Personal Productivity

Regardless of the type of work you do, one of the biggest challenges is controlling your time efficiently. This means spending more time on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t. Here are a few tips for doing that.

Know your goals

Given the tips that follow it my seem strange to start with something as macro as goals, but it’s important. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re less likely to get there. I typically have a list of 5 things (give or take) that are my main goals for the year. Having this list is a good sanity check on whether I’m working towards them or not.

Spend time on your calendar not your communications

If you use an email tool like Microsoft Outlook, what do you look at first, your calendar or your inbox? It’s so tempting to be attracted to the novelty of new messages in your inbox or voicemail, but the sum of these messages isn’t the work you should be doing, it’s the work others want you to do, and that’s a very different thing.

Batch vs. Realtime

Again it’s tempting to deal with new messages as they come in, but this is distracting and inefficient. Academic research has show it takes 11 minutes to recover what you were doing after a distraction, and email and phone calls provide a lot of distraction.

Do It Now

I think David Allen coined the idea that you should only touch something once. That means instead of filing something to do later, you should address it as soon as you read it. For most things this is easier than it sounds and even hard decisions aren’t necessarily better if you take more time to think about them.

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