There are thousands of productivity best practices and tools available today. The sheer number of productivity strategies, tools and apps can make identifying which one will work for you time intensive and overwhelming – the last things you want if you are trying to find a few more minutes in your day and improve your productivity.
And, to make your search even more exasperating, how often have you downloaded a new productivity app and when you begin using it, you realize it does not live up to its promises? It actually makes it harder for you to get your work done! Now, you’ve not only wasted your precious time, but you also probably feel frustrated, like you’ll never get organized, or even worse, like a failure.
The truth is that the problem is not you. It is how you are trying to improve your productivity that is the problem.
You cannot improve your productivity using one-size-fits-all productivity solutions. The latest app, prioritization tip, or email management strategy will not work if it is not personalized for you, aligned with the way you think and process information. Instead it will only create even more frustration, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.
To identify the best productivity practices that will actually work for you, it’s time to personalize your productivity. The first step is to identify your Productivity Style, or your preferred way of thinking and processing information. Then, once you know your Productivity Style you can select the best productivity practices for you.
What is your Productivity Style?
There are four Productivity Styles:
The Prioritizer will defer to analytical, logical, fact-based, critical, linear thinking. They are focused on achieving the outcome or the goal of the project, use facts or data to make their decisions and are highly efficient with their time.
They are so focused on execution that they don’t often spend much time or energy on how a task is completed. At times they have a tendency to be controlling and rigid, and may be known in the office for their drive and competitiveness. They dislike chit-chat, missing data, or oversharing of anything personal. Their emails are often only a few sentences, or if possible, just a few letters.
The Planner thrives on organized, sequential, planned, and detailed thinking.
Though at first glance they may appear as a Prioritizer, the Planner will immerse themselves in the details of a project, while the Prioritizer focuses on only the details that help them complete the project quickly and accurately. The Planner has never met a calendar or project-planning tool that they did not like.
They are not known for their spontaneity, and in fact they have missed opportunities due to their resistance to deviate from plans.
A Planner has been known to write something on their to-do list that has already been completed, just so they can cross it off.
They flourish on schedules and action plans, and are known for their timely follow-ups. They want you to get to the point; they’ll read the fine print later. They hate attending a meeting without an agenda. Their emails are detailed, often including bullet points and clearly stated next-action steps.
An Arranger prefers supportive, expressive, and emotional thinking. They are the ultimate team player and excel at partnering with colleagues to get work done.
They are a natural communicator and deftly facilitate project meetings. They hate when people lack that personal touch or rely too heavily on data or facts.
Arrangers are talkers; they love stories, eye-to-eye contact, expressing concern for others, and asking questions about the way a project or task helps others. They have been known to need to institute a personal chat budget, only allowing a few minutes of chit chat during work hours, and have to avoid adding one more person to the cc: line on their email messages.
A Visualizer prefers holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing thinking. They thrive under pressure and are easily bored if they are not juggling multiple, diverse projects. A Visualizer focuses on the big picture and broad concepts making innovative connections.
At times, they have a tendency to overlook details and tend to value the possibilities over process. Their excessive spontaneity and impulsiveness can lead to breakthrough ideas, but can also derail project plans at times.
A Visualizer has probably not seen the surface of their desk in years because if something is out of sight, it is out of mind. And, their emails tend to be long, filled with concepts and ideas.
So, which one are you? Which of the above Productivity Style descriptions best describes you?
If after reading the Productivity Style descriptions above, you still can’t decide which one is your style, you can take our free Productivity Style Assessment® by clicking on this link. It will take you less than ten minutes to complete and your assessment results will be emailed to your inbox.
Now that you know your Productivity Style, it’s time to identify the productivity best practices that will actually work for you.
Best Productivity Practices For Your Productivity Style
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. You have to personalize your productivity strategies and tools based on your Productivity Style. Outlined below are productivity best practices by Productivity Style.
▪ Time yourself.
- Do you know how long it takes for you to prepare for a meeting with your manager, respond to twenty emails or complete your weekly report? Most of us are abysmal at knowing how long tasks and projects actually take to complete. Time yourself. Once you know how long it actually takes for you to complete a task, you can more accurately allocate your time. And you can now set a time goal enabling you to complete the task faster. For example, if it takes you 23 minutes to process 20 emails, can you do it in 20 minutes? I bet you can.
▪ Protect your 90.
- Protect 90 minutes of your day to work on your goals, objectives and high-value tasks and projects. Now, this does not have to be 90 contiguous minutes. It can be any time combination that works for you. Three 30 minute blocks of time or a few 20 and 10 minute blocks of time. However, it must be 90 total minutes each day. Why? Because 90 minutes adds up to 7.5 hours in a work week. Protect your 90 and watch your productivity soar.
▪ Use a 15 minute list.
- As a Planner, you’ve never met a list you did not like. Use a 15 minute list to capitalize on the micro-segments of your days – when you are waiting for your conference call to start, you’re sitting in the dentist office or waiting on a friend for coffee. The 15 minute list is a list of all of the tasks you can complete in less than fifteen minutes. For example, call the vet to schedule the dog’s annual check-up, prep for the one-on-one meeting with your direct report or schedule your haircut. Not only will this list enable you to leverage all of the minutes in your day to get work done, it can also be a great tool to overcome the powerful pull of procrastination. So, the next time you feel like procrastinating, pull out your 15 minute list and complete one task. It will be easy to complete and you’ll get the satisfaction of crossing something off your list. Now, you are ready to tackle the rest of your list.
▪ Batch or group similar tasks.
- Improve your execution efficiency by batching or grouping similar tasks on your to-do list. For example, group all of your phone calls, emails to send, spreadsheets to complete and blog posts to edit. This will make it easier for you to quickly complete similar tasks – which is the most effective and efficient method to get your work done.
▪ Turn off your new email notification alarms.
- Arrangers crave connectivity and work most effectively with others. However, the constant interruption of new email messages wastes your time and undermines your productivity. Turn off all of your new email notification alarms – the pings, buzzes, cursor changes and message previews – so you can focus and get your time done.
▪ Align the execution of your tasks to your energy level.
- I can’t share strategies to maximize your time without also considering your energy. Because, if you’re tired, hungry or pissed off, you’re fighting an uphill battle with your body- which you will lose. Ensure that you stay energized and focused throughout your work day by staying hydrated and eating healthy meals and snacks. Your brain is over 70% water and requires glucose to function properly. After you’ve had a difficult conversation with a client or colleague and feel angry, frustrated or even disappointed consider going for a quick 5 minute walk, listening to your favorite song or watching silly cat videos on YouTube. Each one of these will help you reset your emotions so you can focus on your next task.
▪ Act like a sprinter, not a marathoner.
- As a Visualizer you do your best work in short, quick bursts – like a sprinter. Plodding along like a marathoner is a productivity death march for you. If you spend too much time on one task you can become bored. And, boredom is one of your biggest productivity drains. Focus on working in 20 – 30 minute sprints and see how much you accomplish.
▪ Intersperse boring work with creative, inspiring work.
- There is work you enjoy doing and work you dread doing. Move quickly through the uninteresting work by intentionally staggering the types of tasks you work on throughout your day. Oscillate between mind-numbing and exciting tasks and projects to ensure that you efficiently get your work done.
Ready to learn more about your Productivity Style and productivity best practices that will work for you? Click here for our Productivity Style Assessment.
Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, her views have been included in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.