Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Productivity: How to get started and avoid pitfalls

Improving your personal productivity and discovering what works with you is a process that involves time, dedication and experimentation. Here are just a few tips and tricks from to help you get the ball rolling, keep it rolling and stay away from the biggest productivity-sapping traps.

Getting started

After you make the conscious decision to get to work on your productivity, you want to get started right away. But many times getting started on getting things done can seem like such a daunting task that we completely fail to start.

You can easily get started with productivity and see immediate results with a few uncomplicated tips from Heshy Shayovitz. His advice:

  • Stop thinking about your to-do list. Don’t keep your to-do list locked up in your head, there’s too much going on up there and you risk forgetting something. Free your mind and let creativity flow.
  • Just do it. If you can complete a task in two minutes or less, just do it. You’ll feel better about accomplishing something and more inclined to tackle everything else on your list.
  • Keep your head in the game. Be conscious in whatever you’re working on at the moment. When you’re working on something, ask yourself three questions: why am I doing this? How can I stop doing it? How can I do it better?

Time management

With more on how to do things better and in less time, Chris Young at the Rainmaker Group recently put together a list of effective time management tips and techniques. To manage your time more effectively and maximize your possibility, Chris suggests:

  • Have priorities. Put your to-do list in order, starting with the most important tasks and ending with things that could wait until later.
  • Turn on the “green” light. Use your most productive time, what Chris calls “green time,” to focus on getting things done. Avoid taking long breaks or running errands during the most productive part of your day.
  • Put up your guard. Don’t let others take away from your “green time” with unnecessary distractions. Guard your time from outside disruptions as much as possible.
  • Take a break. If you need a break, take a quick 10 minute walk to recharge and then quickly get back to work.

Productivity pitfalls

After you’ve started on improving your personal productivity and are on a roll, be sure not to fall into any productivity-sapping traps. Productivity paranoia, as Christina Laun at Bootstrapper likes to call it, is a dangerous area where productivity management takes over your life and well being, at work and at the office.

Here’s some of Christina’s advice to avoid falling into productivity paranoia and get your efficiency obsession under control:

  • Work with the time you have. You can only fit so much work into one day, so stop wishing you had more time. It’s not the end of the world if there are things left on your to-do list when the day is over.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. Checking everything off your list will make you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot, but the quality of each task probably suffered. Give yourself a pat on the back for the work you’ve completed each day.
  • Enjoy your personal time. When you’re away from work, do your best to not think about work. Time off is healthy and will keep you more productive when you return to the office.
  • Discover what works. There are hundreds of productivity techniques out there and finding the one that works for you may take time. Find what works for you and stick with it.

Personal productivity is a conscious pact you make with yourself. It may take some time to figure out exactly what works for you, but stick with it once you find out how you work best. Just be careful to not fall into productivity paranoia and you’ll be just fine.

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