Why Personal Productivity is Bull**** and What Works

Eric Binnion

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As bloggers, you are responsible for so much more than just creating great content. You are likely also responsible for negotiating advertising rates other sources of income, moderating comments, correcting guest posts, managing social media, and much more.

With all of that work load, you have likely looked at some sort of way to increase the amount of work you get done. And while personal productivity can help you get more work done, a lot of the advice out there is bull****.

Why, you ask? Because many of the personal productivity systems out there are so difficult that you end up wasting more time using the system.

Examples of Failed Personal Productivity

Although I could give you several examples of my failures at personal productivity, I think it’s best if you get a non-biased opinion. Mike Vardy had this to say on Lifehack:

This seemed like a good idea at the time. I used to use coloured pens and highlighters that were associated with a legend so I could tell what each task was associated with and how far along they were to completion. Different coloured pens were used for the “context” of the tasks (keeping in mind I had no knowledge of how contexts are defined in most productivity systems at the time) and the different coloured highlighters were used to signify the progress of the tasks.

One of the biggest problems with this experiment was that I was carrying around a pencil case for the first time since school. I also wound up using one of those multi-coloured pens that you had to flick to change colours. Not exactly the most pleasant writing tool.

Furthermore, I had to keep tabs on what each aspect of the colour-coding represented. I was either pulling out the legend regularly to make sure I knew what was going on with certain tasks or I inadvertantly would use a wrong colour and throw everything out of whack. Well, at least it felt like everything was out of whack. What it really was: not the best solution for my personal productivity.

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Although I understand where Mike was going with color coding his tasks, can you imaging how hard it would be to not only keep up with all of the colors and what they mean, but to also always have a bag of pencils and highlighters with you? This is a prime example of a personal productivity plan that actually results in more work and frustration than no personal productivity.

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at another example of Mike’s that’s more applicable to those of us with iPhones.

When I first dove into using apps for productivity purposes, Things won out over OmniFocus. The price was cheaper and it seemed to have everything I needed. The user interface was simple and elegant, the developers had built a complementary iPhone app and I was able to use it with relative ease and get a whole lot done.

Until I was away from my Mac for too long with my iPhone. Then “Things” wasnt working out so well. It had no over-the-air sync at the time. That was a problem for me. Others felt the same way.

This example really hits home with me because I’ve tried dozens of different types of personal productivity and task management apps, and I can never get the hang of them. I always spend tons of time trying to keep data in sync or figuring out how best to organize.

By now, you’re probably beginning to ask yourself if you should keep looking for a personal productivity plan that works. The short answer is, “Yes, personal productivity can work!

3 Easy Steps for Better Personal Productivity

Before we talk about what works in regards to personal productivity, it’s time for a gut check. If you want anything, then you have to make it happen. 

No one else is going to save you. If you’re not willing to put the work in, then personal productivity is a lost cause. With that said, here are the best ways to drastically increase your personal productivity within the next 48 hours!

  1. Quit scheduling so much. I often talk about analysis paralysis, the idea that you think and plan so much that nothing ever gets done. Think about this, every time you schedule some little task, you are wasting time. Or how about this… Have you ever not started a task because you had an appointment coming up in 15-30 minutes and you knew you wouldn’t be finished? Schedule the important stuff. Otherwise, just get to work!
  2. Work at the right time. If you have the ability, then work when you are most focused and can get the most amount of work done. For me this is between about 8 PM and 1-2 AM after my family starts going to sleep. For others, like Nick, this seems to be early in the morning. We are all different. Find what works for you and stick to it.
  3. Work in spurts with zero interruptions. Your body operates in cycles of about 90 minutes. By working within these cycles, you can get much more good work done! The basic idea is that you work for up to 90 minutes without any interruptions. Then, you take a 15-20 minute break. Repeat this cycle a few times throughout your day. You should notice that you are able to get more work done because you are able to focus more intently on tasks.

In short, you can greatly increase your personal productivity by simply not scheduling as much, finding your optimal work time, and taking breaks within your work. This system is very low maintenance and should only require that you have some sort of timer so you don’t go over 90 minutes of work at a time.

What Do You Think?

While most personal productivity plans are crap and will end up wasting your time, there are ways that you can increase your output. I’ve laid out 3 quick and easy steps to get you going. But, I’m curious about what you use for your personal productivity? Do you have any ideas to share?

Eric Binnion is a computer science student at Midwestern State University. When Eric is not online, he is usually volunteering in his community or enjoying time with his family. You can find Eric on Twitter.

Written by Eric Binnion

Eric Binnion is a computer science student at Midwestern State University. When Eric is not online, he is usually volunteering in his community or enjoying time with his family. You can find Eric on Twitter.

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