Boosting Your Personal Productivity

With so many tasks fighting for our attention, it’s no wonder we struggle with feeling productive. For most women, it’s important to us that we feel productive, and we usually measure our productivity by our output – how much do we get done in a given day? If we get a lot done, then we feel happy, but if at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what we did all day, irritability sinks in.

If you have a business deadline, a family and home that need attention, and a volunteer project that begs to be completed, how will you pull together the resources and energy you need to successfully manage these commitments without compromising yourself? Boosting our personal productivity is possible if we know how to do it. Productivity involves three components: getting things done, the ability to make the right decisions quickly, and being able to create innovative solutions to our perceived challenges.

Getting Things Done

Getting things done requires both external and internal resources. Externally, it involves using people, time and money to achieve the results you want. Utilizing our people resources means we have to give up this idea that we are alone and on our own. We have to look at who in our life may be able to pitch in and help out. Can you involve a babysitter or spouse to help with the kids while you work on your business commitments? What other volunteers can you pull together to help you accomplish your projects?

Managing your time involves your ability to organize yourself, evaluate your priorities and focus on what’s most important to carry out your mission. More often than not, a lot of people have a large ongoing “to do” list that they work from. Everything has equal priority and focus is lost because the list is too overwhelming. Break up your list by order of importance and focus on only 2-3 tasks per day. You will be more successful in getting things done.

Internally, getting things done is all about your motivation behind the task. We come to every task in our lives with a certain level of energy, or attitude about the task. When I asked one woman why she wanted to take care of herself by exercising, her response was because she needed to make sure she was healthy enough to take care of other people. It’s very subtle and hard to see, but her motivation was out of fear. She was afraid if she didn’t take care of herself, she wouldn’t be able to take care of her family and business. When we are motivated by any kind of negative emotion like fear, worry, anger, or guilt, the energy we come to the task with is low. When you associate a task with pain (I hate exercising; it’s so hard), you are less likely to do it.

Complete this sentence: I want to…. Most likely, your answer was some kind of task or activity that you enjoy. Perhaps you said, “I want to read a book” or maybe you said “I want to take a vacation.” The energy behind wanting to do something is high, and unless you let guilt get in the way, you will very likely complete a task you want to do. Always focus on why you want to get something done, even if you have to seek out the benefits received from doing a task you feel you have to do.

Making Decisions

If there is one thing that will bring your productivity to a screeching halt, it is the inability to make decisions. I don’t know how many decisions we make everyday, but I know it’s a lot. Should I get up? What will I have for breakfast today? What should I wear today? What do I want to do first? Should I take a nap? Hey, a short nap can improve your productivity.

For the last two days, I have been dragging my feet on making a business decision. On Sunday, as I was working on creating some visuals for an upcoming presentation, my husband says, “It’s too bad you can’t find a way to make your visuals more professional looking.” That started the decision making cycle that I am stuck in. How can I create professional looking visuals on my budget? While I wait for the “perfect” answer to come to me, my project remains undone.

The ability to make fast and accurate decisions can make a world of difference in your personal productivity. What is your perspective on making decisions accurately and quickly? Do you avoid making decisions for fear of making the wrong choices? Do you look at decisions as opportunities to grow and develop as an individual? Wouldn’t it be nice to view decisions as an effortless task? What gets in the way of all your decisions being made accurately and quickly? Leaving decisions pending in your “inner” inbox can deplete your daily energy level, even if you are not consciously thinking about them.

Creating Innovative Solutions

Have you ever had a day or a situation when everything seemed to work out smoothly? You were “in the zone” and you were accomplishing more than you ever could have imagined. Your energy was high, your mood was great, and you were amazed at how easy life was. When we are in this “genius” mode, we have the innate ability to eliminate all obstacles, noise, and clutter, externally and internally. We are able to let go, focus, and let our intuition take over.

Recently, I have been faced with a situation that needs an innovative solution. My teenager hates English and is unmotivated to do what is required of him in this class. He is resistant to reading, but yet he has a 400 page book that he has to read to complete a 14 page research paper. A traditional approach of telling him he better start reading or he’s going to fail won’t work. A slightly different approach of suggesting he read just 20 minutes a day doesn’t work either. In order for me to be successful at coming up with a creative solution, I must be able to see multiple perspectives all at the same time. What is blocking my son mentally? What motivates him? How does he learn? What does he need to accomplish? How can I partner with my son to create an opportunity for success? By keeping an open mind to all the possibilities that are available to me, a solution will be delivered. So far I’ve thought of reading the book together, downloading the book on his iPod so he can listen to it, motivating him with a reward dinner at his favorite restaurant, and renting the book in movie format. As I stay open to my intuition, more solutions will come to me.

While it would certainly be nice to live a life that is truly simplistic, it is not possible or realistic to think life will not have challenges that require innovative solutions. We will always have competing demands that require us to pull together our resources to get things done, make quick and accurate decisions and utilize our creativity and intuition to find solutions to whatever trials life brings us. When you can successfully implement these three keys, you will experience personal productivity every day of your life.

Why Personal Productivity Matters for Your Career

You are likely very busy in your career right now and accomplishing important and required activities. But are there any tasks that you are putting off for a future date and time? Perhaps you have thought of something you would like to do and have not yet gotten to it, making an excuse that begins with either “one day I will” or “I’ve gotten behind” – to name a few. Being busy does not always equate to being productive. When you expend energy, are involved in busywork, find yourself active, or exert extra effort, those are all indicators you care about your job or career. But what if you could get more out of the time that you invest?

What Is Productivity?

