Personal productivity plays an important role in our everyday activities, especially those related to our job. There are those lucky days when we’re effective enough to complete our assignments easily. Unfortunately, there are also moments when we’re struggling with even the simplest tasks.
But, guess what, there are many ways to beat this lethargic time, which we’ll discuss later.
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know about personal productivity:
- How do you get a productive mindset,
- four different productivity styles,
- how to maximize personal productivity, and
- expert advice on productivity.
Table of contents:
- How do you get a productive mindset
- Four different productivity styles
- How do you maximize personal productivity?
- Expert advice
- Wrapping up
How do you get a productive mindset?
Keeping focus at work and being effective during work hours is not an on-off button. You can’t expect that your brain will run smoothly all the time. When you’re having a hard time and don’t seem to get any work done, your mindset will determine whether you’ll be willing to continue.
Educational experts at the Chicago Consortium on School Reform analyzed children behavior and how they react during difficult times at school. They came to the conclusion that there are three mindsets that impact their actions:
- The idea that hard work can and will lead to progress
- The belief that a school is a place where you can flourish
- The feeling that what you are doing is beneficial and related to your goals.
Having all three mindsets means that you’ll have more motivation to fight during difficult periods.
Here’s how these rules can be applicable to your job. In order to have a positive mindset and be productive, be sure that:
- you’ll have rough patches along the way, but they’ll make you enhance your performance,
- being passionate about your job is crucial, and
- being dedicated to what you do will get you a step closer to fulfilling your dreams.
There is another concept that shows the correlation between productiveness and your mindset. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, a Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck points out the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A person who believes that our abilities are fixed from birth is the one with a fixed mindset. For instance, when someone says: “I am not good at sports”, they don’t have any intentions to learn to play sports. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset are always willing to gain new abilities.
You might be wondering what these mindsets have to do with your output. Here’s the reason: a fixed mindset inspires you to consider efficiency only as a short-term goal. Also, you won’t be able to acquire any new abilities. On the contrary, a growth mindset helps you see productivity as a process of gaining new skills and knowledge over time. That’s why a productive mindset can be described as a growth mindset.
Let’s say that you’re a realtor. Your goal of closing 10 deals per month is a short-term goal, driven by your fixed mindset. But, going to real estate conferences is your way to stay up to date with current real estate news and improve your proficiency. In this case, only a growth mindset will guide you during this process.
As you can see, our characters truly influence our output. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t change our mindset. Dweck says that learning about growth mindset can encourage people to adjust their actions. That’s because our brain is like a muscle and learning is like an exercise. The more you exercise it, the stronger your brain becomes.
Another theory that associates our personalities with being effective is Carson Tate’s principle of four different productivity styles.
Four different productivity styles
“Working simply means unlocking your possibility, potential and purpose so that your work is a full-bodied reflection of your most authentic self.” – Carson Tate
The key for unlocking your possibility, potential and purpose is to find out what your productivity style is. According to Carson Tate, the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, there are four different output styles. Once you determine yours, you’ll learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. Thus, you’ll know how to improve your effectiveness and which method you should use. Finally, you’ll be able to recognize which of your colleagues fits which style. That knowledge will upgrade your collaboration and communication within the workplace.
Before we start observing each type, we encourage you to take the test.
Here are these four productivity styles:
- The Prioritizer
- The Planner
- The Arranger
- The Visualizer
1. The Prioritizer
The Prioritizer thrives when surrounded by data. Speaking of their good qualities, these people are usually analytical, realistic and organized. When working on a project, the Prioritizer will always analyze goals. They will plan all necessary activities, in order to reach a desired goal.
But, the Prioritizers don’t always think about how something is going to be done, if they manage to complete it. Thus, they’ll often lose their ability to see a broader perspective of a certain project.
The Prioritizers are rigid and they like to feel they’re in control. They need help with expressing their creative side.
The best productivity method for the Prioritizer – Time blocking
The best way to visualize the project and see its general overview is to present it as a sequence of time blocks.
Here’s how time blocking technique works:
- First, make a to-do list with all your tasks for a certain project
- Select dates and time frames (time blocks) for each task – you can use a calendar for this
- Start working on these tasks and follow this schedule.
Bonus tip: painting each time block with different color will boost your creative thinking.
2. The Planner
The Planner is incredibly organized and enjoys creating to-do lists and making plans. While the Prioritizers aim their attention only on those details that are necessary to complete the project, the Planners analyze the details of each part of a project.
Just like the Prioritizers, the Planners are rigid, too. Besides, being spontaneous is not in their nature.
Since the Planners don’t always have the priorities in mind, they need to learn which assignments are the most important ones.
The best productivity method for the Planner: The Agile results
The Planners must be reminded to review the goals of the project they’re working on, so they can distinguish significant tasks from those that aren’t. To do so, they can take advantage of an Agile results method.
