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Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

(Editor’s Note: We’re starting a new series this week featuring new Lifehack contributor Kirsten Simmons called “Rethinking Productivity”. The hope is our readers will ask Kirsten questions about productivity, organization, and time management so that she can provide answers that will make people take a step back and “rethink” productivity. Enjoy.)

Dear Kirsten,

It’s funny that you mention Getting Things Done, because my crash with that system is what initially prompted me to write. I’ve heard so many people rave about it and read so many good reviews, and when I picked up the book it was the most confusing thing I’d ever read! I had to pull out my sketchbook to try to visualize all the steps and even now I’m not sure I got them right.

I started with the collection of outstanding stuff to do, and ended up with an inbox at least a foot high. Then I tried to sort through it all and do the two minute tasks. After three hours my head was pounding and I’d only gotten halfway through! At least a third of my “two minute” tasks ended up taking much more time, and I felt torn between trying to finish them or going back and leaving yet another item hanging in limbo. I took another stab the next day and managed to get all the way through, leaving me with hefty stacks of short and long term projects, subdivided between personal and income-producing.

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But now here’s the thing – I really want to dig into some of my long term projects now! The short ones should have the priority, but going through the materials I had collected for the long term projects simply has rekindled my desire and excitement for them.

I pushed past that and started trying to keep GTD going day-to-day. I spent at least an hour each day trying to keep everything straight and moving tasks back and forth as I completed them, went on to something else, then came back with a new idea for a completed task and reopened it again. On days where I taught workshops, my inbox piled high with tasks and I’d have to work twice as long the next day to catch up. I began to second guess myself and lose track of tasks in the system, especially when they’d been moved back and forth a few times. Finally I crashed after a 3 day workshop when my inbox was full of at least 5 hours of sorting, categorizing and networking tasks. The pile was back to the 12+ inches I’d had when I first started, and it had only been a month!

Reading back now, it feels so silly – why couldn’t I just have done the work? Clearly other people use this system to great effect, but the sight of that mile-high inbox was just so demoralizing! I tossed the entire thing into the recycling bin and felt a bit better, but my inherent problem still remains. I’m ditzy and flakey and I don’t mean to stand people up with work and play, but somehow it ends up happening anyway and I hate to disappoint people. Any ideas how I can prevent that?

Signed,

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G – (aaaah!)

    Dear G,

    Your brush with GTD sounds similar to my own, except that I believe my inbox had reached around 3 feet in height before I bailed. I distinctly remember the thing falling over in a landslide of paper, business cards and post-it notes, and my dogs rushing in to investigate and gleefully grabbing pages to rip apart. I should have scolded them, but it was such a relief to see the remains of what I should have been doing!

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    As I mentioned last time, productivity needs to fit within your own personal ecosystem. That ecosystem includes your goals, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your habits and your life commitments. In GTD, productivity is the be all and end all, a blunt instrument which can be effective in the right hands, but which can be overwhelming or even destructive in others. Let’s say you had a tomato and needed to cut it in two. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/when-to-use-email-when-not-to.htmlWould you choose a chainsaw, a butcher’s knife, a paring knife or a butterknife?  You need to have the right tool for the job!

    You don’t mention much about your goals, habits or strengths/weaknesses in your letter, but you have provided me some hints as to your personality. Given the physical height of your inbox, your need to visualize the steps of GTD and your mention of hating to disappoint people, I’m going to guess you’re Environmental or Fantastical, and I’ll go out on a limb to say that Environmental is your primary and Fantastical your secondary. Everyone has a primary type that comes most naturally to them and picks up secondary types based on the strength of the influences around them growing up.

    • The Environmental Type is an amazing people person. They have the enviable skill of being able to feel and interpret the body language and emotion of the people around them, and they are happiest when those they love and spend time with are happy. This is a double edged sword, however, and I have seen many Environmentals neglecting themselves to the point of ruining their health in favor of supporting those around them instead. Your routinely overflowing inbox is indicative of a classic Environmental conundrum – saving anything that might have value to someone, someday. Let me guess – your email inbox is the same way, isn’t it?
    • The Fantastical Type is a visual thinker, and they bring an impressive problem solving ability to any task they undertake. They have a tendency to get lost in what they do and remain lost for hours on end, regardless of what’s going on around them. This is the author who stays up into the wee hours of the morning writing and the scientist who dives into his lab with an idea and emerges hours later having forgotten to eat, drink or do anything else on his calendar in the intervening time.

