Personal Productivity – A Simple Strategy To Boost Your Productivity

How productive are you? We all know that frustrating feeling of being “busy” and not getting anything done. Productivity is not so much about how much you get done but rather about how well you use your time. Time is a precious commodity and you have a limited amount of it every day. How you use every minute of your day determines the quality of your life. By being more productive you can have a much more balanced life because it allows you to use your time better.

Increasing your productivity is not so much about using will power as it is about having a good strategy. You need to find ways to focus on what’s most important in your life and to focus your energy on that. This is where true fulfillment lies.

Although there are many ways to manage your time and to boost your productivity and performance, there is a simple little technique that works every time. I encourage you to start using it – and to use it daily.

What this technique involves is a 5 minute exercise every day that helps you focus on those areas in your life that needs your energy, your time and your focus.

Start by writing down what you wish to accomplish this year.

Then write down what you wish to accomplish this month.

Then write down what you wish to accomplish this week.

Then write down what you wish to accomplish today.

By starting with the bigger picture it helps you to focus on the bigger goal. By breaking it down to smaller pieces you get to those critical action steps that will help you to do today what will eventually lead you to your most important goals. Its important to keep this simple. If you get in the habit of doing this every day you will soon realize that it helps you to stay very focused and helps you to block out so much of the distractions that causes you to lose sight of your biggest goals.

Consumers Trend Toward Customized and Personalized Products

More and more consumers are gravitating to products that are personalized or can be customized for their individual tastes. They love the feeling that they are buying something unique that allows them to stand out in the crowd.

The consumer research trend company, Trend Watching, has written about the shift to one-of-a-kind products. In a recent online newsletter, their editors write, “No longer do consumers want to be like the Joneses, the Mullers or the Li’s. When individuality rules and conformity is frowned upon, owning something no one else has is hot.”

Applying this concept to the mass consumer market, Trend Watching goes on to write that buyers are looking to be masters of their own “Youniverse.”

Emphasis on the You.

Along these same lines, from the Oct. 27, 2008 issue of U.S. News and World Report, the publication describes the consumer market as it shifts from mass to unique. They coined the word “Meconomy” to describe this new trend.

Emphasis on the Me.

Where did this yearning for uniqueness come from? The modern personalization industry is pretty much an American phenomenon. Our country is comprised of people who just plain love to own things that are personalized.

That personalization could be as simple as a first name on a mug or a soft nursery blanket with baby’s initials. It might be custom-designed sneakers for the obsessive runner or make-up that is blended to perfectly match someone’s skin coloring. It might even be personalized stationary and postage stamps customized with a photo of the family pet. Today, the personalization options are practically endless.

The economy is even having a positive effect on the personalization industry. Faced with a deepening recession, shoppers are demanding that their purchases be more meaningful. A customized gift will fill this need.

U.S. News and World Report Agrees, “By customizing, shoppers can get the most out of less frequent splurges. And, the trend is not restricted to those with money – it spans ages, income groups, and regions.”

Customization has become even more popular and prevalent with online purchases. Websites make it easy to create products just the way you want them.

If you are a Baby Boomer, you will no doubt remember the Burger King “Have it Your Way” ad campaign from the 1970s. It was a catchy jingle with a simple message: visit Burger King rather than the ubiquitous McDonalds and we’ll fix your burger any way you want it.

In essence, Burger King was emphasizing the fact that they would individualize your fast-food experience. The campaign seems simple and tame now, but it was pretty revolutionary back then. Burger King was able to stand out when everyone else was promoting price and predictability.

Today’s consumers want their buying experience to be tailored and personalized just for them. Sure, Wal-Mart will still be the destination for household staples and buyers will visit Costco for the best electronics deals. But for many other purchases, buyers are looking for companies and choices that are outside of the big box. Instead of a name brand that is mass produced (and marketed to the hilt), they want products that relate to their life, a product that makes a personal connection. They want to “have it their way.”

Increase Personal Productivity by Doing Less

Recent studies have shown multi-tasking is not effective. Yes you can walk and chew gum, however, there are limits to balancing multiple tasks, texting while driving, answering cell calls in meetings… I question how this furious activity impacts productivity. Concentration is the key. Could it be that it is not only what we do but what we choose NOT TO DO, that delivers results.

How is it that doing less can increase your productivity? Here are several ideas.

1. Take time to plan. If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. A plan saves time you focus on what should be done and eliminate the time wasters. “There is no point in doing well, that which you should not be doing at all.” Thomas Connellan

2. Stop and reflect. Step away from your desk, phone and computer when you are feeling “out of control”. If you are in an office take a walk outside, I take my dog for a walk. Ask your dog what time is it? She will tell you NOW! Be in the now.

3. Consult your “dashboard”. When I created my strategic plan I developed a dashboard. This is a list of the critical items I need to do on a regular basis, some daily, weekly or monthly. The dashboard enables me to stay focused on these result-producing activities and not get pulled off track by the tyranny of the urgent.

4. Take a break. Change things up, sometimes we keep pushing in a direction with diminishing results. Go to the gym, do something different to recharge your battery. By changing direction you create energy and refresh yourself.

