Why Personal Productivity is Bull**** and What Works

Eric Binnion

More from

As bloggers, you are responsible for so much more than just creating great content. You are likely also responsible for negotiating advertising rates other sources of income, moderating comments, correcting guest posts, managing social media, and much more.

With all of that work load, you have likely looked at some sort of way to increase the amount of work you get done. And while personal productivity can help you get more work done, a lot of the advice out there is bull****.

Why, you ask? Because many of the personal productivity systems out there are so difficult that you end up wasting more time using the system.

Examples of Failed Personal Productivity

Although I could give you several examples of my failures at personal productivity, I think it’s best if you get a non-biased opinion. Mike Vardy had this to say on Lifehack:

This seemed like a good idea at the time. I used to use coloured pens and highlighters that were associated with a legend so I could tell what each task was associated with and how far along they were to completion. Different coloured pens were used for the “context” of the tasks (keeping in mind I had no knowledge of how contexts are defined in most productivity systems at the time) and the different coloured highlighters were used to signify the progress of the tasks.

One of the biggest problems with this experiment was that I was carrying around a pencil case for the first time since school. I also wound up using one of those multi-coloured pens that you had to flick to change colours. Not exactly the most pleasant writing tool.

Furthermore, I had to keep tabs on what each aspect of the colour-coding represented. I was either pulling out the legend regularly to make sure I knew what was going on with certain tasks or I inadvertantly would use a wrong colour and throw everything out of whack. Well, at least it felt like everything was out of whack. What it really was: not the best solution for my personal productivity.

Sign Up Now for Free Updates and Exclusive Content:

Learn how to write killer content, get more traffic, make money, and more by entering your email below:

Although I understand where Mike was going with color coding his tasks, can you imaging how hard it would be to not only keep up with all of the colors and what they mean, but to also always have a bag of pencils and highlighters with you? This is a prime example of a personal productivity plan that actually results in more work and frustration than no personal productivity.

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at another example of Mike’s that’s more applicable to those of us with iPhones.

When I first dove into using apps for productivity purposes, Things won out over OmniFocus. The price was cheaper and it seemed to have everything I needed. The user interface was simple and elegant, the developers had built a complementary iPhone app and I was able to use it with relative ease and get a whole lot done.

Until I was away from my Mac for too long with my iPhone. Then “Things” wasnt working out so well. It had no over-the-air sync at the time. That was a problem for me. Others felt the same way.

This example really hits home with me because I’ve tried dozens of different types of personal productivity and task management apps, and I can never get the hang of them. I always spend tons of time trying to keep data in sync or figuring out how best to organize.

By now, you’re probably beginning to ask yourself if you should keep looking for a personal productivity plan that works. The short answer is, “Yes, personal productivity can work!

3 Easy Steps for Better Personal Productivity

Before we talk about what works in regards to personal productivity, it’s time for a gut check. If you want anything, then you have to make it happen. 

No one else is going to save you. If you’re not willing to put the work in, then personal productivity is a lost cause. With that said, here are the best ways to drastically increase your personal productivity within the next 48 hours!

  1. Quit scheduling so much. I often talk about analysis paralysis, the idea that you think and plan so much that nothing ever gets done. Think about this, every time you schedule some little task, you are wasting time. Or how about this… Have you ever not started a task because you had an appointment coming up in 15-30 minutes and you knew you wouldn’t be finished? Schedule the important stuff. Otherwise, just get to work!
  2. Work at the right time. If you have the ability, then work when you are most focused and can get the most amount of work done. For me this is between about 8 PM and 1-2 AM after my family starts going to sleep. For others, like Nick, this seems to be early in the morning. We are all different. Find what works for you and stick to it.
  3. Work in spurts with zero interruptions. Your body operates in cycles of about 90 minutes. By working within these cycles, you can get much more good work done! The basic idea is that you work for up to 90 minutes without any interruptions. Then, you take a 15-20 minute break. Repeat this cycle a few times throughout your day. You should notice that you are able to get more work done because you are able to focus more intently on tasks.

In short, you can greatly increase your personal productivity by simply not scheduling as much, finding your optimal work time, and taking breaks within your work. This system is very low maintenance and should only require that you have some sort of timer so you don’t go over 90 minutes of work at a time.

What Do You Think?

While most personal productivity plans are crap and will end up wasting your time, there are ways that you can increase your output. I’ve laid out 3 quick and easy steps to get you going. But, I’m curious about what you use for your personal productivity? Do you have any ideas to share?

Written by Eric Binnion

Eric Binnion is a computer science student at Midwestern State University. When Eric is not online, he is usually volunteering in his community or enjoying time with his family. You can find Eric on Twitter.

«
»

Comments

  • David Havice says:

    After many years of attempted “super organization” starting with predigital old-fashioned “day timers” I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect single app that can handle it. I believe that it is probably a couple of different programs or apps that we’re most comfortable with or most familiar with!

    Before I switched over to Apple products, my go to program was Microsoft Publisher. I could make it do about anything I needed. But since the change, no one program has taken Publishers place for me. So also with personal productivity programs. And that is my humble opinion

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey David,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I also have trouble finding just one program that can help me manage my “life”, whether it’s work or personal. As of now, I’m trying to use Evernote, but find that it falls short in task management.