    There are two additional types, the Analytical and the Structural.

    • The Analytical Type is a brilliant big picture thinker, and is able to internalize and process information quickly. This is the person who can look at a chart or figure, understand what’s going on and how it fits into her goals, and speak intelligently about the meaning of the data and the next steps. They are also very ambitious, sometimes to the detriment of other pieces of their life when they’re in pursuit of a goal.
    • The Structural Type is the naturally gifted systems person – they can see a situation, understand the pieces, and think through the potential possible outcomes to put together a repeatable process. While I don’t know David Allen personally, the simple existence of the Getting Things Done empire tells me he’s a Structural. And systems like GTD can work great – for other Structurals. That’s why you see so many Structural systems in the productivity arena – it’s a natural response when you see others struggling to want to help, and if you have a productivity system that works for you then you’ll naturally tell others about it when you see them struggling with productivity. But when an Environmental or a Fantastical tries to use a Structural system, we see the frustration, stress and eventual abandonment that you describe, G – (aaah!). When an Analytical uses a Structural system, they can manage it but it’s not the best use of their time and abilities.

    So what’s the solution for those of us who have differing strengths than our Structural counterparts? Well, that depends on the other elements of the ecosystem – your goals, your habits and your life commitments. Why don’t you write back and tell me about the first and the third, G – (aaah!)? Then we can start to test out ideas that have a greater chance of working for you.

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    With Love,
    Kirsten

    Now it’s your turn – given these type descriptions, which one do you think you are?

    Have a productivity problem? Tell Kirsten all about it and get a solution!

    Featured photo credit: One Green Car Among Many Other Cars via Shutterstock and inline photo by Johannes Kleske via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

    More by this author

    Rethink Productivity: How to Use Your Personality to Reach Your Goals Rethinking Productivity: Why Your Brain May Be Keeping You from Getting Things Done Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

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    Last Updated on February 17, 2021

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

    No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

    Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

    1. Set a Timer

    Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

    In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

    2. Eliminate All Distractions

    Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

    You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

    Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

    Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

    Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

    4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

    Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

    If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

    5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

    By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

    Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

    6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

    Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

    7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

    Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

    Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

    Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

    8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

    To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

    Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

    Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

    9. Don’t Multitask

    Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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    For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

    10. Step Away from the Computer

    The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

    I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

    11. Use Focus Tools

    Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

    Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

    Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

    12. Just Start

    Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

    Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

    13. Find out Your Productive Hours

    Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

    Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

    14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

    This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

    15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

    The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

    When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

    And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

    16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

    I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

    Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

    17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

    The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

    Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

    18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

    As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

    “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

    This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

    19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

    I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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    Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

    20. Get Plenty of Sleep

    When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

    Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    21. Exercise

    Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

    Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

    Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

    22. Outsource as Much as Possible

    If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

    Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    23. Set Some Exciting Goals

    Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

    Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

    24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

    When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

    25. Listen to Podcasts

    Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

    Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

    Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

    26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

    This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

    Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

    27. Learn to Speed Read

    When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

    You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

    28. Learn to Skip When You Read

    When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

    Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

    29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

    Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

    We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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    30. Take a Break

    You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

    31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

    What is polyphasic sleep?

    Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

    While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

    32. Learn to Say “No”.

    We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

    Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

    33. Go on an Information Diet

    Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

    Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

    The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

    34. Organize Your Office

    The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

    Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

    35. Find a Mentor

    By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

    A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

    36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

    With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

    When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

    Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

    Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

    37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

    Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

    You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

    38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

    If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

    Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

    How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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    39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

    Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

    Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

    40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

    Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

    Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

    41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

    When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

    Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

    42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

    The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

    Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

    43. Take Shorter Showers

    This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

    44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

    Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

    45. Auto Pay Your Bills

    How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

    Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

    46. Shop Online

    Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

    47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

    Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

    If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

    48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

    If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

    Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

    49. Turn off the TV

    The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

    For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

    Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

    50. Use a Tivo or DVR

    This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

    So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

    More Time Management Tips

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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