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Improve Personal Productivity by Knowing Yourself Well

How do we improve personal productivity at work? Recall that personal productivity is an equation of Me, You and Situation? We want to work on the Me factor. Personal productivity starts from the individual’s awareness or as we term it Personal Awareness. Personal Awareness is based on how our mental model works. Your mental model setups mental boundaries, predict the outcome or process of work. Our personal awareness (surrounding the Me) can be characterized into four quadrants.

“I know what I can do” – The most preferred quadrant. Individuals of this quadrant know what they are doing. Know who, what, where, when and how they can do to achieve their objectives. Usually they are confident individuals that are able to predict the outcome.

“I know what I cannot do” – Usually paired together with individuals of “I know what I can do”; Individuals are conscious of their limit of their abilities. This is important as they can identify which type of work is suitable for them and which are above their abilities.

“I do not know what I can do” – Individuals fail to recognize their fullest potential. Their superiors may have identified their untapped potentials but always stumble with the unwillingness of the individual to unleash them. Usually these individuals are resistance to change.

“I do not know what I cannot do” – Ignorance is not a blessing here. Individuals that fall into this quadrant are usually ignorant and over-confident. They fail to see what they can’t perform and usually get themselves into trouble.

Personal productivity starts from understanding your personal awareness. In the four quadrants, by knowing where you are, you can estimate your effort in a task, the time frame committed, the boundaries you are working in, or even further improve personal productivity. Personal productivity is not merely the personal aspect but it can also be achieved at the situational aspect where for example, you are aware of how much effort is required in performing a certain task in a particular situation.

Of course, there is no one straight cut to a specific quadrant. There can be combinations of quadrant and they can deviate in different situations. Now look back the past events that happened at work. Which of the quadrants do you feel you best relate to in how you are aware of yourself and the situation? Were you able to identify that you were able to optimize personal productivity if you were being more aware of yourself or the situation? Have a thought about it! 😉

How to Double Your Personal Productivity in Just 30 Days – 1 – Preparing Your Attack

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

Gamification For Productivity

“Gamification” has become a buzzword in recent years among the tech crowd, but it has spilled over into other arenas as well. With the pervasiveness of smartphone apps and new websites popping up every day, “gamification” seems to be everywhere. At its simplest, it’s just a way of introducing elements of gaming into other tasks.

There are lots of ways to do this: common elements include earning points, gaining levels, and sometimes earning achievements, badges, or prizes. There’s gamification for working out, buying coffee, listening to music, shopping, recycling, and eating out. While retailers and marketers have been using gamification to their best advantage, gamification can also be used to increase productivity, whether in individuals or in a team.

To encourage general productivity, take a look at HabitRPG, which has a website and an iOS app. At its heart, it’s a to-do app, but “RPG” stands for Role-Playing Game, which HabitRPG uses to incentivize productivity. There are four different elements when you start out using the program: habits, dailies, to-dos, and rewards. Habits are actions that you want to either encourage or avoid, but don’t have a specific frequency. Dailies are tasks that you want to repeat on a regular basis: every day, once a week, etc. To-dos are one-off tasks like on any other to-do app. Rewards are things you can purchase by completing your tasks. You earn a certain amount of gold and a certain amount of experience points for each task. Experience points let you level up and eventually unlock different game elements. Gold allows you to buy rewards. As you level up, the game introduces a market, item drops, pets, armor, and other elements. It’s a fun way to keep all of your productivity items in one place with a dynamic and well thought-out incentive scheme.

If you like the idea of a gamified productivity app but don’t need quite as many features, Carrot is an iOS app with a mean streak. It’s a minimalist to-do app that is very user friendly and unlocks features as you gain points. Be warned, though: Carrot has a personality, and if you don’t complete your tasks, she gets angry. How many points you get and how she talks to you depend on what mood she’s in. Carrot is a quirky app that is probably the most unique of the bunch, and worth checking out if only for its surprises.

EpicWin is another RPG productivity program that gives you points and prizes for your real-world tasks. Here again, you can choose your character and level them up as you go. You can’t yet spend gold on things, but EpicWin is in the process of being developed.

If you’re looking to be more productive with a specific task or process, try SuperBetter. SuperBetter gives you tasks, quests, power-ups, and “bad guys” depending on your specific journey, like exercising more, increasing willpower, stress relief, or improving your relationships. It’s not a productivity app in itself, but improving these aspects of your life can definitely improve the rest of it.

If the area of productivity you’re struggling with is managing your finances, there are programs for that, as well. SaveUp is a program tailored to incentivize saving and making smart financial choices. It gives you credits for the choices you make, and you can cash them in to contests with real prizes, or you can cash them out. SmartyPig is a website that also focuses on saving, though a little less gamified than SaveUp. SmartyPig makes saving automatic, and it also rewards you for meeting your goals.

If you’re not so interested in using apps or websites, gamification doesn’t have to involve technology: you can use game elements on your own. The best way to go about it is to start by identifying the tasks that you have a hard time completing or that you want to incentivize. For each of those tasks, determine a point value. You may also want to assign them different categories. Maybe doing the dishes gets you two blue points, but cleaning the bathroom gets you eight red points.

From there, identify rewards, positive (but not goal-subverting) actions or items, and assign them point values as well. Then, to get your rewards, you first have to do enough tasks to afford them. Don’t stop there. When you’re defining your own system, you can get pretty creative. Find ways to allow you to “level up” or do a boss battle: what really big challenge do you have coming up, or what milestone can you celebrate passing? Give yourself constant ways to progress, and you’ll see yourself finding ways to become more productive while having a little fun on the way.