Good Time Management – The Cornerstone to High Personal Productivity

Understanding where your time goes

Before you can improve your personal productivity you need to understand how much time you are spending on your tasks.

The easiest way to do this is to record what you are doing every 15 minutes over a two week period. This may mean keeping a note book, or an open spreadsheet or something on your smart phone.

  • Record your time log over the next 2 weeks

Don’t worry about getting it absolutely right but you do need to select a typical 2 week period.

If the thought of creating a time log is off putting, another option is to simply quickly review each task as you come to it and carry out a simple test: is it important, urgent, necessary, a legal requirement, helps you towards your goals. If it does none of these things why are you doing it?

Creating a vision for yourself

In order to make the right choices you need to have a 6 – 12 month vision or objective as to what you want to have achieved at the end of that period so that you make the choices needed to achieve that objective. It allows you to say does what I am doing now help me achieve that goal? If it doesn’t why are you doing it?

  • Write down the key things that you want to achieve within the next 6-12 months

Analysing your time

If you have used a spreadsheet it should be a relatively easy to categorise each activity into important, urgent, a legal requirement, or helps you towards your goal.

Apply the 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle) to the tasks. The 80-20 rule states that 20% of a task’s efforts accounts for 80% of the value of the task. Identifying the 20% of your tasks that will lead to you achieving 80% of what you need to achieve is key to reaching your goals.

Creating an Action Plan

You now know what you are currently spending your time on and you also know what you want to achieve. To achieve those goals usually means doing the important but not urgent tasks. You need to create time for these tasks as they are usually non-routine and require blocks of quality time.

There are a range of tools that will help to improve your personal productivity:

  • Elimination: Can you eliminate the task?
  • Automation: Can’t eliminate it? Can you use technology to make it more efficient?
  • Delegation: Can’t eliminate it? Are you the best person to do it? Can you delegate or out source it?
  • Organisation: Organise what’s left. Clear your desk. Project or ongoing tasks in hanging files in your desk or pedestal. Key files in the filing cabinet. Archive what you legally need to keep. Scan in what you need but don’t need the paper. Shred the rest.
  • Cleanliness: Keep your workstation clean and clear of clutter.
  • Do It Now: If you can don tasks immediately, don’t keep rereading jobs on job lists or emails in your to box. Do it now. You will be surprised how many tasks only take a few minutes.
  • Batch process tasks: Only check you email at set times during the day. If appropriate, put your phone on voice mail and respond to calls at fixed times of the day. As a manager, if you get constant interruptions doing the working day, have times of the day when your door is closed and diarise important larger tasks in that time. Encourage your team to bring you possible solutions when they come to you with a problem.
  • Email Processing: When checking your email: Can it be deleted? Can you Do It Now? Can you delegate it? Can designate it (I.e. block some time in your diary to do it.)? Create reference folders for emails you need to keep. Create an action folder for tasks that take longer to do so that don’t sit in your inbox. Use rules to get rid of automated emails.
  • Sending emails: When sending emails, make the subject line clear. Only email those who need to read it. Keep it positive and short and to the point. No jokes.
  • Meetings: Can you avoid them? Can it be dealt with by email? If not will a phone call be okay? If you do have to have a meeting, make sure that everybody knows what to bring, make sure the meeting objectives are clear, don’t let the meeting be side tracked, arrange another meeting if some areas need further discussion. Agree actions and who will be responsible for their completion and by when. If you don’t need all the time that was allotted, wrap it up early.
  • Planning: Take time to plan your day, week and any projects. Set key 3-6 tasks that you want to achieve each day. Use your calendar to plan your week and what you need to get done in order to reach your goals. Most objectives require you to non-routine tasks. Plan mile stone dates for interim stages of the project and plan what you need to do to achieve them and by when. Consider using an electronic diary or app on your smart phone.
  • Information overload: Consider reducing the amount of information you read. Reduce it to what you need to read.
  • Use a log book: Use a log book to record actions that you need to carry out. Cross them out when complete.
  • Delegate effectively: Identify the correct person. Give the task as soon as you can. Clearly state the objectives. Provide all the information. Make sure that they understand the task. Set a deadline. Encourage a written plan or task list. Regularly monitor progress. Make yourself available for support. Assume responsibility but give credit for successes. Delegate the interesting work as well as the mundane.
  • Walk about: Avoid management by email and spreadsheet. Walk about. Use your eyes and ears to pick on the working atmosphere.
  • Problem solve: Go to the source of the problem and involve the staff with the problem in its solution.
  • Flow charts: Use simple flow charts to identify the flow of work process. Use this to eliminated wasted effort.
  • Identify the best times of the day for creative work: People work best at different times of the day. Organise your day so that you are doing creative and most challenging work when you are most effective.
  • Failure is okay: Sometimes you have to try a lot of things before you are successful. Learn from your mistakes and keep trying.
  • Avoid work for works sake: If a particular task does not help you achieve your goals then look to eliminate. There are always more positive things that you can be doing.
  • Identify customers or people who take time or profit from you: Some customers are so troublesome that they are not worth having as it costs more to service them than the profit they may generate.
  • Outsource tasks that you are not good at or add very little to: If a task has to be done such as payroll which is complicated and carries large penalties if you get it wrong then outsource as it has to be done but does not move you towards your goals.
  • Purpose solutions: If you want to do something that requires permission from either a customer or your boss then propose a solution for them to consider rather an asking them.
  • Less is not laziness: Doing less if it is effective is not laziness. It means that you can focus on more important matters if you have achieved more in less time.
  • Emphasise your strengths: Top athletes work on their strengths. Work on yours and find others to do tasks that you are less qualified to do.
  • Parkinson’s law: Watch and take action on those activities that take the time that they were allotted to it. Work out how you can do tasks more effectively in a shorter time.
  • Work life balance: Try to develop a work life balance. Make sure you are rested at the start of each working week.

