Sunday, February 14, 2010

Productivity Part 1

Here is a copy of the first of three guest posts that I’m doing for Wayne Small over at www.sbsfaq.com on productivity.

Many of the concepts developed here come from my upcoming book on productivity – Being busy is just an excuse.

If I asked you whether you have enough time your most likely answer will be no. If I then ask you what are the most important things in your life most people will reply something along the lines of their family, partner, friends and so on. Next, if I ask you what really excites you I’ll hear a variety of answers from exotic travel, writing a book and maybe even ballroom dancing. Finally, if I ask you what you actually spend your time doing most people will simply reply – working. That situation doesn’t make for happy and contented life does it?

How is that we live in the most technological advanced age and yet we more stressed, have less time are generally unhappier with our lives than previous generations? What is more precious time or money? Time, simply because you can’t get any more. Yet most people allow their time to be wasted in meaningless and low priority tasks. They allow it to be stolen away by the simplest request. They allow a variety of devices to constantly interrupt and defragment their day. In short, it appears as if they are doing almost anything they can to waste their most precious resource.

Why are you not spending more time on things that excite you? Isn’t that what life is supposedly all about? You wouldn’t stick your money under a mattress would you? You invest it somewhere to get the maximum return. Why aren’t you trying to get the maximum return for your time?

The most important things to learn about your time is that there is only a finite amount each day. Only you can decide how you spend that time. You only get one shot at it, because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. The next point to understand is that you are not going to be able to do everything. There are simply things that you won’t be able to fit in your day. That’s where developing a discipline and priorities help you achieve the things that need to be done not the things you necessarily like doing. This leads to the point that there are always going to be things we don’t like doing but they still need to be done. If you don’t have the discipline and systems to achieve these then you end procrastinating and creating greater levels of stress for yourself.

Before you embark on any journey you need at least three things. Firstly, where you are. Secondly, where you want to go and lastly a map of how to get there. When it comes to improving your productivity the first step is to closely examine and record how you spend each day. Spend at least a week monitoring as much of your day as you can. Record how much time you spend on email, how much time you spend on phone, how much time you spend surfing the web. You need to be totally honest here and ensure that you record exactly what you are doing rather than what you would like to be doing!

By far the easiest method if to use a pen and paper, however there are plenty of digital time recording methods available. The important thing is not how you record your time but that you do. This method is exactly what other professionals like accountants and lawyers use, because they realize the value of their time as it directly equates to income. As you continue to record you will probably start to see patterns emerge, however ensure that you keep recording for at least a week or more.

Once you have enough data sit down and spend some time analysing the results. Where did you allocate your time poorly? Where did you allocate it productively? You may wish to use something like Excel and categorize your time usage to allow you to see patterns better. Many people would see this as a waste of time. The difference is that you are investing some time up front so that you’ll have a bigger payoff further down the track. That’s what investment is all about isn’t it? A little extra sacrifice up front for greater returns down the track. I can assure you that if you are constantly busy and don’t know why tracking your time is a very worthwhile exercise.

So now you have a starting point. This is now your baseline from which my next post will build on.

As always if you have any feedback, comments or questions on what I have talked about here please send them to me via
director@ciaops.com. You’ll find information about myself and my business at www.ciaops.com