Productivity Tools–Using Your Mission:
In part 1 of this series I wrote about the importance of establishing your mission statement. Of all the productivity tools available, clarifying your mission is the most important. Your mission statement can be used to inform your goals. This ensures that your goals support your mission. Once your goals are aligned with your mission the tasks that comprise them will also reflect what is truly important to you. Doing tasks that have personal importance is a whole lot easier than doing tasks that do not have personal meaning. Your mission can also help to filter other tasks. We receive many tasks through email and other communication modes that are not necessarily related to our goals. By using your mission and goals as a filter for these tasks you can delegate, defer or simply refuse the ones that do not support your mission.
The Productivity Ninja offers this great workflow diagram for managing email. This productivity tool could actually be used for any task that comes your way. When a task lands in your lap the very first question to ask is, “is this important to me at all?” That is the time to compare it to your mission and goals. Does the task align with your mission? How does it get you where you want to be?
Productivity Tools for Determining Priorities:
The “Wheel of Life” is a simple but effective productivity tool for assessing your fulfillment in various life areas. You can simply create a wheel yourself or use one of the many wheel of life templates available online. Keep in mind that you can create whatever categories you wish in your wheel. Rate each category on a scale of one to 10 and connect the rating dots. You get a nice little radar chart that indicates areas of your life on which you may wish to focus. That is to say, areas of your life where you may wish to create some goals and tasks.
Stephen Covey’s “Time Management Matrix,” also known as the “Eisenhower Box” is another tool that can help to monitor goal and task alignment. The box simply plots the urgency vs. importance of various tasks. To use the box, plot items from your To Do list on it, assessing how they stack up in terms of urgency and importance. Spend your time on important tasks (boxes 1 and 2) rather than urgent ones. And avoid the “time sucks” of box 4!
Productivity Tools: From Idea to Action
An essential productivity tool is time boxing. Time boxing is putting each action into a time in which you will do it. Basically, it is making an appointment with yourself to work on a specific item. One type of time boxing is the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro is one of the best productivity tools I have come across. I have written about this technique before, both on this blog at over at The Productive Librarian. The technique is simple: set a timer for 20 minutes and work like crazy during that time, then take a break. Repeat as often as necessary.
One of the great things about Pomodoro in particular and time boxing generally as productivity tools is that it will help you to determine how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks. The ability to estimate how long it takes to do something is really helpful in planning your time. It can also greatly improve your attitude about certain tasks. I used to think that certain tasks I hated, like blow drying my hair or washing dishes, took much longer than they actually did once I timed them. The same is true for work tasks. Being realistic about time estimates will help you to better plan your day and feel more positive about necessary actions that aren’t necessarily your favorite. And I promise you, many tasks will take less time than you think.
Part 3 of this series provides 10 tips and tools for productivity.
Have you tried the Wheel of life, the Time Management Matrix, Pomodoro or other types of time boxing? I'd love to hear how they worked for you.
This is the second in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal.