How to Increase Personal Productivity

One of the keys to success in any field is to discover and put into practice those skills that increase productivity. All else being equal, increasing your productivity has a direct correlation to increasing your income.

How I Learned About Productivity

When in graduate school I had the privilege of working with Dr. Elmer Gray in conjunction with my studies, particularly in learning more about writing. He had authored a couple of books in addition to many magazine articles and was working as the editor of a newspaper.

Project Plan Page

One of the invaluable skills he taught me was to plan carefully (even if quickly) what you were going to write. In particular, to get all the facts first, then organize your project into sections and write out a fairly detailed outline including the space to be allocated for each part.

Next, I learned to write in a disciplined fashion so that you would end up with only ten percent more material than you wanted for the end product. Finally, edit down to the intended size, deleting repetitious, superfluous material, unnecessary adjectives and the like.

I learned a lot from this experience, lessons that apply to any job you are doing:

  • Spend sufficient time defining your work first in order to focus your thinking.
  • Make sure you have all the materials you need to do the job right.
  • Give adequate time to developing a clear, step by step plan for the work you want to do. This will speed up the process and keep your project focused on its intended goal in addition to reducing the time needed to complete it.
  • Use discipline in staying focused on doing just what is needed, being careful to stay within the confines of your planned project so as not to waste time with unnecessary work or make corrections difficult.

How to Increase Productivity

You can increase your productivity in a number of ways. Just learning to set aside blocks of time for a given project and focusing on getting the job done can do wonders. But the suggestions I want to emphasize here are directly related to the experience I described above, ones that apply to any task we need to do.

Prepare to do any job by emphasizing two things. If you take time for these two simple steps you will get the right thing done and do it quicker and more effectively.

  1. First, clearly define the job at hand. Often we make wrong choices or do jobs ineffectively because we are too casual about defining the task. When we have a clear objective we are much more likely to develop a clear path to reach it.
  2. Second, spell out a step by step plan for achieving the task. In most cases this will include such things as when we are going to do a job, how much time will be set aside for it, and the preparation needed (tools to use, etc.) in addition to the actual project steps.

If we become more deliberate in this methodology it will soon become second nature. When it does our productivity will take a decided upturn.

Plan to Increase Your Productivity

These practices apply to almost everything we do. Say a certain piece of equipment has broken down. Before doing anything ask a few quick questions and determine the best thing to do. Should you repair or replace? Check out the facts before making a decision.

Once you know the best thing to do, plan the action steps required to do it most effectively. If it is a repair, lay out the best approach: who is best qualified to do the job, what tools will be required, when should it be done, etc. If it is to purchase a replacement, answer a similar series of questions.

Does all of this sound too elementary? Too obvious? Sure. But the truth is, all too often most of us make decisions and take action on them without ever doing the critical thinking we should.

With just a little forethought we can make a serious improvement to our productivity. And if we apply this kind of thinking to the activities that affect our financial life we can improve our bottom line.