Productivity and Me

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I read Ben Franklin's Autobiography for the first time when I was in my late teens. That's when I started a practice that he followed: reviewing my performance every day. Franklin wrote the autobiography when he was older and he took some time to reflect on what he learned from a lifetime of evaluating his performance. That's what I'm about to do, too.

I've been tracking my productivity for around fifty years now. Here's what has worked for me consistently over that half century.

The most important thing I can do if I want to be productive is get enough good sleep. When I was travelling a lot, I had to learn to neutralize the effect of hotel rooms and overcome the pull of late-night social events. Now it's easier, but sleep is still my most important productivity driver.

I get the most done when I do productive work first thing in the morning. "First thing" means before checking email or Twitter. It means first thing. That's most likely to happen if I take time to set up the work the night before.

I limit my To Do list to five items. I set the top one the night before. Then I fill in the rest after my first round of work and after I've checked mail and such.

Checklists and reminders set me free to think about important things. My system remembers things so my brain doesn't have to.

When I've got something disagreeable to do, my days work better if I do that difficult or unpleasant task first thing in the morning. I've found that scheduling it and preparing for it get it off my mind so I can sleep well, too.

I make the most progress over time if I set up "move ahead" projects for every quarter. Some are business and some are not. Then I schedule a half day each week to work on the current project.

My life works better if I make a little progress on something every day. If I get to the end of the day without any progress on anything, I go to my file of Quick Projects and do one.

That's what works for me. It's the result of fifty years of paying attention and keeping score. What I look at today is not what I was looking at fifty years ago, or even fifty weeks ago. Situations and priorities changed and so did my tracking system. Today's system is the result of picking up ideas from many, many places and trying them to see if they work for me.

Boss's Bottom Line

You'll do better today and over time, if you track your performance and try new ways to improve it. Keep what works. Ditch what doesn't.


I've picked up ideas from many sources over the years. Here are nice recent posts that will give you ideas about what may work for you.

7 Simple productivity tips you can apply today, backed by science

Seven Tips for Taming Your Calendar

Do More By Planning Less: The Power of the Anti-Plan

How CEOs Can Beat The Clock: 5 Tips From HP's Meg Whitman

10 Easy Ways to Get More Done

12 Tips For Increasing Productivity

Tips on Productivity from the Harvard Business Review

12 Productivity Tips From Incredibly Busy People

10 Easy Ways to Get More Done

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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