5. Call a meeting with yourself. Often I say “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say.” If a project becomes all consuming, step away and review your priorities and then renew action.

6. Eliminate items from your “to do list”. Go down the list and cross items off that you are NOT going to do. It is totally liberating and empowering. Yes, you decide, you are in charge of your life.

7. Eliminate distractions. Don’t answer the phone. Stop checking your emails all the time; develop specific times to open emails. Stay focused on the one thing you want to accomplish TODAY!

The above are simple steps to focus your energy, feel good about what you are doing and accomplish the things that matter most to you.

Change Habits to Improve Personal Productivity in 2012

For many of us, the New Year means setting new goals and objectives both personally and professionally. We start off the year with high expectations for ourselves and of all the things we are going to accomplish. We get off to a fast start and then…life happens! The constant noise of each new day and the unforeseen circumstances and events of life cause us to lose focus and set aside all of those things that we said we wanted to accomplish.

Before you know it, a year has gone by and very few, if any, of those initial goals or objectives are checked off as “done,” that is if you can actually find the original goal sheet in your cube or office! Sound familiar?

Well this is a new year and a new opportunity to not let that happen. A new opportunity to change your habits, become more disciplined and hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals. The key to all of this is managing your time more effectively. Below are a few tips and techniques to help you get better control of your time so you can accomplish more and meet your goals.

Create Your Own Strategy Map

Although this is not a traditional time management tip, it is critical to shape everything you do. When you create a strategy map, you define your MVV’s (mission, vision and values.) This can be personal or career based. Staying true to your MVV’s, determine your strategic goals for the year. I would recommend only four or five. Once you have these goals, determine the activities you need to engage in to achieve those goals. Lastly, translate those activities into measures and have targets for those measures so you can hold yourself accountable.

The result of this exercise will be a one page diagram that summarizes what you are doing, why you are doing it, how you’re going to do it and how you’re going to measure it. I have my strategy map as my background on my laptop so that every morning it’s the first thing I see. This helps me to immediately focus my day on the things that matter most.

For a sample strategy map, please contact me and I will send you one as well as directions on how to complete it.

Break Down Activities Into Smaller Chunks

One reason we don’t achieve our goals is because they are too big so we don’t even try. For instance, if my goal is to write a book this year, that goal may feel overwhelming on the surface. If I break down that goal into writing one page a day, it seems much more doable. If I do this, I will have a 365 page book written by year end. The key is to break large goals into smaller ones. This gets you started on a positive note which creates momentum along with the desire to continue.

Manage Two of your Biggest Time Wasters

Easily two of the biggest time wasters in the workplace are email and meetings. Look at your emails and ask yourself, “Did I really need to receive this email?” or “Does this email help my achieve my goals?” If not, start the purging process. Ask to be removed from unnecessary distribution lists and tell people to only copy you on things that require your attention. Also, remove yourself from newsletters etc. that distract you from your stated goals. At the very least, route those messages into a folder, “To Be Read Later.” Over time, you will greatly reduce the volume of email which frees up time to do more important things.

Meetings are an even a bigger waste of time, in most cases. If a meeting does not connect to your job duties or goals, don’t go. There is nothing wrong with refusing to be in meetings that are not productive. At a minimum, it may spark a discussion to change a meeting to become more relevant. You may not be able to get rid of all your unproductive meetings but you will be surprised at how many you can get out of that are not worthwhile which frees up time to do other things that align with your strategic goals.

Return to Batch Processing

This may sound counterintuitive in today’s real time environments but studies have shown that what we think of as multi-tasking at work is actually switch-tasking, meaning that we are switching our attention back and forth between different things. There is a cost each time we switch. There are many exercises available that prove this theory. So instead of switching back and forth from answering email, doing research, answering the phone and instant messaging, turn everything off but one thing and focus on that until it is done. Then move on to the next thing and completely focus on that. You will get more done, faster and with higher quality.

Some people have mastered this by only answering email at 10am and 3pm. The rest of the day, email is shut down. They answer message in batches and are much more productive than switching back and forth between different tasks. This also applies to the phone. Forward your phone to voice mail and answer messages at certain times of the day. You will be amazed how much more productive you will be.

Plan for Tomorrow at the End of Today

One simple yet powerful technique is to plan out tomorrow’s work before you leave today or before you go to sleep at night. You will think more clearly than the next morning when the noise of the day can get you even before you start. Planning the night before with a clear head will greatly improve productivity tomorrow.

My Challenge To You

Some of you may think some of my suggestions are crazy or unrealistic in today’s fast paced world. In some cases that may be true but in the vast majority I bet that is not the case. My challenge to you is to just try them and see what happens. Even though you probably can’t eliminate all worthless meetings, what if this helps get one or two off your calendar. Wouldn’t that be worth a try?

Maybe you can’t answer email only at 10am and 3pm but why not shut it off for an hour and focus on only one thing and do it well. My guess is that the world will not explode if you aren’t on email for one hour.

How about breaking big goals into smaller ones that can be done in one day? Isn’t that worth a shot?

Please send me a note to let me know how these tips have helped you become more productive and focused. Just know I won’t respond until 10am or 3pm!!