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How to Do a Simple Productivity Audit

How to Do a Simple Productivity Audit
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    A Simple Productivity Audit

    Do you ever feel overwhelmed or have too much to do? Have you been known to move around like a headless chicken? If so, maybe it’s time to do a Productivity Audit.

    Here are a few questions that will help you decide if it is time to audit your efficiency:

    Do you feel in control of your workload?

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    Is your email inbox regularly emptied?

    Are you a distraction free zone?

    Are you as efficient and productive as you know you should be?

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    If you answered “no” to any one of those questions it may be a good idea to stop and take an impartial look at your current systems. By taking an objective look and making informed decisions about your personal efficiency, you will be one step closer to stress free productivity.

    Here are a few simple ways you can assess your current systems to see if you are working as efficiently as possible.

    Check Your Hardware

    Is your PC or Mac slowing you down or holding you back? Maybe a larger monitor or a dual screen setup would enable you to work more quickly. If your current system is slower than you would like it to be, take a look at boosting its performance. There are many ways to do this, such as doing a hard drive defragment or by buying more RAM. The other option is to replace it completely. If you bought your computer 10 years ago and you are reluctant to say goodbye, take note of how long it takes your PC to boot up. Think of the seconds, minutes and hours over a year that you spend waiting on your programs to load and walk away without looking back.

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    Reassess Software Programs

    Are the programs you use the best ones for what you need to do? Are you using a spread sheet program to store your customer database? Are you using your email program to the best of its ability? Are you using a calendar and syncing it with your phone? There are many ways to do things, but reassessing your goals and requirements is a good place to start to see if you have all the programs that you need to do your job well. The software that met your needs five years ago may no longer be the right one to fit your requirements today.

    Share Documents

    There are a couple of solutions when it comes to sharing documents. You can either install a wired or wireless network or you can avail of many of the “cloud” solutions such as Google Apps or Dropbox to share common files. Without these types of solutions you are at risk of having different versions of the same file in different places. Dropbox and Google Apps are useful even if you want to share your files with yourself. If you want to access your files on the road, these solutions can be ideal.

    Do a Time Audit

    How do you spend your working day? Do you work flat out from 9 until 5 or do you mess around and jump from task to task? Do you know how the hours in your day are spent or do you fool yourself into thinking that you only spent one hour yesterday between Facebook and Twitter? There are many programs that can be used to record how you spend your time on your PC, or if you are honest with yourself you can take a sheet of paper and write down exactly what you are doing and how long you spent on different tasks. Awareness is a powerful attribute to have on your side; only when you know how you are spending your time can you know if the things you “busy yourself with” are getting you closer to your goals.

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    Eliminate

    From your time audit you will probably identify time spent on time wasting activities. Once you identify the time-wasters, you can eliminate them. Simplify to become more productive. There may also be work that you do that you think is of value, like browsing Linkedin, Twitter or other social networks. Again, an objective view is necessary. Are these activities adding value to what you are trying to achieve or are they just helping you to avoid the big ugly tasks on your list that you are procrastinating on?

    Conclusion

    A simple productivity audit can help you to make your systems more efficient — and save you a lot of time and stress. Give it a try…and let me know in the comments what you discovered.

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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