Monday 9 February 2009

Boosting personal productivity - a quick tip

Do you ever have days when your productivity is so low you wondered why you came in to work? There can be a host of reasons for low productivity – poor planning often being at the top of the list.

Sometimes, though, we just get distracted - moving from one thing to another without finishing anything to a high standard. I would love to say I never have days like that – but unfortunately I do. When I realise that my productivity has nose-dived, I have a simple way of getting my efficiency up again. It’s called a stopwatch.

My Stopwatch Productivity Booster works like this:

1. I decide what The Single Most Important Thing I should be working on is. I can’t do two things at the same time – so I figure out what is most important. There is no point agonising over it. If there are a number of things competing for my attention, I just decide. But I make a proactive decision and stick to it.

2. Then I define what complete means, and commit to getting the work finished to completion.

3. I get my stopwatch out and set it running. Whenever I stop working on my Single Most Important Thing I pause the stopwatch, and note down the time. When I start working on my Single Most Important Thing again, I start the stopwatch, and note down the time.

4. At the end of the day I analyse how much time I have spent on My Single Most Important Thing, and how much has been spent on Other Stuff. The analysis activity itself is useful – as is figuring out what made up the Other Stuff, and whether it was worth doing at all.

The stopwatch method makes me focus. The process of proactively deciding where to spend my time, then measuring how well I am doing, results in better concentration. The stopwatch means I can’t fool myself. Often jobs that I have been putting off actually take a less time to complete than I imagined.

The analysis is always illuminating. The difference between a focused day, and a poorly focused day, is significant. It reminds me to organise interruptions more efficiently. I’m bad at saying No, and the stopwatch helps me say – “I’ll come back to you on that later this afternoon” or whatever.

The Stopwatch Productivity Booster method is a personal performance management tool that I use regularly. It’s not expensive, I doubt it is original, but it works for me and when I’ve told others about it I’ve had feedback that it works for them too.

And for anyone who is interested, this post took me 39 minutes and 48 seconds to write, with no breaks. Wait, no, 45 minutes, 12 seconds ....


  1. If you are looking for a simple stopwatch you can to try out this method I recommend

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