Create a standard way of doing things

You need to create a maintenance way of working. This means routinely clearing your desk, email and files. It means each day identifying the key tasks that need to be done that day. It means developing habits that help you stay productive.

Sustaining your productivity gains

Like all habits good productivity needs to be maintained.

  • Create time to keep your desk, emails and project files clear.
  • If you have a deluge of important emails block out some time to clear them don’t let them pile up again. If necessary create a reference folder called archive and move them all into it. If it is important most people will resend or call you.
  • Review your goals. Have they changed? If so you will need to review which tasks are important and which can be eliminated.

Maintaining Personal Productivity When Working Online

Maintaining personal productivity is crucial for anybody who works online since in most cases you will be working alone! Making an online business successful involves very many tasks all of which must be completed successfully to allow for the growth you need! This can result in mounting pressure on anyone trying to keep up with the daily demands of growing a business on the internet. Our focus here is how a hard working entrepreneur can remain productive even during those times they may not be at their best.

Following you will find 3 suggestions you can use to maintain a consistent level of progress even during your ‘off’ times when growing a business online!

Hit a Snag, Move On

It is inevitable that during the course of any given day that you will come across a ‘snag’ that may take time and thought to figure out! When this occurs move on to something else if you do not seem to be making progress. Anybody who works online ALWAYS has a long list of tasks awaiting completion so choose something else to do and get it done. In this way you have still made progress and your mind will be refreshed when you return to take on your ‘unsolved’ snag!

Bunch Your Tasks

When marketing on the internet many of your duties may be located in the same folder, software or even internet site. When this occurs try to bunch together these tasks for completion while you are at that location. This saves you the time and energy ‘bouncing’ around needlessly from one location to the next! Now you do not have to repeatedly log-in or out of sites, open and close software or even go rummaging through your files to access something you had opened earlier! While you are at any given area of your business get what you have to get there and move on!