All it takes to start using an Agile results technique is to determine three outcomes you’d like to experience for the year, month, week, and day. Be sure that your daily goals match your goals for the week.
Here are the benefits of this technique:
- It presents your day-to-day activities as a part of much bigger perspective (the full project)
- It shows you all past and current achievements, as well as future goals.
3. The Arranger
While the Prioritizer and the Planner are rational, the Arranger is rather emotional and intuitive. The Arranger is a definition of a “people person”. They have excellent communication skills, they’re good team players and are quite empathetic.
The Arrangers are great when making connections with the rest of the team. But, they struggle with diving deep into their job duties and finishing them. They find it hard to take care of the assignments themselves and get distracted easily.
The best productivity method for the Arranger: The Flowtime technique
The Flowtime technique lets you choose your preferred time frame for an activity – anything from 10 to 90 minutes. That’s exactly what the Arranger needs in order to “turn off” the outside world and work by himself/herself.
This is how you can use the Flowtime technique:
- Choose how much time you’ll need for a certain task and set the timer.
- Work until the timer tells you to stop.
- Then, decide if you need more time for that task. If so, set the timer for another 10 or 20 minutes.
- When you hear the timer, make the decision whether to work a little longer, if needed, or whether you’re done.
- Whenever the timer goes off, you can take a break if you feel tired, and then continue working.
4. The Visualizer
Much like the Arranger, the Visualizer is intuitive as well. They have a comprehensive approach to everything in life. Also, the Visualizers are creative and open-minded.
On one hand, the Visualizers are great for bringing innovative ideas to life, but they’re not good with making plans. Besides, the Visualizers can be very disorganized.
The best productivity method for the Visualizer: The Action Method
This technique is perfect for people who need to organize their creative thoughts and make a to-do list out of them. The Action Method is your ideal option when you have great ideas but need to arrange them and add priorities and dates.
You need to split your project into three categories:
- Action items: all the steps you need to take in order to complete the project.
- Backburner items: interesting ideas but are not suitable for the current project.
- Reference items: resources and information that are necessary for the project.
How do you maximize personal productivity?
Identifying your own effectiveness style can surely help you increase your levels of output. But, there are many more ways to maximize your personal productivity.
We’ll cover these two categories:
- Personal productivity methods
- Personal productivity software
We’ve already mentioned some methods in the previous section, but here are other useful techniques.
Personal productivity methods
Biological prime time
Have you noticed that you’re more energetic during particular times of day? These are usually periods when you’re truly productive – known as your “biologic prime time”.
Sam Carpenter, the author of Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, invented this term. Our biological prime time depends on our energy levels, focus and motivation during each day.
Are you ready for some experiments? This method is all about it.
But, before you start calculating your biological prime time, be sure to eliminate factors such as the caffeine intake. Having a cup of coffee will only give you an illusion that you’re energetic, but you want to learn when your prime time comes naturally. Then you can begin writing down all the data about your energy, focus and motivation. You’ll need information for every working hour, for at least a few consecutive weeks.
Now that you have all the data, try noticing patterns in your behavior. Were you most effective at 11am? Or maybe in the evening? Numerous studies have shown that night owls are likely to procrastinate. But, if your brain works best during late hours, then leave all your significant tasks for that time. That way, you’ll put a stop on your procrastination and more importantly, you’ll follow your biological prime time.
If you get easily distracted and you find it difficult to finish all your work in a day – then Pomodoro technique is a great choice for you.
This technique got its name after the pomodoro-shaped kitchen timer. This handy kitchen tool inspired Francesco Cirillo to discover the Pomodoro method in the 1990s.
Here’s how this method works: you start working and set your timer for 25 minutes. That’s the period when you should only be focused on work, no distractions allowed. When the timer goes off after 25 minutes, you can relax and take a five-minute break. You should repeat this work-rest cycle three more times. Finally, after four sprints, you deserve to have a longer break – 25 minutes.
The Pomodoro technique will help you aim your attention at what needs to be finished. Besides, you know that there’s a brief break waiting for you, so that will motivate you during those 25 minutes.
Don’t break the chain
The Don’t break the chain technique is an ideal option for people who want to adopt daily customs.
For example, you want to start learning French. You’ve got some great audio books and you’d like to listen to each one each day. Then you manage to get five successive days in a row, and four days without learning. What should you do to make learning French part of your daily routine?
Take advantage of the Don’t break the chain method. All you need is a hard copy calendar. Each day you accomplish to have a French lesson, put an X on the calendar. After a week, you’ll have seven Xs in a row.
The Don’t break the chain technique teaches you to stay on your path and be fruitful every day. Also, you’d probably feel bad breaking the chain after having 20 days of continuous work.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix technique works the best for people who like graphs. This method will help you prioritize successfully.
