Mastering personal productivity

13 tips for mastering personal productivity

The skills needed for mastering personal productivity is not something we are born with, it is something we have to learn. Here is a set of actionable tips to get you started.


Mastering personal productivity

Mastering personal productivity is about finding what works for you and then implement those different things at the appropriate place in your life. In this blog post, I have outlined some practical tips with discretional reading that covers the different aspects of personal productivity.


1.  Learn the difference between being productive and being busy

The most important element in mastering personal productivity is to make sure that you are doing the right things at the right time.

Being productive is about doing the right things in order to accomplish your goals and fulfill your responsibilities. In other words, it’s about thinking before adding a new item to your endlessly long to-do list. Is this really important? If so, am I the right person to do this?

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2. Find your motivation

In order to be consistently productive, you have to be motivated. Superficial things like money, or recognition, can be motivating for a time. However, long-term motivation is, in my opinion, linked to passion. If you find your passion, the motivation will follow.

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3. Create space for doing actual work

In many jobs, the only way to get some “real work” done is to block other people from highjacking your time by blocking off time in your calendar. In my opinion, this is one of the key elements for mastering personal productivity.

Do not accept all meeting requests as if on autopilot. Think about why you were hired. Make sure that you attend to your responsibilities.

Getting started with Getting Things Done

10 tools to help you get productive and in control

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Mastering personal productivity means focusing on the tasks you deem important and to do only one of them at a time. (Picture: Stocksnap)


4. Quit multitasking

Trying to get more done by multitasking is like stop sleeping to get more done. Everyone knows that the net result is that less work is done, and more errors are likely to occur.

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Multitasking is bad – Why concentrating on one single task is much better

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5. Capture your ideas and to-do items

Your brain is a wonderful thing. It reminds you of the groceries you need just at that moment when you are working with the PowerPoint presentation your boss needs in an hour. This is why you need a system for capturing and processing these things when they first turn up so that you avoid these useless, random reminders.

I always have a pen and paper on my desk. If I get an idea or a random reminder like the one above, I’ll write it down on a note. If I’m not at my desk, I let Braintoss do the job. (You can use Braintoss without Todoist.)

Braintoss for Todoist

How to set up Braintoss for Todoist to capture ideas on the move

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6. Create in-boxes and make it a habit to process what’s in them

Your inbox should be emptied at regular intervals. Here is an important piece of information: Processing your inbox is not the same as completing all of the tasks. Processing your inbox means placing the items on the appropriate list. Make it a habit to do this every week.

The below blog post is about doing a GTD weekly review, but you can use much of the same approach even if you are not practicing Getting Things Done.

GTD Weekly Review – Your most important task of the week

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7. Make to-do lists

A properly maintained to-do list is a core element in mastering personal productivity. This is where you place the items from your inbox. To be able to write good to-do lists, you need to understand how to define your tasks. See item 8.

Read the below blog posts to avoid some of the common pitfalls of to-do lists.

to-do lists do not work

Why your to-do lists do not work

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8. Understand the value of next actions

Did you know that it is possible to improve the outcome of a meeting with one single question? – and that the same question will make your to-do list much more valuable? By asking “what’s the next action?” you will force people to agree on how to implement the outcome of a meeting.

Asking yourself “what’s the next action?” when adding an item to your to-do list will greatly reduce the mental stress of having to think before starting on a new item on the list. The undefined monster task called “Make marketing plan for 2019” will be a lot easier to get started on if you split it into “Find marketing plan for 2018” and “Call John about the list of new products to be made in 2019.”

What's the next action

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9. Have a system for storing and finding information

The secret to retrieve information when you need it is to have a clear logic on where you store what kind of information. Here is a list of tools for capturing and storing information that makes it easy to find it when you need it.

reference information

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See also my tips and tricks for Evernote.

How to organize Evernote – My secrets reveiled

How to organize Evernote – My secrets revealed

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Why wait? Sign up for Evernote now.

Disclosure: By using the above link, I will get three months free Evernote Premium if you sign up for the Evernote Premium plan. Please trust me when I say that I do not get paid for product reviews, and will never promote products that I have not tried myself.


10. Use keyboard shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts can dramatically increase your productivity. Think about how often you are reaching for the mouse, visually locating a button on a ribbon in Office or a field on a web page, then clicking and going back to your keyboard.

Below you will find keyboard shortcuts for Windows, Word, and Excel. Be sure to visit my Focus page for a complete overview of all blog posts about keyboard shortcuts.

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keyboard shortcuts for Word and Excel

83 keyboard shortcuts for Word and Excel

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Mastering personal productivity
Mastering personal productivity also means mastering the tools you need to get work done. (Picture: Stocksnap)


11. Set up multiple monitors

Research has shown that working with multiple multiple monitors can boost your personal productivity with up to 42%.

With the exception of people who are working with only one or two applications at a time, having multiple monitors can be a huge time-saver.

multiple monitors boost productivity

How multiple monitors boost productivity

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Here is all you need to set up multiple monitors and to make use of every inch of screen real estate.

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12. Learn the GTD methodology

If you practice the tips above, you are already halfway to practicing Getting Things Done (GTD). If you want to take your personal productivity to the next level, start reading about GTD. The GTD methodology is really a set of tools that you can use to set up your day, both personally and professionally, in a way that works for you.

Getting started with Getting Things Done

FOCUS page: Getting started with Getting Things Done Here you will find everything you need to know about getting started with ...
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13. Take a break

Humans are not machines. We all need to take a break, and we all need a real vacation. Mastering personal productivity is not just about working smarter, it is about being able to take a break, knowing that you have fulfilled your obligations and that you will be able to handle returning to work without having to work around the clock.

Some people have a hard time taking more than a few days off. The stress of knowing about all the emails and un-completed tasks that are growing day by day is enough to make downtime miserable.

By doing some preparations before you leave for vacation, you can enjoy the time with family and friends without thinking about your inbox.

How to avoid working on your vacation

How to avoid working on your vacation

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How you come back from vacation actually makes a big difference.

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How to prepare yourself to get back to work after vacation

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