Save the Mundane for Later

Certain chores and duties of any online business require more focus and energy while ranking a little higher in your list of priorities. It is these tasks that you should complete when you are at your best and allow yourself tackle the more mundane and less challenging ones later. This decreases the instances of mistakes and if they do occur it will likely be something that is not as significant. The key to growing a business online is to minimize mistakes in key areas and devoting your time and energy while you are at your best to these areas will help accomplish this.

Your personal productivity is very important for growing a business since it supplies much needed momentum and motivation! Most anybody who works online is going it alone therefore their every effort is crucial. Making an online business function smoothly and successfully involves the completion of many tasks to make this happen. Considering that nobody can be at their best all the time the 3 suggestions offered above serve to help you use your time and skills wisely and efficiently. Following these suggestions anyone who works online can maintain a consistent and productive level of output allowing them to stay focused, motivated and always moving forward! It is this momentum that is required for making an online business a huge and profitable success!

Personal Productivity – Where it All Starts

Is personal productivity about — getting more done in less time? And does this equally apply in any different situation? … Alright I couldn’t hide the clue … But think about a teacher.

The teacher, in the front of a classroom.

I’m picturing a woman, mid forty, someone with quite a lot of experience, friendly when possible, serious when required.
Maybe you remember yourself in this classroom. Not all teacher were equally capable of handling difficult situations. And how did you respond to this teacher and to others. What teachers did you really learn from?

We equally reward teachers whether they excel or not in teaching. They do not get paid more for the preparation time they need and they reserve for each lesson. So … we equally under reward teachers. In the same way were we equally under reward housekeeping, parenting and other jobs that are necessary but not always fun to complete.

But more important, about this teacher, is one teacher able to get more done in less time? And how do we measure this? How do we know that the average level of education is increasing or not each year? But indirectly, the society is affected by this educational level.

As with the quantity and quality discussion, productivity has many different faces. This one — THE TEACHER — just presented is one of them, that shows that productivity is not (only) about getting more done or about using palm and other technology to increase productivity.

The first step in increasing productivity is to focus on the specifics of each productive role. Each role is unique and responds to different requirements.

© 2006 Hans Bool

10 Tips to Improve Your Personal Productivity

Many of us know the answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer, “One bite at a time”! Sadly, for many of us our To Do Lists can outweigh an elephant and yet we actually tackle our To Do Lists like we would eat an elephant – by checking off one item after another. Unfortunately at some point we get too full to finish eating the elephant so we give up and the same is true for our To Do Lists. They just keep building and the task of actually completing all the items on our To Do List becomes overwhelming.

A few simple Personal Productivity Tips can help you tame your To Do List and in turn help you live the life you always dreamed of.

Personal Productivity Tip 1: Set goals. Don’t just survive your day; thrive by taking steps every day that move you toward your dreams. Too often we get so caught up in the process of being busy that we fail to plan our lives. We end up reacting to the incoming requests that present themselves each day in the form of emails, phone calls, mail, interruptions, etc. and let them guide us through our days and hence, our lives.

Personal Productivity Tip 2: Plan Ahead. Spend 10 to 15 minutes each night looking over your To Do list, appointments and projects and prioritize and schedule the most important items for action the following day. Take this one step further by actually assigning the completion of these priority items as an appointment on your calendar. This is an appointment you must keep with yourself. Make sure you factor in some down time and procrastination time (you know you do it). It is important to make your schedule realistic and achievable. It is also important to have time to recharge your batteries to be able to operate at your optimum productivity. Actually schedule your sleep time on your calendar. Don’t assume you can work an 80 hour week without burning yourself out.

Personal Productivity Tip 3: Make time for what matters most. Make sure that the tasks you assign yourself are in alignment with your goals. If not, re-evaluate their importance and the priority you give them.

Personal Productivity Tip 4: Determine if you are living to work or working to live. If you work 60 plus hours a week and hate it but do it just to have the big house, big car, etc. but are too worn out and stressed out to enjoy it, is it really worth it? Try living on less, not just less stuff but less stress.