The Eisenhower Matrix technique is quite easy to use. You need to divide all your tasks into four quadrants:
- Tasks that are both important and urgent – do these tasks first,
- tasks that are important, but aren’t urgent – do them later,
- tasks that are not important, but urgent – delegate them, and
- tasks that are not important and not urgent – delete them.
Once you know for sure what your priorities are, you’ll be able to focus your attention on those assignments. Besides, you won’t waste any time doing unnecessary tasks.
Enhance your proficiency levels by trying some of these techniques, but be sure to check out the following productivity apps, too.
Great software for personal productivity
“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more.” – Henry Ford
In other words, a day when we manage to complete all our tasks without struggle can be considered as a productive day. If you’re having a hard time organizing your workday, remember that there are many personal productivity apps you’ll find handy.
Proper time management is an essential part of improving your fruitfulness. Clockify is the best time tracking software that will help you boost your time management skills.
Here are the main benefits of Clockify:
- Having a better perspective of your workweek, by tracking work hours.
- Having an improved profitability – you’re able to mark your billable and non-billable time entries, then add them to particular projects.
- Making reports for your clients, so they can see how much time you’ve dedicated to a certain project.
- Reviewing team activities – you can see time entries of your team members.
Clockify is available: as a web app (Chrome and Firefox), desktop app (Mac, Windows and Linux) or mobile app (iOS and Android).
IFTTT means “If This, Then That”. This is an automation app that lets you make custom automations between online services and devices.
IFTTT has some cool features, such as “Ask Alexa what’s on your shopping list and she’ll text it to you”, and “A reminder to drink water”.
Regarding your business, this app also provides you with these options:
- Whenever you have an upcoming event in your Google Calendar, it texts you a reminder that contains the event name, time and address.
- If you missed any calls on your Android phone, this app will automatically send you notifications to your Slack.
- IFTTT can be connected to your Todoist account, so whenever you add a star to an important email, this app will make a new task in Todoist.
As you can see, thanks to many different automation options that IFTTT has, this app will save you some valuable time and enhance your output.
IFTTT is available: as a web app, but also on iOS and Android.
As you can guess from its name, the purpose of this browser extension is to help you stay focused when working. Also, StayFocusd will block all those websites that distract you from your job duties.
There are two ways to block distractions:
- You can choose dates and periods during days – for example, from Monday to Friday and from 10am to 6pm, or
- you can set a limit for visiting distracting websites – for example, only 30 minutes for browsing social networks.
Aiming your attention solely on job related activities equals better performance.
StayFocusd is available: only as a browser extension.
Todoist is an amazing app that allows you to write down all your to-do assignments. With Todoist, you’ll keep track of all personal and work tasks.
Some of the features in Todoist are:
- Adding tasks easily and setting recurring options for some of them. For instance, if you want Todoist to remind you to review your family budget every Monday at 8pm.
- Setting priorities, by highlighting the most important tasks of the day.
- Delegating tasks by adding your colleagues or family members to your project.
Besides, you can even connect Todoist with your Dropbox, Google calendar, IFTTT account etc.
Todoist is available for: Mac, Windows (desktop), iPhone, iPad, Android (mobile app), Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox (browser extension), Linux, Apple Watch, Wear OS, Gmail Add-on, Gmail extension and Outlook (email plugins).
If you usually have a lot of meetings, then Calendar is an ideal choice for you. This app will prevent any meeting overlaps.
With Calendar, you can:
- Manage all your meetings by connecting your Google, Outlook, and Apple calendars.
- Allow others to book the appointment with you inside the app.
- Review your calendar analytics in order to find out how you can save time and increase your effectiveness.
Calendar is available for: Google, Apple and Outlook calendars.
Trello is an app based on the Kanban time management method. This software will help you arrange your tasks in no time.
Trello gives you an opportunity to create:
- A board – that represents your project, and
- several columns – these are your tasks divided into columns. You start with the first column (on the left) and once you finish a certain task from that column, move it to the other column (on the right). For instance, you can have To do, Doing, Done columns. As soon as you begin working on a task from a To do column, shift it to the Doing column.
With Trello, you’ll know exactly what you should be doing at any moment. On the plus side, finishing tasks and switching them from column to column will motivate you to continue working.
Trello is available for: Web, iPhone and Android (mobile), Apple and Microsoft (desktop), Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari (browsers).
Going through your emails can be quite time-consuming. At the end, you’ll probably figure out that there were only five emails worth replying immediately. Luckily, SaneBox is the app that can prevent these issues.
SaneBox is a perfect solution for email management. When you connect your email to SaneBox, your inbox will be sorted into two folders:
- Inbox – where you will have all your important emails
- SaneLater folder – these are all distractions.
