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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Creating Time with Arlen Rowe

Since 2011, we’ve been helping people save time, be happier and become more productive. At Asian Efficiency we believe you should be able to get all your important things done in the time you have without having to sacrifice your health, family and personal life.

We have a series called Productivity Champ where we share the stories of Asian Efficiency readers and our community members. One of the most active members in our productivity community, The Dojo, is Arlen. Today we’d like to share her story of how she got into productivity after her health crisis, what she learned along the way and the one productivity tip she recommends everyone implements.

Introducing Arlen Rowe

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to.

I’m Arlen, I’m an Australian PhD candidate and Research Assistant. This is my ‘second career’ if you will; I worked in an entirely different field until I was 27, and then decided to pursue my degrees and a career in Psychology and research.

What is the backstory that ignited you to get started on becoming more productive?

I’ve always been the type of person who thrived on being organized, loved paper, books, and planners… But I think the true point where I became more committed to becoming more productive and effective with my time came with a health crisis in around 2010. All of a sudden the amount of time that I was functional and able to do anything drastically reduced, and I was miserable. I finally came to understand that the only way to move forward was to learn how to be more efficient and effective with the time I had, rather than simply wishing and waiting to have more of it. That triggered my more serious journey into productivity and I was lucky enough to come across Asian Efficiency pretty much right when the blog started in or around early 2011.

What was the wall or problem that you ran into that stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted?

For me, it was my health and energy levels. I was so restricted by these that I had to really learn and get creative to find ways to not just get things done, but to be more intentional in focussing on the things that had meaning for me and brought me joy.

What was the epiphany you experienced and discovered?

I had been reading some productivity and organization books and blogs (including AE) over time, and I remember waking up one day and thinking “if this is all I’ve got, then I’m going to use it”. It struck me as such a weird thing to randomly wake up and think, but it was this moment of clarity that defined change for me. Of course in the context of the moment, I was referring to the energy and functional time that I had – and that I wanted to use what time I had in the best possible way – even if it was minimal. But that one realization has stuck with me ever since. It doesn’t matter how much time we have in any given area of our lives as much as the quality of how we use that time matters. And no matter how little time we have, there are people in similar situations who have found clever and innovative ways to make the most of it. We can learn from those people and adapt those approaches to our own lives.

What was the transformation that you experienced?

This was the point I, more intentionally, became a ‘productivity nerd’. I began automating everything I could, creating a task management system, reducing the commitments, and being strategic in selecting and prioritizing my tasks and activities. I spent a good amount of time on my vision and setting goals…. and the result of this was starting my degree in Psychology. I actually started via distance education, and I completed my first subjects in roughly 15-20 minutes time slots from my bed between rests. I previously would have never thought that possible, or that I’d be where I am today. But I’m living proof that it is!

If you have one piece of productivity advice for someone who is struggling to make progress toward their goals, what would it be?

It’s easy to feel a victim of time. Time goes by no matter what – but only you have the power to determine how it’s spent. The best investment you can ever make is to get clear on your vision, goals and what constitutes ‘time well spent’ to you. Once you have this, stop saying “when I have time” or “I don’t have time” and instead ask “how can I have time?”. That’s a question that begs an answer and encourages you to seek one. When you focus on a solution rather than a problem, it’s amazing what you can do!

What Does it Take to be A Productivity Champ?

Thank you Arlen for sharing!

Arlen is a great example of what we refer to in our community as a “productivity champ” — someone who had productivity struggles, recognized it, looked for solutions, and most importantly took action and continuously improved. Other examples of people who have succeeded are AliceLisa and Scott who we have written case studies about.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or distracted, you can overcome that and become a productivity champ too:

  • Review our TEA Framework for mastering productivity and become familiar with the 3 Pillars of Productivity.
  • Take our super-quick Productivity Quiz, which will give you actionable insight into where you should get started.
  • Pick one (only one!) action step and schedule it on your calendar to implement it.

If you think we should feature you as a productivity champ, get in touch and let us know!

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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