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I’ve been in a bit of a how to maximise personal productivity frame of mind this week. Not in the way that might make you think that I’ve been super-productive, but more the opposite: I think I could’ve done more to maximise my personal productivity. I’ve therefore been questioning my productivity methods. I’m definitely a productivity fan and feel great when I’ve had a really productive day but lousy when I’ve lost a day to procrastination or laziness.
Do You Maximise Personal Productivity?
Of course this is entirely subjective, and to some extent this is the problem with gauging productivity. How do you know you’ve been productive?
• Is it the number of tasks you’ve managed to cross off your to-do list today?
• Did you finally manage to move forward on a horribly large task that you’ve been putting off for-ev-er?
• Have you been productive because you’ve managed to fire-fight tasks all day and things now seem much calmer?
• Or maybe you’ve actually worked on the things that you really wanted to work on?
You see? Subjective!
Any and all of these are guaranteed to give you some semblance of productivity, but which one(s) leave you feeling most satisfied at the end of the day?
Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before. Franz Kafka
What or Who is Driving Your Day?
I think the real answer to that question is how you feel about your day when you look back over it. If the things you accomplished make you feel happy, then it’s been a productive day for you. But if, as in a lot of cases, you actually feel frustrated, uninspired, empty or defeated then it’s probably time to re-think how you’re approaching your day.
I often feel that my day is driven by the needs of others, but if I take a stark look at how I’m approaching my day and the tasks I allow to enter it, I’m often the perpetrator of the loss of control of my immediate productivity choices. This is definitely something to ponder if you often feel that you don’t control your working day.
Check in with your Energy
There’s also the energy variable to consider. I’m completely useless at planning rest periods ahead of when I need them, because I rarely know when I’ll actually need to rest. Consequently, rest tends to impose itself on me in the form of a complete lack of energy, motivation or enthusiasm and I spend the day wondering why I can’t get myself into gear!
It’s often only with hindsight that I realise that I should have planned ahead to take some rest. If only I’d organised a completely different activity, it would have given my mind and body a different experience for the day.
Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity. Tom Hodgkinson
Of course, this can be difficult, especially when your to-do list stretches from here to infinity, but rest periods allow for some re-generation which usually results in new thoughts and revelations. At the very least, it can put some real fun back into your life.
I was sceptical about that last sentence and the inclusion of the word ‘fun’ as I thoroughly enjoy writing, so maybe this is ‘fun’ for me. However, it doesn’t come without pressure. I have a self-imposed deadline (must post on a Sunday), and a goal to post six blogs per month. Sometimes I’m not overflowing with ideas, which leads to a certain amount of pressure. It’s a Catch-22.
So what can you do to maximise personal productivity?
Identify Meaningful Tasks
This often comes down to just identifying the things you really want to do. I can’t stress this strongly enough. You will feel far more productive and much happier if you work on those things that are meaningful to you, rather than spending your day reacting to the needs of others.
That’s not to say that you withdraw from helping others, or responding to real emergencies. But what it actually means is that you keep uppermost in your mind, and work on those tasks you have earmarked as important to you. When you do this, you will find that your energy and motivation will naturally rise as you cross each task of your list, which will give you more enthusiasm to help out others who require your assistance.
Review and Reflect on Your Week
If I were to reflect over my accomplishments this week, there’s a good chance that they didn’t align with my plans for the week. Consequently, I haven’t fully worked in congruence with my own values.
And this is something we all need to be very much aware of. It’s also particularly important if you haven’t taken some time out to articulate your goals or your plans for the day, week, month etc. Because, when you don’t have any clear plans, you will always, by default, fall into the plans of others’. The problem being, of course, that you might not be a willing participant, but in the absence of anything else, then you may as well go along with what’s being asked of you.
Planning Your Days and Weeks
So what does that mean for my planning process this week? Well, my musings and research have led me back to where I know I need to be and that is to ensure that every day I fully articulate the outcomes I want to achieve. In a broader sense, I also need to do this for the coming week, as this will help with planning each of my days. Having personal productivity systems or a personal productivity planner will always help with this process and I utilise my Dotted Bullet Journal regularly to try to stay on track (or where I go off track, I have a record!).
I’ve no doubt that there will be days when my energy reserves will be low for one reason or another, or that the level of demands from others will exceed my capacity to address everything that comes my way, but, with an overriding plan of what I want to accomplish that day, there’s a much better chance that I will keep going in the direction I planned and maximise personal productivity.
And with this approach, I should be able to say that I have had a productive day (by my subjective standards) and I’ll feel happier for having done so. It’s worth a(nother) try, I think!
Useful Productivity Resources (including a link to the Bullet Journal I use)
What about you? Do you feel that you are productive? Are you productive on the things that make you happy or are you feeling somewhat lacklustre by your current to-dos?