Improving Personal Productivity, Part 1

By November 14, 2011 Productivity 2 Comments

“Wisdom consists in doing the right thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.” – Meister Eckhart.

Have you heard the expression “if you want a job done give it to a busy person?” Why is that? What magic do they have to get things done? In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about controlling time based on what is important.

First step towards a solution

Gather evidence of your current time management practices by keeping a diary for 2 weeks. You then have more choice over how you want the future to be. Record what you do in half hour blocks. Analyse the results by considering the following:

  • Categorise under different headings- what does this tell you? For example, if you are a leader of people, how much time do you spend doing this?
  • What are the surprises?
  • Are you focused on the priorities?

Purpose, priorities, boundaries

A simple way to determine what your priorities are is by considering first your purpose. Your purpose gives you direction, gives you role clarity and focus. Ask yourself what you want to achieve professionally and personally. Then look at your priorities in the light of achieving your purpose. Identify for yourself:

  • What do you want to do more of or less of, to deliver that purpose?
  • What do you want to start doing or stop doing?

Having given some thought to your purpose and priorities the last really helpful question to ask is what are your boundaries? What do you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to? For more information on purpose see my posts on goal-setting and on motivation and visioning.

Productivity tips

  1. Create a yearly, quarterly & monthly plan based on your purpose and priorities.
  2. Each week write your plan for the week ahead. Consider doing this on a Sunday evening.
  3. Write your daily plan the evening before if possible. This gives your subconscious mind the chance to work on issues overnight. If you are a lark rather than an owl perhaps this is better to do in the morning!
  4. If you add something substantial to your to do list also take something off as most people try to take on too much.
  5. Ask yourself can you delegate the task? Dump it? Leave it for now? Pay someone else?
  6. Estimating the time to complete a task often goes awry. To build in time for contingency it often takes 2.5 times longer than you first think!
  7. Consider completing the task in a different way, Does it have to be the Rolls-Royce version?
  8. Create a simple filing system. Even lever arch files with plastic wallets keep papers in order.
  9. Plan in time for you by blocking out time in your diary. This could be for actioning projects, following up action points from meetings, carrying out team activities etc.
  10. Plan in regular time for housekeeping by you or your PA to avoid wasting time searching for things.
  11. Keep a notebook or PDA close by to jot down ideas/thoughts wherever you are.
  12. Work on high level work in the morning. Leave more routine work for 8 hours after you woke up. This tends to be the lowest point in the day for quality thinking/working. Avoid arranging critical meetings/appointments at your low point.
  13. Plan in at least 10 minutes a day for creative silence or quiet time. This enables you to tap into your creativity and intuition, great for solving problems.
  14. Listen to your intuition! If you cannot say a definite ‘yes’ then probably it’s best to leave it and not struggle.

Efficiency vs. effectiveness. Do you need to have both?

Efficiency = producing something with the least waste of effort.

Effectiveness = producing a result.

Another version of this is:

Efficiency = doing things right

Effectiveness = doing the right things

Characteristics of good time managers include being both efficient and effective.

Next time we look at more time saving ideas!

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