Ed Africano on Developing Personal Productivity

First, let me state that “Productivity” is hardly a one-size-fits-all concept. It depends on the person, it depends on the task, and it depends on the situation surrounding both. There are several books written on the subject and even the most successful ones may be inappropriate for your own productivity or it may clash with your style.  But nonetheless, these are some ways that are effective for maximizing productivity in a tailored way.


  1. Start the Day Off Right Mentally. I don’t mean to be metaphysical, but one must start the day clear headed and with a relaxed or tempered attitude.  So, first, close your eyes and take some deep breaths before you turn on your computer. Remind yourself that everything you do and don’t do, is part of your life journey and will contribute in one way or another to personal growth.  


  1. Prioritize Your Day’s Work. It’s easy to respond quickly to that urgent e-mail, or business emergency and next thing you know it’s three hours later and you haven’t been productive at all. So, sit down with your Task/To Do List and plan out what you need to do that day and the respective order.  If you can map out your week that’s even better.  You have to strive towards being familiar with your peak productivity time. This is attained by continual planning, and once it becomes a habit, this planning task would take no more than 30 minutes to an hour.  Remember to leave some free time every day in case anything urgent comes up, but do your best to stay on-schedule as much as possible, especially mornings.  You must be clear on these priorities, you have to know when they are done and they must be measurable.


  1. Clear Desk, Clear Mind. Whether you believe it or not, a disorganized work space is a disorganized brain, so clear your desk of anything that doesn’t pertain directly to the day’s activities. It’s a simple step but it has a real impact on productivity.


  1. Be Considerate. If the task or project you are working on needs the input or approval of someone else, don’t put it at the top of your list.  If it’s mission critical, then carve out the parts that you control and place in adequate priority.  The parts that are beyond your control are “Follow-Up” activities. 


  1. Stay Focused. In today’s interconnected world, it’s easy to get sidetracked or interrupted. So if you are able to, close your door, shut down your email if applicable, don’t take social media breaks, and allow your-self to get into the flow of your work.  Remember that when you are fully immersed in your work you will enjoy what you are doing. Focusing your attention on just one project will allow you to give it your best self. So, in short, don’t multitask.


  1. Know Futility.  Discover what works and what doesn’t. To that end, do “End-Day Self Assessments” and ask yourself the following reflective questions to get to the bottom of your productive (or nonproductive) habits:


    1. What does a typical Monday or Work Week look like?
    2. What does a typical Friday or End of Week look like?
    3. How much can I expect to get done during each day? Each week? 
    4. Am I more productive in the mornings or in the afternoons? 
    5. How often do I really need to check my email? Do I miss important pieces of data if I only check it once a day? Is checking it once per hour of benefit to me?
    6. How do interruptions affect my day? Are interruptions welcome? 
    7. How long does it take me to get back on track after something diverts my attention?


Being busy does not equate to being productive nor does it mean you are delivering value every day. So, if you do these simple tasks, I assure you, you will find considerable improvement in your productivity.  They are solid steps in helping you stop reacting to the work and become proactive about your daily activities. Let me clarify, there will be emergencies, there will be interruptions. But having that self-assurance from continual successes  will  yield that calm and collective approach to handling those emergencies. Remember the old adage that “that practice will make you better” because it’s true. And my personal favorite, Benjamin Franklin’s quote “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.