Three Measures Of Personal Productivity

Most of the talk about performance measures is how they are applied to monitor the performance of an organization, a business, staff, a project, or a process.

But have you ever used performance measures for your own personal performance? One area that really lends itself to being measured is personal productivity. This is about how well we use our time to achieve whatever goals we’ve set. Of course, it virtually goes without saying (but let’s say it anyway), if you have no goals then you have no way of assessing your productivity!

Personal productivity is something we all have to deal with, particularly when there are personal goals we’re striving for, and no end of obstacles and distractions getting in the way of our striving!

So here’s a handful of measures, over which you might like to ponder with the question “would it be useful for me to know this?”

Return on time invested (nickname is ROTI)

You have to define what the “return” is for you, and how you’ll quantify it. Then you just divide that quantity by the number of hours (or days or whatever) that you’ve invested in generating that return.

If you’re a consultant or solo business owner, for example, your return might be profit. So you could measure the profit your business earns for every hour you invest in your business.

It’s a measure that easily leads you to the question “which activities give me the highest return, and how can I do more of those activities?”

Percentage of time spent on priorities

Do you know what your priorities are? Can you recognise when you’re working on them, as opposed to things that aren’t a priority?

If you can, then by keeping simple records in your Outlook Calendar or diary, you can easily tally up the proportion of your time each week that you gave to your highest priority tasks.

It’s a great measure to really appreciate the extent to which we can let distractions and other people’s priorities invade our time.

Task cycle time

If there are tasks that you perform time and again, such as preparing for meetings or writing a specific type of report, or recruiting staff, then a little careful analysis might highlight where you can save time that’s currently being wasted.

It happens to the best of us – we get carried away with how things are done, and forget to check for better ways of doing them. Measuring the cycle time of your regular tasks can encourage you to ask this question (and hopefully find ways to improve your personal productivity).

These aren’t the only measures of personal productivity, of course. But if you’re currently measuring nothing about how well you use your time to achieve whatever goals you’ve set, could one or more of these be a good place to start?

Efficiency and effectiveness equals productivity.

Efficiency can be described as doing as much as can be done in the time available with a minimum of effort. It goes without saying that if you work efficiently you will have the capacity to get more done. But this is not enough to maximise your personal productivity. You could be very efficient at getting things done, but if you then spend the rest of your time doing nothing of value, then you have missed a huge opportunity to be more productive. Even worse it is possible to be efficient at getting the wrong things done!

The other factor is effectiveness (or efficacy): that is doing the right things, doing them right and doing them at the right time. So here are five ways to boost your productivity.

1. Identity:

How do you do the right things? This starts with defining your values and purpose in life or in work and with it the vision of what your life, your environment or your work will look like in some future state produced by being on purpose. This is followed by setting goals and working towards them. The big things you decide to do must be consistent with your identity, your values, beliefs and purpose or you’re unlikely to truly commit to them.

2. Learning:

How do you do the right things right? This is about learning, training, practising activities until you can do them well. The link here to efficiency is an obvious one, in that if you do things right then you shouldn’t have to redo it, saving time and money. So what do you need to learn to be able to do what you need to do to be on purpose and work towards your vision?

3. Planning:

Finally, how do you do the right things, right, at the right time? Prioritising, planning, and time management are part of this. You need to be clear about your priorities and about what needs to be done first. Your plan needs to accommodate these priorities and put them in order (a great way to do this is with post-it notes). Your plan also needs a time-frame. Admittedly, the time-frame for achieving your vision may be imprecise, but better to set one and adjust as the plan proceeds than to have no completion date in mind. Milestones in the plan will have much more precise timelines.

4. Discipline:

Another aspect of doing things at the right time is discipline. Self-discipline is defined as doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done even if you don’t feel like doing it.

5. Accountability:

You can help yourself to become more disciplined if someone holds you accountable. This could be a coach, a mentor, a confidant or a mastermind group. Your probability of successfully achieving your goals increases from around 40% if you do nothing more than have the idea to 76% if you ask someone you respect to hold you accountable to achieve the goal.

In summary, to be productive you need to be efficient. Then you also need to do the right things (aligned with your values, purpose and vision for the future), do them right (have the aptitude, skills and knowledge or ability to rely on others who do) and do them at the right time (planning, discipline and accountability).

Personal Productivity Secrets – Part 2

In the first article of this five-part series I left you with an action step. I instructed you to track every activity over the course of one week. You should have data that shows each activity and the amount of time it took to do it. So, by now you have five full days worth of information to process.

So how did you do? Whatever your results were, it is simply a snapshot of how you spend your time. It is time for a closer look and spot the time wasters.

The first time I did this exercise, the results were incredibly enlightening. I found out a lot about myself and the habits I kept. I finally grasped just how much time I spent avoiding the high-value, high-priority items. Incidentally, these items were also the highest paying projects on my plate.

