If you asked several people what personal productivity meant to them you would probably receive a different definition of the term from each individual. Some might say personal productivity is getting more stuff finished in a timely manner. Some would tell you that personal productivity is setting goals and accomplishing those goals. Others might even tell you that the term meant nothing to them at all.
Simply put, personal productivity is completing the actions that move you closer to accomplishing your goals in a manner that brings balance and ease into your life.
It’s all about completing an action cycle. Knowing what your objectives are and the actions necessary to reach them is the trick to boosting your personal productivity practices. The different phases of this cycle are:
- Setting meaningful and measurable objectives
- Evaluating the objective into actionable items
- Completing the individual actionable items
- Reviewing and acknowledging your progress
Let us look a little closer at each phase of the productivity cycle.
Setting Meaningful and Measurable Objectives
“You’ve got to think about the big things, while you are doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction” – Alvin Toffler
It is not enough to complete the tasks on a list. The tasks you are completing need to be directly correlated to a meaningful objective. You need to be working towards something. Being productive is akin to travelling a measurable path where your progress can be evaluated. Meaningful objectives are not vague ideas – they are the needle on your compass. They are the reference point used to measure your success or failure. If you don’t have clear and specific objectives you can easily fall into the trap of completing tasks just for the sake of completing tasks. You might feel good about getting things done, but you will never feel satisfied with your overall progress in the bigger picture.
Getting caught up in is setting too many objectives is another easy trap that wages war against your ability to be productive. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and imbalance. Even though you are completing tasks, you will probably feel like you are never getting anything accomplished. This will cause the priorities of your life to conflict with one another and you will be left without balance. Many who fall into this pattern won’t allow their work to suffer. However, they do end up sacrificing their home life and “down time” in order to complete everything they’ve purposed themselves to do.
The main idea of this phase of the productivity cycle is to prioritize the things in your life that are truly important to you. You need to manage both the number and content of your objectives in order to maintain a balance in your life. So remember…meaningful objectives are precise measurable goals with which we can align our actionable items and tasks. That way the things that we do work towards our goals. In the end, this will allow us to be successful on the whole on our own terms.
Evaluate Your Objectives into Actionable Items
“A vision without a task is but a dream; a task without a vision is drudgery; a vision and a task together is hope for the world” – from a church in Sussex, England
Now that we have discussed how important meaningful objectives are to our personal productivity, we need to talk about how actionable items are the power plant that drives us to become productive people. Again, personal productivity is about completing the tasks connected to our meaningful objectives. Most productive people spend a considerable amount of time planning and thinking their tasks through, only placing the next actionable item that works toward their goals on their task lists. Unproductive people have the tendency to place items on their lists that are not even possible for them to complete.
An actionable item is the next critical stride that can be taken to work towards your goal. An actionable item has no dependencies. It is possible to complete this task in a single step. If you can whittle your list down to the next possible actionable item that works towards your objective, your personal productivity will rise to heights you never believed possible.
Completing the Individual Actionable Items
“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” – William James
A lot of you might make long lists of things to do, and wonder why you are never able to complete them. The problem often lies in making agreements to do more work than what is possible to finish; never knowing when or how you are going to get things done. The key to accomplishing your tasks and reaching your goals is to schedule them. That way you do not end up sacrificing balance and breaking your agreements.
By scheduling the actionable items on your task list to your calendar, you drastically improve the chances of completing them. These kind of steady, small successes will bring you the motivation to continue moving forward towards your goals. When your meaningful objectives take some time to accomplish and your goals seem to be sitting far off on the horizon, the smaller tasks you complete along the way will give you that daily sense of satisfaction that you need.
Review and Acknowledge Your Progress
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road” – C.S. Lewis
You may find yourself so caught up in the world around you that you rarely take the time required to evaluate the small endeavors you successfully complete each day. When you acknowledge the completion of an actionable item on your list, you can see yourself getting one step closer to the objective connected to it. Acknowledgment of your success is critical because it creates the motivation required to continue through your productivity cycle. In addition, there will come a time when you do not successfully complete the task at hand. Instead of feeling as if you have botched the “master plan”, understand that setbacks give you an opportunity to step back and reevaluate your task or mission. The evaluation phase gives you the opportunity to move on to the next actionable item for an objective that is just as necessary to reach your goals.
This concept is simple, but delivers great results. The productivity cycle allows you to maintain your sights on the bigger picture while continuing forward through the completion of small tactical tasks that lead towards your goals. Your precise and measurable objectives will determine the exact actionable items on your list. Scheduled tasks will ensure their completion. Evaluating your progress will allow you to adjust your plans accordingly and you’ll be motivated to continue moving forward. As you practice this cycle, you will end up going through it enough times that it will become instinctive.
Ultimately when this cycle becomes second nature, you will find yourself experiencing true personal productivity.
(Image courtesy of alt1040 under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 generic license.)
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