A popular misconception about productivity is that productive people get more done because they work 20 hours a day. I don’t know about you but I don’t know anybody that can function on that little sleep everyday. Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin airways is famous for being up with the sun. He likes to get an early start. At first glance, this looks like he only gets a few hours of sleep each day. However, he is also consistent about going to bed every night at 11pm. He leaves the curtains open so he can feel the rays of the sun striking his face. That’s when he knows it’s time to wake up. This means on average, Richard Branson gets six to seven hours of sleep per day. No one can call him unproductive.
November has been the personal productivity system (PPS) month. I hope you read the three preceding articles that cover what you need to design your own PPS. In case you didn’t you can find them here, here and here. I felt this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share some of what I used for my own PPS. I believe there is no such thing as the perfect productivity app and encourage everyone to experiment until they find what works best for them. However, if you are curious about what I use, here you go:
Last week, I wrote about the best ways to deal with a task, an event and a process. Processes are generally more complex and are made up of many tasks being performed by different people. In order to keep processes, running smoothly, you will need to deploy a task management system.
The ideal task management system consists of three things:
- A medium for capturing tasks
- A calendar for noting events
- A system that can handle processes
Last week, I wrote about what a task, an event and a process are. Just in case you missed that post, you can read it here. A good personal productivity system is one that has been set up to handle tasks, events and processes. Each requires a different response.
Tasks are often the easiest to handle. They are to be done by you and you are the only person responsible for them. A task is best handled by being written down as an item on a to-do list. Optionally, you can also write down when a task is due eg Buy onions at ‘Yankaba market 10am. Adding due times can be helpful when you need to arrange tasks in the order to start first. Write down tasks in simple, clear sentences using an action word. Avoid ambiguous words like “Contact” instead use visit, meet with, call, email etc so there is no doubt what you need to do.
I have written a lot about some of my favourite tools and principles of personal productivity. I hope they have been as helpful to you as they have been to me when I began my journey towards making conscious decisions about how I spend my time. This month, I would like to write about how to bring all of those things together to create a personal productivity system that works for you. If you don’t have a personal productivity system (PPS) yet, you can use the posts I will be making in November as a template to build one for yourself. If you already have a PPS, I believe you can still find something in here that will be useful to you.
Before you create your own PPS, you need to understand the difference between a task, an event and a process.
My Physics teacher will probably kill me for the title of this article. What’s your BHAG? The Big, Hairy audacious goal. The one that scares you a little when you think about it. I’m sure you had one for the year. That’s why you are here. The year is almost over. Are you likely to get it achieved before the year ends? Many people come up with a great BHAG but struggle to commit to the work needed to achieve them. Does that sound like you?
How many hours could you go without peeking at your phone? So many people experience anxiety if they had to stay away from their internet enabled devices for a long time. Whatsapp notifications that run in the thousands and ever refreshing social media profiles have made it very difficult for some people to stay focused. Every notification is a distraction and even when they turn off data, the fear of missing out ensures at least some of their brain power stays thinking about what they could be missing. This is good for social media companies but bad for productivity. The ability to get focused and stay focused is becoming a rare skill just at the time when being able to stay focused can provide you with a huge advantage at work.