How to Manage Time and Energy to Boost Personal Productivity

Are you stuck on the procrastination highway where productivity slows to a crawl and stress uncontrollably speeds up? Why, because you’d rather be doing something else, fear of failure or lack of organization? Or are you procrastinating just because you do not know how to manage your internal productivity clock, organize your energy and focus your attention?

Current research shows an alarming increase in procrastination which has quadrupled over the past 30 years to a whopping 95% of the populations saying they procrastinate at least occasionally. And, 52% procrastinate regularly especially if they are students and 20% of those are chronic procrastinators. The research also goes on to say that most people procrastinate because of one of four reasons: fear – of failure or success, perfectionism, low-self esteem and as an excuse or the blame game.

Unfortunately, procrastination develops into a lifelong habit that follows people right into the workplace and if not corrected inhibits productivity, performance and self satisfaction. It negatively impacts one’s performance in the workplace jeopardizing one’s job, relationships and finances while limiting one’s ability to stay focused and impairing productivity. In the workplace procrastination translates into lost opportunities and time, disorganization and indecision; and at home, lost respect, poor family interpersonal relationships and dependability.

Personal Productivity Matrix

Whether you are among the millions of people that sabotage their future daily or not is less important than learning how to manage your internal productivity clock and your surroundings to improve your personal energy. The following steps are based on the Feng Shui principles of creating balance and a supportive personal environment which will enable you to be more focused and productive.

Manage Your Personal Time Clock

One of the simplest ways to improve your productivity and eliminate procrastination is to manage your internal productivity clock by determining whether you are a morning person or a night owl. A Spanish researcher found that early risers were more likely to be logical and analytical, and likely to use concrete information as sources of knowledge, whereas those that stayed up late were more imaginative, creative and intuitive. It has also been determined that morning people were most productive during the first half of their work day while night people’s productivity did not kick in until much later in the day.

Armed with this knowledge, to be most productive morning people should do their most important tasks in the first several hours of the day such as strategic thinking, writing proposals, contacting important clients, business development, making important decisions and scheduling meetings only for breakfast and lunch. They should not schedule after work or dinner meetings when their peak energy has been depleted for the day. The last part of their day should be filled with less important tasks like updating their social media sites, responding to email and phone calls, research, following up with details for clients and any items that do not require high energy and intense focus.

Night owls should do just the opposite. They should perform the lighter less important tasks in the morning and really dig into the substance of their tasks after lunch when their ability to focus and be productive will be greatly improved. Night owls should schedule their important meetings either late in the day or over dinner when they will be at their best.

To avoid unproductive meetings in the workplace and to maximize the focus of all employees, joint meetings should be scheduled from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm when the morning people are still very productive and the night owls are gaining their productivity and creativity strength.

Manage the Energy in Your Surroundings

Focus and efficiency are keys to productivity. If your workplace environment, whether at home or in a building miles away, is unorganized with no clear workspace available procrastination will become enemy number one instantly and your productivity will drop to zero. The clutter and lack of organization will create great discomfort and eventually overwhelm you until you cannot perform at all – the ultimate procrastination.

Unclutter and organize so 80% of your workspace, desk and desktop are always visible and available for you to begin work immediately. Handle your paperwork, post-it notes and inbox only once – read it, take the appropriate action then keep it and file it or toss it if it is no longer needed. Not only will your focus and productivity rise but your anxiety and frustration will dramatically decrease.

Focus Your Attention

Focus, focus, focus! The more you can focus the more productive and efficient you are and the less stressed and anxious you will be. To maximize your productivity do the most important thing on your list for the day first – not the easiest or quickest to perform but the most important one. If you find it difficult to focus for longer periods of time, take short breaks and get outside into the fresh air for five minutes, take a short walk or drink a glass of water. If the job is too big, break it up into sections you can easily complete in shorter time spans and take a quick break. You will be re-energized and ready to get back to work.

Be sure to turn off all electronic and communication devices while trying to stay focused. They can quickly break your concentration and it can take time to reconnect. Others may find that playing Feng Shui or New Age type music will help them stay in a focused frame of mind and concentrate more easily. Occasionally while focusing on the work at hand, ask yourself, “Is what I am doing getting me closer to my work objectives or what’s best for meeting my personal business goals?” The answer to this question will guide you as to whether you are focused enough and on the right thing.

Set a schedule for your focused time so you accomplish exactly what you set out to do. Do not let yourself get diverted to any other project during that time period. You will be rewarded by your accomplishment and the visible results of your improved productivity.

Procrastination is a huge problem if you let it control you. It is also a huge problem in the workplace where productivity and profitability rule. Shift your thinking about how to perform your daily duties based on what time of the day you perform best and watch your productivity and personal satisfaction speed up on your personal highway to success.

