Time Management Strategies For Increasing Personal Productivity

If you could increase your personal productivity by say 20%, what difference would that make to the work you get completed and the success you achieve? With the right strategies and actions it will probably make a huge difference. There are many ways to increase your productivity and the right time management strategies are essential to this process. Being more productive can also leave you feeling more fulfilled rather than feeling dissatisfied when you haven’t completed anywhere near enough each day.

I encourage you to take improving your productivity just one step at a time and continually building on it. Here’s two strategies that can help you with your own productivity.

Prioritizing.

One of the best ways to being more productive is the use of prioritizing. This allows you to see clearly what needs to be focused on rather than just stabbing around in the dark with many different actions that anyway may not lead to the results you desire. Before you carry out any tasks, just take a small amount of time to determine your priorities. These priorities are the tasks that are in alignment with your goals. At a high level you need to prioritize which projects to work on, within these projects prioritize the individual tasks. Then prioritize our daily task list so that the important stuff gets done.

Become more efficient.

Efficiency it about getting tasks done well as quickly as possible. There is often a more efficient way of doing something if we only stop for a very short while to think about and see what that could be. I therefore encourage you to look at your tasks and ask yourself, “what would enable me to get this done quicker?”. It may be that you need to invest in some new tools or equipment, or speak with a colleague and find out how they are able to complete the same tasks quicker than you.

Increasing your personal productivity and making the most of time management strategies helps you to achieve your goals and feel great about yourself.

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.

Triple Your Personal Productivity

Have you ever had the experience of looking back on your week with the sinking feeling that you didn’t get as much done as you’d hoped? When building a successful career or a business of your own, your time is perhaps your most valuable asset, and your income is a direct result of how you spend your time. You cannot buy any more time than you’re given, and the clock is always ticking. A few years ago, I discovered a simple system that allowed me to nearly triple my productivity, and in this article I’ll share some very practical ideas you can apply right away to increase your effectiveness without working any harder than you do now.

Keep a detailed time log.

The first step to better managing your time is to find out how you’re currently spending your time. Keeping a time log is a very effective way to do this, and after trying it for just one day, you’ll immediately gain tremendous insight into where your time is actually going. The very act of measuring is often enough to raise your unconscious habits into your consciousness, where you then have a chance to scrutinize and change them.

Here’s how to keep a time log. Throughout your day record the time whenever you start or stop any activity. Consider using a stopwatch to just record time intervals for each activity. You can do this during only your working time or throughout your entire day. At the end of the day, sort all the time chunks into general categories, and find out what percentage of your time is being spent on each type of activity. If you want to be thorough, do this for a week, and calculate the percentage of your total time that you spent on each type of activity. Be as detailed as possible. Note how much time you spend on email, reading newsgroups, web surfing, phone calls, eating, going to the bathroom, etc. If you get up out of your chair, it probably means you need to make an entry in your time log. I typically end up with 50-100 log entries per day.

You may be surprised to discover you’re spending only a small fraction of your working time doing what you’d consider to be actual work. Studies have shown that the average office worker does only 1.5 hours of actual work per day. The rest of the time is spent socializing, taking coffee breaks, eating, engaging in non-business communication, shuffling papers, and doing lots of other non-work tasks. The average full-time office worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00am and begins to wind down around 3:30pm.

Analyze your results.

The first time I kept a time log, I only finished 15 hours worth of real work in a week where I spent about 60 hours in my office. Even though I was technically about twice as productive as the average office worker, I was still disturbed by the results. Where did those other 45 hours go? My time log laid it all out for me, showing me all the time drains I wasn’t consciously aware of — checking email too often, excessive perfectionism doing tasks that didn’t need to be done, over-reading the news, taking too much time for meals, succumbing to preventable interruptions, etc.

Calculate your personal efficiency ratio.

When I realized that I spent 60 hours at the office but only completed 15 hours of actual work within that time, I started asking myself some interesting questions. My income and my sense of accomplishment depended only on those 15 hours, not on the total amount of time I spent at the office. So I decided to begin recording my daily efficiency ratio as the amount of time I spent on actual work divided by the total amount of time I spent in my office. While it certainly bothered me that I was only working 25% of the time initially, I also realized it would be extremely foolish to simply work longer hours.

Efficiency Ratio = (Time Doing “Real Work”) / (Time Spent “At Work”)

Cut back on total hours to force an increase in efficiency.

If you’ve ever tried to discipline yourself to do something you weren’t really motivated to do, you most likely failed. That was naturally the result I experienced when I tried to discipline myself to work harder. In fact, trying harder actually de-motivated me and drove my efficiency ratio even lower. So I reluctantly decided to try the opposite approach. The next day I would only allow myself to put in five hours total at the office, and the rest of the day I wouldn’t allow myself to work at all. Well, an interesting thing happened, as I’m sure you can imagine. My brain must have gotten the idea that working time was a scarce commodity because I worked almost the entire five hours straight and got an efficiency ratio of over 90%. I continued this experiment for the rest of the week and ended up getting about 25 hours of work done with only 30 hours total spent in my office, for an efficiency ratio of over 80%. So I was able to reduce my weekly working time by 30 hours while also getting 10 more hours of real work done. If your time log shows your efficiency ratio to be on the low side, try severely limiting your total amount of working time for a day, and see what happens. Once your brain realizes that working time is scarce, you suddenly become a lot more efficient because you have to be. When you have tight time constraints, you will usually find a way to get your work done. But when you have all the time in the world, it’s too easy to be inefficient.

Gradually increase total hours while maintaining peak efficiency.

Over a period of a few weeks, I was able to keep my efficiency ratio above 80% while gradually increasing my total weekly office time. I’ve been able to maintain this for many years now, and I commonly get about 40 hours of real work done every week, while only spending about 45 total hours in my office. I’ve learned that this is ideal for me. If I try to put in more time at the office, then my productivity drops off rapidly. The interesting thing is that the system that allowed me to optimize my effectiveness at work also created a tremendous amount of balance in all other areas of my life. Even though I was able to use this approach to triple my business productivity, I still gained plenty of time to pursue personal interests.

Time logging is the intelligent choice to ensure optimal productivity without increasing your hours. But time logging need only be done periodically to provide these benefits. I do it for one week every 3-6 months, and over the years it has made a huge difference for me, always providing me with new distinctions. If I go too many months without time logging, my productivity gradually drops as I fall back into unconscious time-wasting habits. You’ll probably find as I do that your gut feelings about your productivity are closely related to how much real work you actually get done. When you feel your productivity is lower than you’d like, raise your awareness via time logging, measure your efficiency ratio, and then optimize your efficiency to boost your productivity back up where it belongs. Time logging is a high leverage activity that takes very little time and effort to implement, but the long-term payoff is tremendous.

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!