10 Personal Productivity Strategies & Tools
1) Priorities First
Determine what’s most important to accomplish. Then identify the activities that will lead most directly your desired results, your High Impact Activities.
Schedule those High Impact Activities first in your day. Don’t “bump” them unless there’s a true emergency. If you do, reschedule them immediately.
For more on this, download “The Single Most Effective Productivity Strategy” a free chapter of Leaders Lab: 66 Ways to Develop Your Skill, Strategy, and Style.
2) Focus Your Attention
Work that moves things forward requires deep concentration. Schedule uninterrupted time for it. Eliminate distractions. Resist the temptation to check email or social media or to multitask (see The Truth about Multitasking). Focus your attention.
My favorite tool for this is is a simple free app called Tomato One. It times you for a concentrated 25-minute work period, then gives you 5 minutes rest. (You can adjust the time periods if desired.) It records your “tomatoes” each day for two weeks to help you recognize your work patterns.
3) Master Basic Productivity Tools
Most of us need to have four basic productivity systems:
- Time Management Systems for scheduling, prioritizing, and managing tasks. For example, calendars and “to do” lists.
- Communication Systems to exchange information with others, such as email, messaging, and phone systems.
- Information Management Systems that allow us to track, save, find, and analyze information, such as systems for filing, keeping contact information, and measuring results.
- Financial Systems that allow us to make and receive payments, track revenue, expenses, and other financial information.
The specific systems and tools that will work best for you depend on factors such as your roles, personal style, requirements of your organization, and your customer’s preferences.
For instance, most of us use the calendar system that came with our computer, Outlook or iCal. It may be supplemented with your own organization’s scheduling system or a system such as Time Trade that allows customer or others to easily make appointments.
Select appropriate, reliable tools. I suggest using the simplest ones that will get the job done; otherwise, you are likely to be spending otherwise-useful time managing your systems.
Choose systems that work for you. Learn to use them. Set up features that will save time and keep you organized.
4) Stay Organized
Clear away clutter. Don’t keep more around than you need. Cull regularly.
Have “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” Keep things near where you use them. Make it easy to put things away. Put them away where you will be able to find them.
To keep notes, articles, and research materials organized, a tool I like is Evernote. You can sort notes and saved articles into notebooks and then add tags so you can easily find them later. Evernote has a free Basic plan, along with paid plans ($34.99-$120/year) that provide more storage, ability to sync across multiple devices, and additional search and collaboration features.
5) Get Help
If you find yourself juggling multiple roles and needing help with specialized tasks, check out Fiverr. For $5, or multiples of $5, all sorts of freelancers will perform tasks ranging from graphic design to writing, research, tech, or promotion. I’ve used Fiverr for book covers, banner ads, logos, videos, social media, promotion, file conversion, and more.
Tips for using Fiverr: Look for experienced specialists with lots of reviews who have earned a good rating. Note the number of orders in the queue and expected delivery time. Be ready to provide very specific directions on what you want.
Once and done. Set up systems to automatically handle recurring tasks. For example, sign up for automatic bill-pay and supply reorders, set up regular computer back ups, and draft reusable copy for email autoresponders.
I’m experimenting right now with IFTTT (If This, Then That), a free app that brings together popular services, such as Facebook, Amazon Alexa, SurveyMonkey, Evernote, LinkedIn, and Square, to allow you to automate all sorts of tasks. You can arrange to receive notifications or reminders or set up activities to happen automatically. For example, it can add a weather report to your calendar every day at a certain time, send you stock price notifications, automatically pin new WordPress blog posts to a Pinterest board, and add new Square payments to a spreadsheet.
7) Make Smart Decisions
Make informed decisions and improvements by quickly gathering input and feedback from prospects, colleagues, or customers. I use SurveyMonkey’s free Basic Plan, which allows you to ask up to 100 people 10 questions in 15 different formats. Paid plans allow more questions and respondents and provide additional analytical, reporting, and collaboration features.
8) Collaborate Conveniently
Need to communicate and collaborate with multiple parties? If you work for a large organization, you may be able to access full-bodied online collaboration and audio- or web conferencing services, but what if you’re a solo-preneur or need something for personal use? Along with Skype and Google Hangouts and Docs options, I’ve found I can get the job done free most of the time with FreeConferenceCall.com. It features recordable reservationless HD audio-conferencing, video conferencing, and screensharing,
9) Shop Efficiently
Online shopping can save a lot of time and money if you shop strategically.
- Choose a few sites that carry products you buy often at competitive prices. Set up accounts that will allow you to make quick transactions.
- Keep shopping lists. Batch purchases when possible, in order to qualify for free shipping. Some sites will allow you to keep items in your shopping cart or on a wish list until you’re ready to buy.
- Consider Amazon Prime if you do a lot of online shopping. I love the fast, free shipping (and getting free shipping on any size order.) The access to music, movies, TV shows and Kindle library are a wonderful plus!
10) Invest In Your Productivity
Productivity skills are “Mega Skills.” Upgrading your productivity skills and tools will have a positive effect on everything you do.
Check out my list of recommended books from productivity experts. Learn productivity principles. Then make them your own.
Try out a few systems, apps, and other tools. Then decide what works best for you. Productivity systems are no good if you don’t use them.
Evaluate your productivity and systems from time to time, especially when there are changes in your roles, organization, and technology.
©New Century Leadership LLC 2017