© Pat Heydlauff, all rights reserved 2010

Boosting Your Personal Productivity

With so many tasks fighting for our attention, it’s no wonder we struggle with feeling productive. For most women, it’s important to us that we feel productive, and we usually measure our productivity by our output – how much do we get done in a given day? If we get a lot done, then we feel happy, but if at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what we did all day, irritability sinks in.

If you have a business deadline, a family and home that need attention, and a volunteer project that begs to be completed, how will you pull together the resources and energy you need to successfully manage these commitments without compromising yourself? Boosting our personal productivity is possible if we know how to do it. Productivity involves three components: getting things done, the ability to make the right decisions quickly, and being able to create innovative solutions to our perceived challenges.

Getting Things Done

Getting things done requires both external and internal resources. Externally, it involves using people, time and money to achieve the results you want. Utilizing our people resources means we have to give up this idea that we are alone and on our own. We have to look at who in our life may be able to pitch in and help out. Can you involve a babysitter or spouse to help with the kids while you work on your business commitments? What other volunteers can you pull together to help you accomplish your projects?

Managing your time involves your ability to organize yourself, evaluate your priorities and focus on what’s most important to carry out your mission. More often than not, a lot of people have a large ongoing “to do” list that they work from. Everything has equal priority and focus is lost because the list is too overwhelming. Break up your list by order of importance and focus on only 2-3 tasks per day. You will be more successful in getting things done.

Internally, getting things done is all about your motivation behind the task. We come to every task in our lives with a certain level of energy, or attitude about the task. When I asked one woman why she wanted to take care of herself by exercising, her response was because she needed to make sure she was healthy enough to take care of other people. It’s very subtle and hard to see, but her motivation was out of fear. She was afraid if she didn’t take care of herself, she wouldn’t be able to take care of her family and business. When we are motivated by any kind of negative emotion like fear, worry, anger, or guilt, the energy we come to the task with is low. When you associate a task with pain (I hate exercising; it’s so hard), you are less likely to do it.

Complete this sentence: I want to…. Most likely, your answer was some kind of task or activity that you enjoy. Perhaps you said, “I want to read a book” or maybe you said “I want to take a vacation.” The energy behind wanting to do something is high, and unless you let guilt get in the way, you will very likely complete a task you want to do. Always focus on why you want to get something done, even if you have to seek out the benefits received from doing a task you feel you have to do.

Making Decisions

If there is one thing that will bring your productivity to a screeching halt, it is the inability to make decisions. I don’t know how many decisions we make everyday, but I know it’s a lot. Should I get up? What will I have for breakfast today? What should I wear today? What do I want to do first? Should I take a nap? Hey, a short nap can improve your productivity.

For the last two days, I have been dragging my feet on making a business decision. On Sunday, as I was working on creating some visuals for an upcoming presentation, my husband says, “It’s too bad you can’t find a way to make your visuals more professional looking.” That started the decision making cycle that I am stuck in. How can I create professional looking visuals on my budget? While I wait for the “perfect” answer to come to me, my project remains undone.

The ability to make fast and accurate decisions can make a world of difference in your personal productivity. What is your perspective on making decisions accurately and quickly? Do you avoid making decisions for fear of making the wrong choices? Do you look at decisions as opportunities to grow and develop as an individual? Wouldn’t it be nice to view decisions as an effortless task? What gets in the way of all your decisions being made accurately and quickly? Leaving decisions pending in your “inner” inbox can deplete your daily energy level, even if you are not consciously thinking about them.

Creating Innovative Solutions

Have you ever had a day or a situation when everything seemed to work out smoothly? You were “in the zone” and you were accomplishing more than you ever could have imagined. Your energy was high, your mood was great, and you were amazed at how easy life was. When we are in this “genius” mode, we have the innate ability to eliminate all obstacles, noise, and clutter, externally and internally. We are able to let go, focus, and let our intuition take over.

Recently, I have been faced with a situation that needs an innovative solution. My teenager hates English and is unmotivated to do what is required of him in this class. He is resistant to reading, but yet he has a 400 page book that he has to read to complete a 14 page research paper. A traditional approach of telling him he better start reading or he’s going to fail won’t work. A slightly different approach of suggesting he read just 20 minutes a day doesn’t work either. In order for me to be successful at coming up with a creative solution, I must be able to see multiple perspectives all at the same time. What is blocking my son mentally? What motivates him? How does he learn? What does he need to accomplish? How can I partner with my son to create an opportunity for success? By keeping an open mind to all the possibilities that are available to me, a solution will be delivered. So far I’ve thought of reading the book together, downloading the book on his iPod so he can listen to it, motivating him with a reward dinner at his favorite restaurant, and renting the book in movie format. As I stay open to my intuition, more solutions will come to me.

While it would certainly be nice to live a life that is truly simplistic, it is not possible or realistic to think life will not have challenges that require innovative solutions. We will always have competing demands that require us to pull together our resources to get things done, make quick and accurate decisions and utilize our creativity and intuition to find solutions to whatever trials life brings us. When you can successfully implement these three keys, you will experience personal productivity every day of your life.

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).