Personal Productivity Tip 5: Set limits. It is a well know rule that things expand to fill the space and time available. The larger your space the more stuff you get to fill it. The more storage you have the more stuff you store in all those containers and closet and the more time you have to work on a project the more time it takes to get it done. More isn’t always better, sometimes more is just more. Have you ever procrastinated when you knew you had to accomplish a particular task that day only to wait until the very last 30 minutes of the day to get it done. What if you had started the day by using the first 30 minutes to focus on that project and then had the rest of the day to complete a few more tasks and then since all your work that you assigned for the day was complete you could take the rest of the day off? Wouldn’t the reward be worth the effort?

Personal Productivity Tip 6: Stage the night before. By prepping your briefcase, kid’s backpacks, packing lunches, laying out clothes and getting gas the night before you set the stage for a stress free morning. And starting the day right can set a positive trend for the whole day. A few minutes at night are easy to come by but a few minutes extra in the morning can mean the difference between being late for work and being on time. Even a few minutes late is LATE and it doesn’t send a good message to your co-workers, boss, or even friends you meet for social outings. If you find yourself excusing it by saying “it’s only a few minutes” realize those few minutes can have a large cost when you are not perceived as caring about your job or other people’s time. The party on the other side may be thinking “why can’t you just leave a few minutes earlier so you aren’t always running late?”

Personal Productivity Tip 7: Institute the Family 15: Learn to delegate and get everyone in the home or office to pitch in and put things away. Set a timer and spend 15 minutes before heading off to bed to pick up everything from the living room, dining room, kitchen counters, etc that belongs in other rooms and return them to their proper home. Spending a few minutes each day helps to prevent major piles that will require a complete Saturday to clean up.

Personal Productivity Tip 8: Limit internet and TV time. Does watching 4 hours of TV a night really contribute to your life? Don’t get me wrong, TV can provide entertainment and relaxation as it doesn’t require much thought but don’t let it stand in the way of achieving your goals. Surfing the internet or getting lost in a sea of emails can be a huge time waster as well. If you’ve ever said “If only I had the time!” chances are you do but you need to spend it more wisely. Keep a journal for one week and track how you spend your time. This will help you identify your time wasters and help you make a conscious decision to change these limiting habits and instill new ones that help you achieve all you want in life.

Personal Productivity Tip 9: Learn to make decisions quickly. Think of piles as delayed decisions. Whether it is piles of paper or piles of stuff, the pile was created by the failure to decide what to do with it and/or the failure to act on the decision. Have you ever picked up your mail and glanced through it on the way into the house, identifying many items as “junk mail” yet added all of it to the already large pile on your desk or counter to deal with later. These delayed decisions and actions create more work for you later. Next time you get your mail, sort it immediately. 3 types of items: action items, reference items and recyclable items (a.k.a. trash). Immediately put the recycling in a recycling bin and don’t allow marketers to add tasks to your already overloaded To Do list. If you weren’t actively seeking the item that is now on sale be critical on whether you really need to make a special trip to get something that you will only need to find a place to store once you bring it home. Chances are you don’t really need it. Reference items should only be kept if you really feel the need to refer to them at another time and if so you should file it immediately. If you are going to go through the trouble of keeping it make sure you know where to find it when you need it. The action items should be given priority and processed during your daily evening planning session. Consider creating a tickler system and adding items to your calendar/planner for completion.

Personal Productivity Tip 10: Don’t be an info junkie. More information doesn’t necessarily change your life for the better. Do you ever save magazines, newsletters, etc. and yet 6 months later never read a single issue? Yet you keep them because you have the best of intentions to get to them as you feel that there will be some inspirational story or tidbit of info that you just don’t want to miss out on. Do you read tips on subjects you are interested in improving in your life only to fail to take action on the advice given? Let the old magazines and journals go and start fresh.

Only through action do we change our lives. If you want to experience Personal Productivity start by changing some of your limiting habits and build new ones which will guide you towards a more fulfilling life. Start small and build on your success. Our challenge to you, pick one of the Personal Productivity Tips presented to you in this article and institute it as a new habit in your life today!