Tech & Work

Personal productivity is a cross between organizational skills and courage

Problems in personal productivity have a lot to do with fear and not wanting to tackle the harder projects first.

I read somewhere that 85 percent of the things you do account for only 15% of your results, and vice-versa. I think that's a pretty important observation and one that is key to turning around any problems you have with personal productivity.

First off, ask yourself why you spend 85% of your time on things that only represent 15% of your results?

For one, we tend to tackle our smaller, less strenuous duties first. When it is a willful choosing to postpone duties we're not entirely comfortable with, it's called procrastination. Or fear. So part of increasing your personal productivity is to conquer those fears-dive in and hit the critical 15% first and get it over with.

I'm not a procrastinator, but not because I have some altruistic need to go out on a limb any time I'm asked. It's because I can't concentrate on small projects or duties if I have a larger, more complex one looming over me. I really can't devote my attention to little things if my mind is preoccupied with details of a larger project. I will have to do it at some point, so why not now?

Think of it as like having a meal. Don't eat dessert (in this case, the easier projects) unless you've finished the main entrée, even if the main entrée feels like punishment. (Yes, I'm talking to you liver and onions.)

So every day, make a list of what you have to do. Take a look at your list and ask yourself, "What's the activity that I fear most?" and start your day with that activity. By training yourself to do your feared things first, you unconsciously urge yourself to tackle tougher tasks. And you'll feel much better for it.

Another thing I do is reward myself. If I have a particularly onerous duty in my lap and I finish it, I treat myself to something like a new book or CD. I know that sounds kind of ridiculous — bribing yourself — but it works. And if you have multiple personality disorder, the treats will be a surprise!

Procrastination seems like an easy way out at the time, but it really builds up a lot of tension and guilt in your subconscious. As Nike used to say, Just do it.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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