  • Shirley Hoke says:

    Hi Eric,
    I have been reading and checking out everything that you have sent to me.

    I’m really new at blogging and I’m having difficulty creating good content.

    The http://shirleyhoke.com website that I have, I did about 2 years ago. I paid someone to do the website. My friend Adrienne Smith helped me a lot with getting it up and running. I’m planning on using it to blog about health products that I’m currently using and how they work.

    I also joined Empower Network. I’m suppose to be blogging everyday. I’m going to be 78 in May and my mind seems to be losing some of it’s “get up and let’s go!”

    I enjoyed reading about your Easy Steps for Better Personal Productivity. I’m going to follow your three steps. Thank you so much for sending it to me.

    Shirley Hoke

    • Eric Binnion says:

      That’s awesome to hear that you’re goal is to blog every day! I wish you the best of luck.

  • Chris says:

    Eric, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how busy a blogger could be. Most people have no idea how much work goes into this. And yes, it takes great discipline to keep up!

    I like the idea of working 90 minutes without interruptions (I wonder if that’s even possible in my house…lol). No doubt, this is what I need to do to finish that book I started writing years ago.

    By the way, you have a typo in the paragraph following the first quote. You put “imaging” instead of “imagine.”

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Eric Binnion says:

      The no interruptions is definitely hard, but I find that when I can work without interruptions (no kids, no music, no social media) in short bursts, I get much more done.

      Thanks for leaving a comment Chris!

      P.s. – Silly typo even got through a human editor! Darned things…

  • Tani Rae says:

    Now that just might work! I had been trying to follow the Pomodoro method. It promises increases productivity working in 25 minute sessions then 3-5 min breaks and back to it. One big break after 3 or 4. These short session breaks keep you from focus fuzz or getting obsessive about something and not realizing you are off task.
    The problem I have with this is. I am just getting into a glove and making something happen. My train of thought has barely pulled out of the station when the applause goes off (my alarm sound ☺) I haven’t even accomplished enough to take a bow, much less a break.

    However I clearly need interruption so I don’t spend an hour deleting email and lose track if time.

    I tried Listing all my todos in my daily calendar but then I spend time moving undones to future dates. I switched to google tasks but those don’t sync to my iPhone and I forget about what isn’t alarming in my calendar.

    I tried using an obeya board like Boeing does; where you list tasks on sticky notes and move them from columns: to do, doing, done. And rows of priority. But that’s overkill when working alone.

    You wouldn’t happen to have software that schedules in 90 min increments, sorts by priority and follows you around all day reminding you, do you?

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Unfortunately, I do not have such software. But, it is possible to build it ;)

      Let me know how this works. I sometimes feel hectic with this plan, but I think it’s a good balance between spending a ton of time “managing” the productivity and actually getting stuff done.

  • Ingus says:

    I’ve tried loads of apps since the times of palmOS. I was the guy who does more organizing that actual work. I have returned to just calendar. Todos thrown in particular days they would be good to do. Meetings (events with precise time) are colored red and have sound alerts accordingly. And i look at it as a week. I focus on today, but i see what’s coming up in the near future, but i am not overwhelmed by the incredibly long todo list (like things and wunderlist).
    I don’t keep stuff in my head, i throw it all in somewhere in the calendar right away – it takes discipline, but it so much frees me from stress of remembering (forgetting!) stuff. And i know that i have everything there, and i don’t have to jump from there to reminders, to wunderlist to wherever worrying about “didn’t i forget something?” I try to keep schedule light on purpose because life is life and stuff just comes up as i go and then i don’t feel stressed about it. If i’m done with tasks for today i might tackle some other stuff for the week, but i more often just go and read a good book (not a fiction) which counts as learning – i manage to get about 1hour on a weekday to do that before the family duties call – 2 kids… 3 if you count the wife :)

    Besides that i use only evernote (1 of the 7 third party apps on my iphone – i mention it because it is crucial for productivity not to feed your dopamine addiction with fiddling around your apps), but just for storing miscelaneous info that might come in handy. I throw everything i couldn’t possibly remember, but am certain i will need at some point – measurents, colors, papers, links, model numbers, fees, prices from stores, quotes. While on the run i just snap a picture or write the keywords, when back at my mac, i take time to tag it, write some additional info while i can remember details.

    Both apps sync between my old 3gs and my old macbook pro seamlessly.

    It is simple, fast and rewarding…

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Ingus,

      Thanks for the insight! I love the wife joke :)

      I’ve definitely found Evernote indispensable as of late. Although I use it only for business as of now, I plan on using it to archive family memories as well in the near future!

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  • Alexander Degrate says:

    Great Article. When I started out I tried putting everything I studied into practice, all the “MUST do or FAIL” advice. Result brain overload, deer in the headlights. I’m still trimming down on what I thought I had to do, but scooping up bits of what’s left of my peace of mind. Good to hear others experience the same.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Thanks for the comment Alexander. how are you approaching personal productivity now, if you don’t mind me asking?