7 Key Principles of Personal Productivity

System Image-2Let’s face it, we are overwhelmed. We process every day than we did just a few years ago, and it’s not slowing down. Our information comes from more sources than ever (phone, cell phone, e-mail, voice mail, faxes, conference calls, meetings, and many more…see my previous post with some snappy graphics of this). In addition we are expected to do more with less, be accessible 24/7 and respond immediately…to everything. The result is a general feeling of being out of control and stressed. Many of us used to feel in control, but something fell apart. What’s the answer? Get back to basics. Make sure your personal workload management (time management if you like) process incorporates these fundamentals:

1. Clear Your Mind – Incomplete tasks, unmet commitments, upcoming appointments and other open items cause frustration and stress when we try to keep them in our head. When you routinely plug all of your commitments, appointments, communications and tasks into a trusted system your mind is freed up to do what it does best… problem solving, planning and creativity. Getting stuff out of your head into a system creates clarity and releases a stream of creative energy.

2. Clean Your Desk – To keep your mind uncluttered your workspace must be as well. Clean it up! Would you buy Tylenol made in a factory that looks like most desks? Treat your workspace like a factory floor. Get everything you are not working on off your desk and into an alphabetical filing system. The only thing that should be on your desk is the work you are doing at the moment.

3. Process Systematically – To prevent feeling overwhelmed, process all incoming information (e-mail, paper mail, voice mail, scraps of paper, bar napkins, etc.) on a routine basis…not as it arrives. Ideally 2 – 4 times a day, no more. Tell your co-workers when your schedule so they can adjust their expectations.

4. Decide Once and Early – When you process your incoming information look at each item individually and apply TRAF process to each: Throw it away (my favorite). Refer it (delegate) to someone more appropriate. Take Action – If you can do it in 2 minutes or less, do it now, otherwise schedule an appropriate time to do in later in your trusted system, File it. Make one of these decisions for each item in your inbox (e-mail, paper or voice mail) and move on. This process was introduced by Stephanie Winston in her timeless book The Organized Executive.

5. Organize Using Clearly Defined Buckets – Use only one calendar and use it only for time specific activities. Have only one tool for managing tasks for each day for the next 31 days. Schedule each task on the day that is most appropriate then forget it until you plan that day. Create another list to capture deferred tasks beyond the next month. Keep your notes from meetings, conversations and projects filed A-Z by the person’s name, organization or project for quick retrieval.

6. Review and Plan Systematically – Plan each day the day before and make decisions about each uncompleted task (use the TRAF process) before closing out the day. Set 3-4 business and personal goals each month (schedule a time to do it) and review these goals during your daily planning process. Take at least one hour each week to regroup and plan the following week. Capture any ideas thoughts and unfinished items that may be in your head and not in your system

7. Schedule Your Priorities – Make (and keep) appointments with yourself to do those high-payoff important tasks and projects (don’t forget your personal life). Your weekly planning time is a great opportunity to do this.

To learn how to integrate these principles into your daily work, register for our Free eCourse now!.

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