in the zone,” is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, total involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

In recent years, Martin developed the Productivity@Google program in order to help as many people as possible to develop and then sustain high-impact productivity by taking a holistic approach, answering questions such as these:

o What makes me happy at work and outside of work?
o What are my natural rhythms and peak times for creativity, focus, or efficiency?
o When am I moist engaged in meetings?
o What makes me feel unstoppable when responding to emails? When do I need to take a break, do some uninterrupted thinking, or deepen social connections?

Long ago, Aristotle observed, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” That insight  helps to explain both success and failure. Warren Buffett suggests that bad habits are “too light to notice until they are too heavy to break.”

I agree with Martin that success — for organizations as well as for  individuals — depends almost entirely on habitual behavior driven by values of the highest order. In Uptime, she offers an abundance of practical advice that explains HOW to achieve both personal productivity and well-being.

For example, HOW to be guided and informed by the principles of productivity?

1. Productivity = Vision = Execution
2. Balance Is the New Busy
3. Treat Your Time Like a Bank Account of Energy
4. Flow + Focus = Time Better Spent
5. Don’t Plan for You, Plan for FUTURE You

(See Pages viii-xux.)

HOW to decide whether or not to say No? Do a “brain dump” of all “to dos” floating around in your head, focus on a third of them that have the lowest priority, and for each, ask these three questions:

o What is the worst result that would happen if I never do this?
o Is there any other way for this to get done without my doing it?
o Is there any way for me to do only some of it and move on to other tasks?

(See Pages 14-20.)

Five Ways to Say NO to Incoming Requests

1. Ask more questions
2. Say you’ll think about it ir don’t respond right away
3. Imagine the two scenarios: Yes and No
4. No, but….
5. No, because….

(See Pages 22-25.)

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful businessmen and investors of all time, and one of the keys to his success is his ability to prioritize and use his time wisely. Time is limited, so if you want to make the most of it, you have to be able to say “no” to people and opportunities that don’t directly benefit your personal or professional growth.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything,” Buffett said.

These are among Laura Mae Martin’s concluding thoughts: “Wherever you find yourself right now, there is always a way to move toward your Uptime…My hope is that ther tools and techniques in this book  will give you the same sense of confidence in your ability to get things done and to live well while doing them…It’s your life, talent, interests, intentions, and priorities executed while finding well-being for yourself. It’s holistic accomplishment in all areas of your life. You have the tools…now what will you do with them?”

* * *

In school, college, and then graduate school, I learned more and learned it faster when I discussed material in a group with 3-5 others taking the same course. I also recorded key Q&As on 3×5 file cards (based on course material, whatever the subject) with a Q on one side and the A on the other, held together by a thick rubber band. I carried them with me and reviewed the content whenever I had a few minutes to kill.

Here are two other suggestions while reading Uptime: First, highlight key passages Also,  perhaps in a lined notebook kept near at hand, record your comments, questions, action steps (preferably with deadlines), page references, and lessons you have learned as well as your responses to key points posed within the narrative. Be sure to record your responses to specific “Productivity Practices” at the conclusion of most chapters.

These two simple tactics — highlighting and documenting — will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent reviews of key material later.

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