How to Double Your Personal Productivity in Just 30 Days – 1 – Preparing Your Attack

How often have you said to yourself, “If only I could get twice as much done as I do now!” The good news is, you can… as long as you have the right method and the motivation to change. In this 3-part series, I’m going to teach you a step-by-step method that will allow you to double your personal productivity in just 30 days. Actually, you could do it in a week, but I prefer to allow for the fact that most people aren’t very consistent at applying new information!

1. Scheduling the Time:

As I emphasized in Part-1, you want to schedule your High Value Tasks (HVTs) for times when your mental and physical energies are at their peak, usually first thing in the morning, although that varies from person to person.

Your next decision is how much time you want to set aside for a given task. In general it’s pretty hard to stay focused for more than one hour of solid working time, so dividing your working time into one hour chunks is a smart way to go. Then, even if the task you’re working on takes two hours to complete, you need to schedule at least a 10-15 minute “stretching break” in between your two one-hour chunks to ensure you’re at your best when you start the second round.

The next vexing question is when to STOP working. Do you quit when you say you’re going to quit, no matter where you’re at, or do you plow ahead until, come hell or high water, you’ve completed your entire tasks?

This is where many people get into trouble. The danger of plowing ahead is that you can end up just working and working longer and longer, until your whole day disintegrates into an undifferentiated mass of low-productivity work. And you DO NOT want that. On the other hand, completing a task has such a huge psychological payoff that you won’t want to stop if you’re close to the finish line. So how do you resolve this conflict? Just apply these guidelines:

1. When you’re scheduling a task, first determine how you’ll know when you’ve finished it! Since you may well be working on a sub-task – one component of a larger task – admit that to yourself and make sure you specify what determines completing the sub-task rather than the larger task.

2. Then determine how long the task will likely take. Then add at least 25% as a safety net – most of us consistently underestimate the time we need.

3. If the task can be completed within a one hour time chunk, then you work at it until it’s completed.

4. If the task is a longer task or a more “creative” one where it’s difficult to say how long it will take, then you stop working after your allotted time expires, no matter what.

2. Preparing Your Workspace:

Make sure your work area is clean and neat: a messy environment will compromise your productivity. Be sure to lay out any documents you’ll need in advance and make sure you have any electronic documents or web pages you’ll need open and ready before you begin. Otherwise, you may spend the first 10 minutes of your “working time” just digging up these items and becoming more and more frustrated.

Next, turn your phone’s ringer off and send all incoming calls to voice mail. If you’re in an office and have an assistant, make sure he or she knows you don’t want to be disturbed. If you’re working from home, negotiate with your family so they know to leave you alone as much as possible when you’re really working.

Also, close your email, your Twitter, your instant messaging and any other means of electronic communications you have. If you’re really serious about doubling your personal productivity, you MUST be willing to make your self 100% “available” to your work for defined periods of time, and that means making yourself 100% unavailable to the demands and interruptions of other people while you’re doing a blitz on your HVTs.

3. Before You Start:

Now that you’ve prepared your physical workspace, it’s time to spend a few minutes on your mental workspace. Going into a task fully motivated will significantly improve your productivity, a lesson every athlete knows all too well.

Find whatever inspires you in your work. It could be success stories in your industry, a book about personal effectiveness, time management or productivity, or simply the vision of what you are working towards. Then spend a few minutes reading or thinking about this until you feel “in the zone”. But don’t stop there…

Close your eyes and visualize yourself working on your task. Make sure you FEEL how easily you’ll complete it and the feeling of personal satisfaction that comes from that. Once you can feel all that, then you’re truly ready to begin.

And once you begin, have a timer or stop watch nearby so you can play “beat the clock” – a phenomenal method for keeping your relentlessly focused on the task at hand.

All these preparations – which most people simply skip over – are absolutely critical to doubling your productivity. Without them, no matter how well you’ve prioritized, your execution will be second rate and the time it will take you to complete a given task can easily increase by 3-400%. So resist the temptation to dive into your work without doing these preparatory steps first. At first these steps may seem tedious but once they’ve become a habit for you, you’ll understand how essential they really are.

Join us next time for the third and final installment of this 3-part series on how to double your personal productivity in just 30 days, when I’ll share with you the strategic secrets of flawless execution.

