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