Time Logging to Increase Your Personal Productivity

Has it ever occurred to you when you look back on your day or week with a feeling that you didn’t accomplish as much as you wanted? Your time is your most precious asset, especially when establishing your career or business. Proper use of your time can help you do more and even earn more. An intelligent approach to increase your personal productivity is by time logging.

Time logging is a good way to better manage your time since you know how you are currently spending your time. When keeping a detailed time log, record the time each time you start or finish any activity all throughout the day. You can simply use a stopwatch to record the intervals for every activity, doing this during your working hours or the entire day. Then, sort the time into categories and determine how much time was being spent for each type of activity.

For instance, note how much time you eat, surf the Internet, read the newspaper, spend in the bathroom, etc. If you want to be more detailed, consider doing this step for a week. Depending on your activities and your consistency, you can be surprised at how many log entries you can make for a day. Moreover, you may even be surprised to find that you are only spending a small portion of your working time on what should be considered as actual work.

Studies show that an average office worker spends only about 1.5 hours of actual work in a day, with the rest of the time spent engaging in non-work tasks. In fact, s/he does not eve begin doing actual work until at 11am and starts to wind down at about 3pm.

Your time log should help you analyze your results and make changes, when necessary.

The next step is to measure your personal efficiency ratio. This can be computed by recording the time spent on “actual work” divided by the total time spent “at work.” However, you should keep in mind that while it is important to get as much of the job done as possible, it would also be foolish to work longer than you should. You may want to consider cutting back on the total hours to boost efficiency.

If you try to discipline yourself by doing something that does not really motivate you, chances are that you are most likely to fail. Trying harder can, in fact, actually de-motivate and drive your efficiency ratio even lower. For instance, if your time log indicates a low efficiency ratio, try limiting your total working time per day and see the result.

This is because when the brain recognizes that working time is limited, it sends you a signal to get working. Usually, you will find a way to get the job done and be more efficient with time constraints compared to having the luxury of time. Then, you can gradually increase your total hours at work while keeping peak efficiency.

Time logging is a great way to ensure peak productivity without necessarily increasing your work hours. It only takes little effort and time to do it, but it can produce long term benefits.

Improve Your Personal Productivity by Careful Goal Setting

Setting goals is one of the most important activities that you can possibly do to raise your personal productivity. By having a predetermined end result you will find that your day-to-day activities will be much more focused. Once you’ve got a goal, you can instantly assess whether or not your current activities will contribute towards the achievement of it.

For example your goal may be to improve the productivity of your section by 13% in the next five months; acquiring five new customers every two months; being promoted to the next level before the end of the year or finishing another two papers in the next six months.

There are certain attributes that are contained within effective goals.

The goal must be demanding. This is the most important quality of the goal because it motivates us to do our very best. You’ll be surprised that when you set a demanding goal how easy it is to exceed it. It’s sometimes very easy to set lower goals.

The goal must be achievable. On the other hand, don’t make your goals unrealistically high because this will only lead to disappointment and frustration. This may cause you to give up. Goals that clearly cannot be reached, will destroy your morale and with it, your motivation.

The goal must be specific and able to be measured. If you have a vague goal you will never know when, or even if, you have achieved it. A goal such as, “To read more” is of little value. It is not a measurable goal because it doesn’t state how much you are going to read and what you were going to read. If you state your goal in the form of, “I am going to read the daily paper every day before going to work” it is much more specific and it is easy to measure. When you have a specific goal you have something to aim at and an easy way to know if you have succeeded.

The goal must have a deadline. The goal without a deadline does not provide the motivation to take it seriously. The deadline is an important function in goal setting. It provides a sense of urgency as well as a way of tracking progress. A deadline also puts the goal in context with the rest of your activities. These elements greatly increase the chance of the goal being achieved.

The goal must be written down. If you don’t write down the goal, you are not utilizing the well-known fact that we remember things that we write and say rather than the things we think. All serious goal setters write down their goals, tell other people about them and keep them visible so they can see them frequently.

The Rising Popularity of Personalized Products

Personalized products are now more popular than ever before. Personalized t-shirts, kitchenware, hats, golf clubs, food- you name it and it’s likely been personalized. The trend is not new, however- the desire to own something unique and true to the person has been a part of our society since the advent of modern-day advertising. What we are starting to see now is something new, exciting, and yes, very, very personal.

These days, consumers are looking to personalize nearly everything they buy. In 2005, Proctor and Gamble created a revolutionary new line of customized beauty products known as ‘Reflect,’ which introduced over 10,000 different shades of lip gloss, lipstick, eyeliner and cover-up. The promotional website that was set up immediately drew more than one million visitors to their website. Possibly with the realization that production of the product would not meet the demand, the idea was scrapped. Though personalized make-up didn’t make the market, a new trend towards personalized products have hit the mainstream, while marketers and production designers are brainstorming new ways to make even the most mundane and everyday products… well, personal.

The trend towards the personalized comes from consumers who are more interested in purchasing products that are ‘non-traditional.’ People are looking for new ways to express their individuality and uniqueness, and thanks to the state-of-the-art digital printing press, products are now being made with personalized text, borders, graphics and photos. Personalized products were once thought was largely impossible or difficult and expensive to produce has now been transformed into a ‘do-anything’ motto by marketers and vendors to get the products out there and available.

The types of personalized products that are available is a list that appears to endless, all the while expanding to heights that even product marketers have not seen or predicted. Consumers can now buy personalized chocolates, floor mats/rugs, holiday decorations, luggage, photo albums and flip-flops. There is also a trending market for personalized children’s books, where the youngster, thanks to digital technology, can now become the main character in their favorite story or nursery rhyme.

The goal of the average consumer who shops for and purchases personalized products is to get across a message, either for the sake of themselves or for the benefit of a gift recipient. With a growing population and a shrinking market for what was once considered stylish, the trend towards personalization will grow as consumers continue to seek out the authentic, the unoriginal and the peculiar.

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.