The first surprise was to see how many actual billable or on-the-bench work hours I had during that week. I found out that I wasted more hours than I thought. I had procrastinated on projects a lot. I did a lot of low-value projects that could have been given to others to complete. I ran errands as an excuse to get out of the shop, even though someone else could have accomplished them just as easily. Email and text messages flowed steadily, interrupting the momentum I would again, have to build up. Break times were longer than the 15 minutes allotted and more than a few stretched to a half an hour. All the while rationalizing to myself “I’m the boss. I don’t have to be so strict with my time”.

In general, I discovered a lot of bad habits. Bad habits that were preventing me from producing more. I realized that the income I was earning was coming from less than half of time I spent in the shop. The rest of the time was spent doing jobs that didn’t really focus on my unique skill set. Jobs I should have delegated to another capable person.

So now what do you do with the data you collected? If I were you I would identify all the things that you are currently doing that add little or no value to your income and do one of two things. Delete them. Delegate them. Replace that time with meaningful work that produces tangible results.

In the next article, we will take a look at your daily habits. Which habits you should drop, and which habits you can adopt that will make a huge difference to your daily productivity.

Personal Productivity – How to Boost it For Success

Productivity, the key to business and personal success.

Let’s talk about productivity, what it is, why it’s important and how to achieve it. What do I mean by “productivity, the key to business and personal success”? What I mean is that productivity, in this sense, is about results. It’s about creating actual, real world, tangible, measurable results. It’s not about just doing a bunch of work and pretending like you’re getting a lot done or trying to look like you’re getting it done. It’s about actually getting results in the real world. I’m going to teach you a technique here for really maximizing your productivity. It’s a simple technique. Anyone can do it. You can do it starting immediately. I think you’ll see that it’ll dramatically increase your productivity.

The first distinction I want to draw is the distinction between activity and results. You’ll hear me talk a lot about this. You hear other experts talk a lot about it. It’s very easy to confuse activity with results – to get confused and think that a bunch of work equals a bunch of results. This is particularly a problem with people that you have working on your team because people that are used to working in the job environment, they’re just used to doing their job and getting a paycheck. In fact, in employee and job type roles, results are often the enemy.

I heard a great story about a mailman that went to work at the post office, and he was new. The guy that had his route before him worked on it for like 30 years. This guy came in, went through the whole route, and got done halfway through the day and came back and said, “I’m done,” and the other postal workers said, “Figure out how to take longer to do that because you’re making us look bad, and if you don’t, we’re going to make your life hell.” He said, “Oh, I understand.” These postal workers were used to just having a job where they get paid for time and not for results. They didn’t want to have that threatened because they were taking their time doing personal things and so forth.

Sometimes the job mentality can really corrupt results. So, how do you get around this?

The technique I want to share with you right now for maximizing results is very simple. It’s deceptively simple, but I think if you start using it, you’ll see it’s amazing. The idea is to start measuring productivity visually. Here’s what I mean: Let’s say that you want to lose some weight. Well, we don’t really know how much we weigh. We can’t really see it, and if we get on the scale every day, sometimes we weigh a couple of pounds more, sometimes we weight a couple of pounds less, depending on what we ate or we drank or the time of day or whether we have our clothes on or we just took a shower or whatever. It’s kind of hard to see. We can’t really get a feedback system that informs us.

On the other hand, you can take a simple spreadsheet, like Microsoft Excel or like a Google spreadsheet, which you can get for free online with Google apps and weigh yourself everyday. Then, you put the weight in the box, click on the little charting button, and you create a visual chart. What happens is you see it going up and down. You see the variation. And this is in any process you measure. You see the direction it’s going. Is it going up? Is it flat? Is it going down? You can actually see it very clearly. The visual feedback does its own work. It builds its own awareness. It creates direction all by itself.

I use this technique, not only with a lot of different projects that I’m working on, but also all through my business. In fact, we measure dozens and hundreds of different variables and numbers and processes on visual charts, so that we all know what’s going on. If you look at a column of numbers, there’s no way to chart it in your mind. You can kind of figure it out, but when you see a chart, a graph with the actual progress, and you can see it’s going up, it’s going down. You can see any exceptions. The whole thing speaks very loudly. I think that this idea, what they call the visual display of quantitative information – in other words, the charting of numbers – is one of the biggest innovations that we’ve ever had as a SPECIES.

So, do you want to dramatically increase your productivity? Take the top three things that you’re working on, and figure out how to put them on a chart. Let’s say it’s a project you’re working on. Put down how many hours per day you are investing in the project – uninterrupted and not distracted…totally focused. Put it in the box every day. Do you want to track your sales, and make them go up? Put in the sales that you’re making every day for yourself or for your business, and chart it. You will watch it go up. Things that are measured improve.

There’s a great quote that my friend Joe Polish says a lot: “Processes that are measured improve, and processes that are measured and reported improve exponentially.” So if you really, really want to get a lot of juice out of this, start measuring your process and then start reporting it to someone else. You will see everything happens inside of you to make your process improve and to start getting a lot more results and to dramatically increase your productivity.

So there’s one great idea for increasing your productivity. Put it to work right now. Start visually charting and watch your productivity skyrocket.