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3 keys to mastering personal productivity

3 keys to mastering personal productivity

Productivity is the gamechanger regarding improving your performance, yet so many articles skirt around the subject by discussing efficiency vs. effectiveness,  as if they were a set of mutually exclusive options rather than complementary concepts which are in fact two sides of the same coin.


The economic definition of productivity is the measure of the outputs relative to inputs, but a more elegant definition is your ability to achieve successful results. Increasing the amount of high-value output you can produce will definitely enhance your quality of life, which is why it’s so important for us to be productive, but how do we really achieve this desired state?                                           

This article outlines some key concepts to boost your productivity.

Know Yourself

Why do we start with self-awareness? Because what we don’t know about ourselves will take control of our lives if we leave it unchecked.

Ask yourself:

  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What don’t you like to do?
  • What gets you excited?
  • What were the conditions when you experienced your most productive time?

It’s important to understand that everyone is different with different motivational drives and preferences.                                                                                                                                                                                Why is this important?                                                                           

Because not every solution will work for every individual e.g. checklist and task planners will not apply to people who are not left-brained, linear thinkers. You need to think in terms of energy with mind, body, morale spirit. Where do you get your motivation and drive? Being on purpose enables you to continue to produce even when you are not at your peak and have been demotivated by rejection or setbacks. Being able to drive past that point when the chips are down you will surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish.

You need to align the challenge to our current skill level or capability; if we are unchallenged then we fall into boredom, but if the challenge extends way past our current ability then we will likely feel overwhelmed.

Know yourself
Know yourself

Know your Desired Outcome

Create motivation and excitement through alignment with your higher purpose and a vision of a better future for yourself. Create a compelling vision for your future self, framed around what you would like to be doing and what you are good at.Simplify your goal through prioritization and avoid working on the low-value stuff. You need to thrift down to the critical tasks and apply a laser focus on completing them because they will provide value to your life. It’s important to be aware that you only have a maximum of three priorities at any given time to quote Jim Collins “If you have more than three priorities at any one time then you don’t have any”.

At work, people will find a lot of urgent activities which don’t have any real value e.g. reading emails, spending unproductive time on social media, or even requests for support from more pushy colleagues which are unrelated to your base role, etc. and not everyone is in a position to delegate. Eisenhower matrix is a useful tool to avoid the trap of wasting time on urgent, but low-value activities to avoid being ‘busy’ but unproductive.

Set realistic timelines, align on the resources you need to successfully achieve the outcomes you desire. Make decisions on what’s important – things that are of concern to your worthwhile high-value goals as any loose tasks that linger and give you mental baggage. Be intentional about the goals you wish to achieve.

Focus on your outputs in terms of quantity and quality and set up systems to measure them so you can evaluate performance. Be patient and appreciate that there is always a lag between effort and results so focus on consistent production and improvement.

Required Outcome, Desired Outcome, Appropriate Experience
Required Outcome, Desired Outcome, Appropriate Experience

Know your Strategy through effective planning and execution
It’s important to have a clear plan to move successfully from the original state to your goal. Aim to reverse engineer the steps to your desired outcome, set deadlines, sequencing the tasks, anticipate obstacles and have contingency actions in place for any challenges you may encounter, but avoid the temptation to spend excessive time on planning. Execution is key, you need to take effective action once your goals are clearly defined to gather momentum toward your goals. Creating systems, rituals, and routines or habits to manage your essential tasks with minimum effort. An effective strategy is more about getting the odds in your favor to improve your chances of success in your endeavor. Some tactics to test if they work for you include:

Morning and evening routines and rituals that set you up for a highly productive day;
– Mind through goal setting
– Body and mind through exercise
– Energize your spirit i.e. meditation, reading an inspirational book/podcast, or journal your thoughts and ideas

Declutter mentally and physically; ensure your workspace is clean and that procedures are automated and organized for maximum efficiency

Keep alerts and reminders so you don’t forget the important stuff and allow sufficient time to work on those important tasks with deadlines

Ensure that you are realistic about your workload capacity through effective resource management

Aim to delegate what you are not good at or don’t like to do; this can either be through automation or outsourcing (if you have the opportunity)

Time-boxing your productive periods into chunks of focused time for specific tasks e.g. Pomodoro technique

Ensure you have breaks in between to allow your mind time to relax and recover

Concentrate on the task at hand until it’s completed or at least off your desk

Avoid context switching as this drains energy Focused work involves a narrow and deep mental approach to task completion, but allow time multitasking where you can

Avoid extending deadlines
Patience: Time lost from getting frustrated and upset should be minimized through emotional intelligence
Education versus entertainment: Invest your free time building skills that will compound your capacity to produce better work in less time instead of streaming movies or watching your favorite TV shows


Mentally prepare yourself for failure and/or rejection, especially if this is an endeavor you’ve never tried before. Failure teaches us more about ourselves than success and those who’ve never failed have probably never extended much past their comfort zone.

Emphasizing your ability to achieve your worthwhile goals will put you on a path to live your best life. Life has ups and downs, but the ability to make worthwhile progress toward those most important outcomes will determine the degree to which you achieving personal growth and fulfillment that results from continuous and repeatable success.

Happy Sailing!