How To be More Productive

The question I am most often asked is “how can I be more productive?” It’s a natural question to ask someone who spends every day working on finding better ways to be just that; being more productive.

Now, the thing is, many asking me this question have tried all the latest applications and found they are not miraculously more productive. Which isn’t a surprise, because the tools you use are more likely than not to prevent you from becoming more productive.

The issue with the applications you are using is to use them takes time. To set them up in the first place can often take a few days and then once they are set up, it can take a lot of time each day just to maintain them. That time is time you are not doing the work that matters. It is, in a way, wasted time. So the trick is to find the right balance between app sophistication and app simplicity.

Really, If you want to get on top of your work, all you need is a list of the things you need to do and a calendar to tell you when you have the time to do it. That’s it.

You do not need complex lists of projects, sub-projects, labels / tags, filters and tables. All these do is create more work for you and work that is unnecessary.

I remember listening to a podcast many years ago where, Mike Williams, the CEO of the Getting Things Done company, talked about spending forty-five minutes at the end of each day processing his inboxes and spending two hours on a Sunday doing his weekly review. At the time, I thought: “WOW! Forty-five minutes each day just processing his inboxes. I could write a blog post in that time, or record a podcast or two to three videos”.

You see, time is your most important asset when it comes to productivity. Processing, organising and planning needs to be done, but you need to be aware of how much time it is taking. If it takes too long, (ie forty-five minutes every day) then for forty-five minutes each day you are not doing something else. Something likely to be much more important and effective.

To be more productive, you need to be looking at how you are spending your time each day. We humans are not machines. We are fragile beings and we get tired, our willpower and decision-making abilities diminish throughout the day so we not only need to be aware of what we are doing in the time we have available, but we also need to be aware of the type of work we are doing at different stages in the day.

Work that requires a lot of concentration and focus should be done when your brain is at its freshest — for most of us that is first thing in the morning. Email and communications generally do not need a lot of concentration or focus and so tasks related to these can be done when your brain is tired. For most of us that would be towards the end of the day.

For me, the perfect daily to-do list would be a piece of paper with three columns. The first column would be tasks to be done today and the second column would be my communications for the day. The Third column would be where I can add new tasks that need doing sometime in the future. That piece of paper would sit on my desk throughout the day and I could cross off tasks and communications when they are done and add new tasks as they arise.

However, I live in a digital world. I no longer need that piece of paper. I have digital tools that can do the same thing for me. And that is essentially how I have my system set up. I have a single list for the tasks I want to complete that day and I have a simple, quick way to add new task inputs as the arise through the day.

I learned the hard way that having applications that are feature rich might look good as I watch a YouTube video about them, they might sound good when I read through their website, with all these bells and whistles, but I know they will reduce my overall productivity.

I remember downloading Notion a year or so ago and then spending a whole afternoon setting it up. When I stopped, I looked at my task list for the day and there were still ten tasks on it that had not been done. Notion looked great! But no work was done.

Notion is a great app, but it did not do my work for me. It did the opposite. It stopped me from doing my work. Needless to say, Notion is no longer on my computer.

If you really want to improve your overall productivity, look at how you are spending your time. What are you doing in the eight hours we generally have to do our work each day? How much time do you spend inside your (so called) ‘productivity’ apps? The more time you spend there, the less time you spend doing the work.

Finding ways to spend less time inside your productivity apps is one of the most powerful ways to improve your overall productivity. As I explain in the COD productivity system (Collect, Organise and Do), you want to spend 95% of your time doing and only 5% of your time organising and that means setting up as simpler system as you can. The more sub-projects, labels / tags and filters you have, the more time you will need to spend organising.

This is how the Time Sector System came about. My obsession for squeezing as must time as I can out of organising so I can spend more time doing the work. That ultimately means I have a lot more free time at the end of the day to spend it with my family and doing the things I want to do knowing my work is being done.

Be very aware about how you are spending your time each day.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.



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Carl Pullein

I help people learn to manage their lives and time better so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of.