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Achieving Personal Productivity

Technological efficiency won't help if you have poor personal productivity.  Here's how to improve it.

David J. Drucker, 10/18/2007

I'm going to share with you my own secrets of personal productivity.

No, I'm not going to tell you to hire more employees or adopt new technology.  Sure, those things can make your office more productive, but the subject here is personal productivity ... those most personal of work habits that keep you focused on tasks that maximize the return on your personal time.

To ramp up your personal productivity, familiarize yourself with five concepts.  Some will sound like old directives we've all heard before, but put them all together into one integrated system and I believe you'll have a new way of working.

Everything reduces to tasks. Think of tasks as the basic unit of measurement of what you do when you're working. Perhaps you're spearheading a project employing several dozen personnel working together over several years and involving many steps from beginning to end. The project will get done as many small tasks are performed. Control your tasks and you control your productivity.

One List
Have one list, and only one list. (Sounds like something out of the Old Testament, and you should probably approach it with the same reverence). Perhaps David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, said it best, but what you don't write down, you carry around in your head. This is counter-productive for reasons that should be obvious: You can't think about more than one thing at a time, so if you're keeping on your mind all the tasks you need to do because you're afraid you'll forget them, then your mind isn't free to do the tasks you need to do right now. So the first step is writing down all the tasks you need to accomplish; the second step is writing them all down in one place.

This means you don't put sticky notes on your desk or computer monitor (unless they're very short-term reminders to get the tasks written onto your one list), don't scatter files all over your desk as reminders to work on what's in those files, and don't use your e-mail inbox as a second list. Write everything down in one place.

Where should that be? Preferably, it will near in proximity to your e-mail. The reason is that so many of our tasks first enter our consciousness in the form of an e-mail or other electronic communication. Your office manager IMs you to say, "Don't forget to call Mr. BigShot before leaving the office today." Or a business partner who's on the road e-mails to say, "Don't forget to prepare XYZ for our Friday morning meeting."PAGEBREAK

The proximity of e-mails to your list is best accomplished by using one software program, usually a client relationship management program like Junxure or ProTracker (or off-the-shelf programs like ACT! or Goldmine), to receive/send e-mail and to keep your list. When you receive an e-mail that gives rise to a task, it's simply easier to cut and paste or drag and drop the task onto your to-do list if the two programs work in tandem.

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