– Dr. Symeon Rodger

Defining Personal Productivity

For me, personal productivity means the ability to deliver results when needed, may it be something to your boss or for yourself. Furthermore, the results should be achieved without too much negative stress. How often have you achieved this? Most of us have been truly productive quite seldom. I think that this is something that can be developed, by learning a specific set of six crucial skills. I’ll run them down for you below.

Learning is important for personal productivity. Just think about all the new stuff and things we need to learn, only to keep functioning. If nothing else, the user interface of Facebook has suddenly changed, and you have to learn that all again. Ways to learn more easily include faster reading, using mind maps, and for the more advanced also mnemonics (the art of memory tricks).

Organization skills are also very important, as we are constantly overflowed with new things, papers, and information. Some things we should keep and store, others we should immediately get rid of, or they will just increase the amount of clutter lying around. Personal organization methods can really come handy at such situations. Just think what it means to your productivity,when you manage to find that receipt from 2 months ago within 30 seconds of the situation when you need them.

I see time management as a sub skill to personal productivity. With time management, we refer to the art of keeping your calendar in order, and managing task and email. Good time management also means minimizing the time used for procrastination.

In order to get results, we also have to keep fit mentally. Stress will wear you down, if you are not careful. Luckily there exists practices like mediation, but doing sports and meting friends will do as well. The point is, however, this: even in the most hectic work situations, keep calm. With a stable mind, everything is easier, which leads to increased productivity.

One interesting area is creativity. Our work today if filled with problems, and basically we all get paid for solving them. Can you imagine that there actually exists dozens of small tools to help you on that area? Having creativity handy when you need it, will help you finish that presentation your boss is waiting for, making you both happy. Your boss gets his fast delivery, and you can go home earlier.

Last but not least we have decision making. We all know people who cannot make even the smallest decision, they simply don’t have the guts to do it. What do I say again? There exists tools to help you.

Putting in some effort and studying even little in the areas above will help your personal productivity.

How to Increase Your Personal Productivity

Sarah was envious of her colleague who manages to get off work on time every day. She seems to be able to accomplish all her projects on time. In addition to that, she has the time to offer help to the rest of her members on her team. Sarah, on the other hand has to take her work home in order to complete her project on time.

Her colleague, Betty always has a list to check off from before she leaves for the day. In addition, she has a separate list whereby she lists her task for the next day. She wondered if that small piece of paper laid the secret to her personal productivity. Sarah decided to find out from her colleague, Betty.

According to Betty, the small list which she wrote out the day before allows her to plan her day the next day. This is indeed one of her secrets to personal productivity and helps her to plan out her work the day before. She knows exactly what she needs to get done and accomplish for the day.

Besides that, these are the three additional personal productivity tips she has to share with her.

#1 Do a time audit

Time is a finite resource. In order to increase your personal productivity, you have to know how you are spending your time. A single table listing every activity you do and the time taken for each will reveal how you are spending your time. For instance, Betty discovered during the time audit that she was previously spending a lot of time surfing the Internet the minute she logged onto her email account at the beginning of the day. Thus, she decided to read work related email once she has completed her most vital task for the day instead of at the beginning of her work day.

#2 Set Goals

In order to make best use of your time, you have to set goals. The best way to manage your daily activities is to take your annual goals and break them into monthly, weekly and daily action steps to take.

You can better manage your time on a daily basis if you first begin the day by listing the tasks that need to be accomplished. By having a list of goals, you can also evaluate your progress on a daily basis.

#3 Monitor your progress

What gets measured improves. Once you have listed your tasks for the day, you have to evaluate your progress.

For a start, evaluate your progress on an hourly basis to ensure you have accomplished what you have set out to do in that hour. Once you are familiar with this process, you can evaluate your progress on a daily basis and subsequently on a weekly basis.

To continue to find new ways to increase your productivity at work, always take an hour a month to evaluate your activities and list down the things that can be delegated to free up your time. This one hour investment of your time also allows you to improve the process at work. You can further improve your personal productivity by using personal productivity tools.

The key to increasing your personal productivity lies in identifying your tie wasters, setting goals and evaluating your progress regularly.