Your job will demand completion of tasks and there is an expected type of performance that is associated with your job title. In addition, being highly efficient in your job is linked to the level of productivity you attain. This is similar to the way that organizations operate. Business productivity is related to a measurable output and it requires that all processes and functions are operating quickly and efficiently. Productivity for you can therefore be defined as working with a purpose and functioning with focused attention on important or priority activities, both effectively and efficiently.

Productivity and Your Job

There are assigned duties for your job and you have a specific amount of time in which to complete them. However, not every aspect of your job is completely managed for you and that means you have an ability to maximize your time and accomplish more. Being productive in your job means that you are setting goals, establishing priorities that are based upon the importance of your tasks, and you plan for the use of your time. To become highly efficient you can break down the goals you’ve established into targeted due dates and schedule them in your weekly and monthly plan.

Becoming Productive

There are strategies you can utilize to become productive in your career and that begins with more than the development of a checklist. For example, you can utilize prioritization as a strategy to make the most of the effort you devote to your workday. You can also examine your working environment to determine if it is conducive to being productive or distracting and causing time to be wasted. Another strategy is multitasking and that can either assist your progress or detract your time, depending on the types of activities you are involved in. For example, working on a required task and also monitoring activity on Facebook is not an efficient use of your time. In contrast, working on two projects with an immediate due date could be effectively completed with focused attention.

What Blocks Productivity

Time wasters are probably one of the most lethal activities that can minimize your productivity during the workday. It consists of any activities you are involved in that causes you to alter or discard your daily or weekly plans. Busywork can also block productivity by performing tasks that are non-essential. Procrastination or putting off and delaying a task can also minimize your efficiency. Finally, being disorganized and not knowing if your time is well spent can also be a significant detractor for your ability to be highly productive. While you do not have to plan every minute of your work day, the minutes you spend on these activities can add up over time.

Results of Being Productive

There is a saying that is often used in organizations and it states that as an employee you should “work smarter, not harder”. While I am not a fan of clichés this statement does hold merit. Working smarter means that you are in control, you have planned your activities, and manage your time well. The impact of productivity on your career can also influence your personal life. The higher level of productivity you can achieve, the more you are able to accomplish in any given day. It is a matter of being in control of your time and resources. Being highly efficient and productive is always an option for you to use in your career. You can strive to attain it on a continual basis or implement it when you find yourself unorganized and missing important deadlines. Being productive means you have greater output because you are in control of your day and aware of how your time is spent.

The Personal Productivity Pyramid

In his book The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Life and Time Management, author Hyrum Smith introduces the personal productivity pyramid – a tool for making sure that our daily to-do lists are clear reflections of our governing values and long-range goals.

1. Governing Values

At the base of the pyramid are our governing values – those things we choose to govern or guide our lives by. Here are some questions to help you identify and clarify yours:

· What inspires you?

· What makes your life worth living?

· What would you miss most if you were to lose it?

If there was a one foot wide metal girder placed across the expanse of the grand canyon, what would be important enough for you to venture out across it?

2. Long-Range Goals

In light of your highest and most deeply held values, what do you want for your life? What do you want for you? Choose at least one long -range goal that relates to each of the governing values you identified in step one.

3. Medium-Range Goals

Given each one of your goals, what are some projects for you to focus on over the next 90 days? Over the next month? How about this week?

4. Daily Tasks

Finally, what’s the very next step? What do you need to do today to begin/continue reaching your medium-range goals, moving towards your long-range goals, and fulfilling your highest values?

Today’s Experiment:

If you haven’t already, fill in your own personal productivity pyramid. Go through each of the questions above and answer them to the best of your ability. If you’re concerned about how long this might take, begin with your governing values. When you get really clear on what matters most to you, you’ll know whether or not to take the time to complete today’s experiment!

Have fun, learn heaps, and get the stuff that matters most to you done!

Personal Productivity Secrets – Part 2

In the first article of this five-part series I left you with an action step. I instructed you to track every activity over the course of one week. You should have data that shows each activity and the amount of time it took to do it. So, by now you have five full days worth of information to process.

So how did you do? Whatever your results were, it is simply a snapshot of how you spend your time. It is time for a closer look and spot the time wasters.

The first time I did this exercise, the results were incredibly enlightening. I found out a lot about myself and the habits I kept. I finally grasped just how much time I spent avoiding the high-value, high-priority items. Incidentally, these items were also the highest paying projects on my plate.

The first surprise was to see how many actual billable or on-the-bench work hours I had during that week. I found out that I wasted more hours than I thought. I had procrastinated on projects a lot. I did a lot of low-value projects that could have been given to others to complete. I ran errands as an excuse to get out of the shop, even though someone else could have accomplished them just as easily. Email and text messages flowed steadily, interrupting the momentum I would again, have to build up. Break times were longer than the 15 minutes allotted and more than a few stretched to a half an hour. All the while rationalizing to myself “I’m the boss. I don’t have to be so strict with my time”.

In general, I discovered a lot of bad habits. Bad habits that were preventing me from producing more. I realized that the income I was earning was coming from less than half of time I spent in the shop. The rest of the time was spent doing jobs that didn’t really focus on my unique skill set. Jobs I should have delegated to another capable person.

So now what do you do with the data you collected? If I were you I would identify all the things that you are currently doing that add little or no value to your income and do one of two things. Delete them. Delegate them. Replace that time with meaningful work that produces tangible results.

In the next article, we will take a look at your daily habits. Which habits you should drop, and which habits you can adopt that will make a huge difference to your daily productivity.