The digital age and ruthless competition have caused us to become obsessed with productivity and constant improvements. This hype about achieving more in the same amount of time is not a surprise when we consider the statistics — for example, eight out of ten new businesses will fail within the first 18 months.
In response to this trend, we can find tons of different how-to articles across the internet. Their authors vie with one another to offer more precious productivity tips and try to figure out more efficient ways to boost our efficiency.
I’ve read and then applied much of this advice to my daily life. Some of these tips completely wasted my time, but others, surprisingly the most simple ones, brought me significant results. Today I would like to share with you my favorite piece of advice that still helps me to increase the efficiency of the utilization of my time.
Habit 1: Observe
My thinking about productivity began when we initiated our own startup. I wasn’t keen on giving up my other hobbies, so I quickly understood that, somehow, I needed to find a lot of additional time to be able to continuously develop our application after work. Although I considered myself a busy but organized person, I was a bit surprised when I realized that after a long day full of different activities I had difficulties naming at least one specific thing that I had accomplished.
My time was magically disappearing and I wasn’t sure where it was going, but my goal was clear — I needed to do something to find more time for building my own entrepreneurship.
Understand how you spend your time
I decided that I needed to carefully analyze and understand how I spent my time before planning any further improvements. As an experiment, I began to write down all my major activities during an average day. I wrote down everything, such as: the time of woke up, how much time I spent getting ready in the morning, when I went to work and left, when and how much time I spent surfing the Internet, working on my startup or even doing completely nothing.
Keep a daily log of your activities
I decided to keep such a log for at least one week to gather the first material for analysis. Below you can see a short video showing how I did it.
Habit 2: Analyze
The results after just one week truly surprised me. I wrote down a separate goal and named it: “Productivity improvement”. There, I carefully wrote down all of my observations and thoughts that I had while browsing through my calendar.
Wasting time between activities
First of all, I saw that I had many time slots consisting of 30-40 minutes breaks, that had nothing to do with resting or relaxing, but was rather time that I spent doing nothing specific. The time just slipped through my fingers like sand.
Expanding the scope of time even if it is not really necessary
Another thing that I noticed was that my work expanded to fill the time slot which I had set aside for its completion, even though I was able to complete it much earlier. I was a living example of Parkinson’s Law — a rule which states that if you set a timeframe of two weeks for your task, it will take you exactly two weeks to complete it. If you set one week, it will take one week and so on…
Procrastinating about doing things
My third observation was that I regularly postponed my tasks that I needed to complete. Instead of doing the task that was really important for me, I did something less important just to avoid the necessity of completing the previous task and, at the same time, did not feel guilty because of the fact that I did not complete the first task. And the longer I postponed something, the more difficult it was for me to get it done.
Habit 3: Improve
Above, I listed only the major issues that I observed, but my notes contained also lots of other minor offenses. After two weeks, I had enough information and motivation to start my own improvement process.
I took the next step, and transformed the previously obtained information into specific and measurable goals. I knew that I couldn’t fix all of the problems that I had identified right away, so I needed to decide which improvements I should work on first.
Set one improvement goal at a time
I checked the statistics I had compiled and quickly identified which issues had taken up most of my precious time. This data showed me that I was wasting too much of my time, because I wasn’t planning my day carefully enough and, therefore, losing a lot of time between random activities.
During the next week instead of writing down activities which I had done during a specific day, I began to plan my days in advance.
Start from planning your day
Basically, my goal for the next and following weeks was to set timeframes for specific tasks on my calendar and allocate work breaks more strategically. Moreover, by scheduling a specific time window for a specific activity I also stressed my intention of completing the work by this time.
First of all, I felt highly motivated to keep my promises. Second of all, I noticed that the more tasks I planned and then accomplished, the more motivated I became. Moreover, when I put activities on my calendar I was more resistant to rescheduling them without a really good reason. My procrastination decreased dramatically — it was definitely a game changer.
No matter how many articles about productivity I read, my behavior didn’t change. Paradoxically, I was still looking for more and more books and materials about productivity, but I had never truly put knowledge that I gained into practice.
Finally, thanks to the fact that I needed to start my own company I motivated myself to find an efficient way to improve my own self-organization, eliminated the causes of my inefficiency and, ultimately, stopped procrastinating so much.
I still plan, monitor and improve my behavior — I even think that it has become a habit. I no longer need to put a lot of effort in it to see the positive results of the change, which strengthens my willingness to continue it even more.
From a time perspective, I can admit that the hardest part is to make a serious decision about changing something and then stick to it at the first stage of the process 🙂
That is my story. What experience have you had with productivity? If you would like to share your thoughts, please put them in the comments section.
I also encourage you to begin with registering your goals and daily routines with: www.cayenneapps.com