Increasing Personal Productivity

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 08:04

By Leon Gettler

In a time when everyone is busy, flat out, when everyone feels they’re in a pressure cooker, increasing personal productivity has become more important than ever before. It’s not just about time management. It’s about being as productive as possible. Every week has 168 hours, it’s the same for everyone. But some manage to get more out of it than others. What are their secrets?

Writing in Fast Company, Laura Vanderkam says people need to track how they spend their time. “Over the years since I tried tracking my time, I’ve seen hundreds of time logs from people from all walks of life. Everyone has time that could be repurposed. Hours pass whether or not we are aware of where they go. Best to figure out where they go, so time – the ultimate limited resource – can be allocated to what matters, rather than what doesn’t.”

Experts say the diary is the starting point. An effective diary includes not only work time spent in front of screens from computer to iPhone to iPad. You should also use it to record personal stuff like shopping, catching up with family and friends or being at the gym.

Business coach Rob Pickering recommends using a default diary. Whereas a standard diary simply lists events during the week like, for example, an appointment on Wednesday, a session on Thursday and a meeting on Friday afternoon, a default diary sets out specific times in a week or a month that are dedicated to important activities. It’s not the main diary. Rather, it’s a plan of what you will do by default or, to put it another way, what you would be doing if your week goes according to plan. Let us say for example, you have to spend two hours every Monday afternoon working on marketing and every Tuesday, it’s an hour and half on finances. Wednesday morning might be spent working on the web site. A default diary lists these in advance. That can also include personal items, like sessions at the gym. All it takes is a visit to Outlook. The beauty of that system is that you can block out times where, in effect, you are just having a meeting with yourself.

Ana Sutra at the Harvard Business Review says everything needs to be put in three buckets: (1) stuff that needs to be done in person (2) stuff that can  be resolved by e-mail or phone and (3) stuff that can be delegated (to a spouse, children, baby-sitter, assistant or friend, etc). “Then allocate times to “get stuff done” — for example, email tasks can be done out of commercial hours but “needs-to-be done in-person” tasks will likely be performed during work hours,” Sutra writes. “Regarding these tasks, consider itineraries: anything that can be dropped-off, picked up on the way to work, for example. I know it sounds basic and intuitive, but without a systematic approach, how many times do we find ourselves going back-and-forth just because we didn’t take five minutes to think about what needed to be done and how the task could be accomplished.”