So, instead of wasting your time with unimportant emails, you can tackle your priorities and make the most of your day.
SaneBox is available for: Google, Office, iCloud accounts.
Taking advantage of these apps will boost your performance. But, we also encourage you to try some of the tips that productivity experts suggest.
We’ve reached out to several productivity and time management experts, to learn more about their favorite strategies to jump start personal productivity.
Expert tips on personal productivity
1. Find out what you need to complete your task successfully
Kirstin O’Donovan is a productivity coach and the founder of TOP Results Coaching. She believes that, to stay effective, you need to ask yourself what you need at that moment. This is usually something that would make it easier to successfully complete your current task.
“Your job is to give yourself whatever it is you are lacking. If you need motivation, motivate yourself, get the clarity you need or direct your mind to a place of confidence. It is never a lack of resources; it is a lack of resourcefulness. Then try completing the task again.”
Bonus tip: Kirstin recommends using apps such as Daily Habits. This app gives you a chance to challenge yourself to have 100% performance or 7-day streak. She suggests incorporating the system of rewards and punishments, based on your results.
2. Plan your next day
According to Carl Pullein, a productivity and time management coach, you’ll be more effective if you plan your next day – the day before. He explains that, by doing so, you will be less stressed and you’ll begin the day knowing exactly what you want to accomplish. This is how he organizes his day:
“I practice a method called the 2+8 Prioritisation method, which has you choose two objectives for the day. Two tasks you will do whatever it takes to complete and eight other tasks that you have identified as important and you will try to complete that day.”
3. Try the COD technique
Speaking of a methodology we can use, Carl proposes the COD technique.
“Collect, Organise and Do. You collect your tasks, events and notes into trusted places. Then, you organise what you collected at the end of the day and spend the rest of your time doing the work.”
4. Learn to prioritize
To Alexis Haselberger, a time management and productivity coach, the number one tip for increasing your output is offloading your mental load. How do you do that? By keeping a single system for capturing, organizing, prioritizing and documenting tasks.
“Having all your to-dos in a single place allows you to know that you are not forgetting something.”
Alexis says that, if you keep your important data at various places – your email, your voicemail, and on your phone, you are not able to properly prioritize.
“You’re seeing the trees, but not the forest. This means that not only you may be working on the wrong things, but you are wasting time context switching between these systems all the time.”
Bonus tip: In her opinion, one of the most helpful apps is TickTick.com, because it is easy to use and it syncs smoothly between desktop and mobile.
5. The importance of self-care
Julia Arndt is a founder of Peak Performance Method. She has worked with a lot of high achievers. According to Julia, this is what they all have in common:
“They have learned to push their boundaries, sacrifice their time to deliver work and get to the next promotion, but they have not learned why self-care and taking regular breaks is crucial to stay productive and healthy.”
Expert advice on how to stay productive when working from home
Working from home can be challenging. Instead of spending time in a formal environment, designed to suit your employee’s needs, you’ll have to adjust to a quite different setting. Besides, if you live with your family, or a partner, a roommate or your pet, you’ll try to avoid them during business hours.
So, in order to stay effective and complete your tasks on time, check out these amazing tips by productivity experts.
1. Set up a structure for each day
Carl Pullein advises you to always choose starting and finishing time, as well as have a fixed time for lunch every day.
“Part of what makes transitioning to working from home so difficult is the sudden loss of structure. You roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, make coffee, sit down and you’re at work. It can be very disorientating. Instead, set yourself some guidelines so you have structure in your working day.”
2. Be active
To Carl, working from home results in a lack of activity, so you need to think of a new way to maintain this healthy habit. Here’s what he suggests:
“Go for a walk round the block. Use your stairs as a treadmill for some exercise. Five minutes running up and down the stairs a few times per day can do wonders for your mental clarity.”
3. Have a dedicated workspace
According to Alexis Haselberger, it’s important to pick a place where you will work every day.
“This can be a spot at your kitchen table, or a specific seat on the couch. Make it consistent and if possible, ensure it’s not in the bedroom where you might be tempted to nap or watch TV. When you are done working, physically close shop. Move your laptop and papers to a cabinet or box.”
4. Create a smart schedule
Another tip worth mentioning is to schedule your time, as stated by Julia Arndt.
“Be clear on your top 2-3 priorities per day, then manage your calendar wisely based on those and set boundaries by cancelling/postponing meetings that are not in line with YOUR priorities.”
Personal productivity depends a lot on our mindset and our characters. Based on our personality, there are four productivity styles. Once you recognize your type, you’ll know exactly how to upgrade your performance. However, there are other useful ways to advance your output – by using various techniques and applications. Finally, feel free to try some of these valuable tips by productivity experts.