My Personal Productivity Rules

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by steakpinball

It wasn’t that long ago that I read an article over at WiseBread called My Personal Productivity Rules. It got me thinking about what my productivity rules are. The exercise of writing them down helped me clarify some of them in my mind, and I thought I would share them with you.

Write Everything Down…

I have a terrible memory. So if it is not written down, I will forget it. I used to think I would remember these items, but I would always forget until too late. Now I write everything down if it is not the next thing I am going to do right now. This ensures that I don’t lose track of anything I might think of, and I no longer have to worry about missing commitments because I didn’t write myself a note.

…And Remember To Do Something With It

The second part of writing everything down is to actually do something with it. If I write something down and don’t look at it again, I might as well have thrown the paper out immediately. By regularly (daily) taking all my notes and putting them where they need to be, I get everything to the places where I will act on them.

Keep Inputs Consolidated

Along with the first two, I like to make sure that my inputs are consolidated. I don’t write things down in 15 notebooks or applications; I have one paper notebook, and one electronic notebook where things go in. This makes it easier to pull information out later.

This concept also applies to other areas. Getting Things Done recommends minimizing your inputs; I feel it is more important to minimize the places you have to check. The two concepts are not the same. For instance, instead of having a single email address, I have multiple, dealing with various aspects of my life. But they all dump into one place for processing.

Make A Plan

I am a big proponent of planning. I don’t like to just get to a day and have nothing decided on, because in my experience, then the important stuff doesn’t get done.

I like to make a plan for every single day, even if it is “do nothing”. By having sorted through the items for the day, I can give myself a goal, and meet it, without having to figure out what to do next.

But Don’t Make Too Large A Plan

The flip side of making a plan is to make one that is small enough to be done. Anyone who has a task list knows how quickly they can grow to the point of un-doableness. I like to pick three things that I must do during the day, and everything else is frosting. By choosing my three things, I make sure I am making progress on the important items, while still maintaining a reasonable workload.

Use Methods To Bust Procrastination

Procrastination is a big deal with me. I will procrastinate on just about everything that matters to me. (If I have promised it to someone else, I can get it done quickly and well, but myself is another story). My main problem is getting started on tasks. By using my tried-and-true methods to bust procrastination, I can get started.

My methods? Using a timer, doing the first thing, blocking distractions.

Know When You’re Done

As a recovering perfectionist, I have a tendency to keep tweaking things. I have to have a clear idea of what “done” is, or I will keep working at something and it will never be finished. When I first set up to do something, I figure out what and when done is. For example, my Girl Scout troop is hosting World Thinking Day for our service unit. Done is actually executing the event. Another example: writing my novel. Done is giving a bound copy to my best friend to read.

Never Say Yes Outright

One of the things that has gotten me into trouble in the past is I would say yes to things without really thinking it through. I would end up doing all sorts of tasks just because someone had asked me — not because I personally found contentment in it, or that it benefited me in any way.

I made a promise that I would never say yes to things outright. I always take at least a few moments to look at my calendar before committing to anything. Often just that little space of time allows me to back away from something that would burden me unnecessarily.

Limit Email and Social Media

I thought about putting these up with the procrastination because they are two of my favorite ways to not get anything done. But even if I am not consciously putting things off, I find myself checking email, and less often Twitter.

I use Leechblock to limit my email checking to twice per day. It helps that the program does not allow me to go there, because it is almost automatic. As far as social media, I use Morning Coffee to open Facebook and Twitter only twice per week on different days. I find that if the tabs aren’t open, I won’t go out of my way to check it; but if the tabs are open for me, I can lose plenty of time. I use Leechblock to limit the amount of time I spend on either site.

Limit Information

One of the biggest draws from my productivity is trying to stay up to date. One of the few things I got out of The 4-Hour Workweek was to limit my media consumption. I do not watch the news, I do not read the news sites online, and my only excursion into the newspaper is on Sundays, when I read the comics.

Any time anything big happens, someone tells me. And in the meantime, I don’t get distracted by the endless bickering of politics, speculation and sensationalism.

Get Away From My Desk

My friends laugh when I tell them there are times that I blog longhand. I just seem to have times when sitting at my desk is a call for me not to do anything. As it is, my desk has to have everything corralled, or I end up fiddling and cleaning and rearranging. So there are times when I take a notebook and pen and head elsewhere. I find that I am able to concentrate more when I am away from the computer.

Those are my productivity rules. What are yours? Share below.

Photo by steakpinball


  1. says

    Great advice! I pretty much do everything you suggest in your post and teach this advice to my delegates. One of the biggest points I promote is that I regularly get my notebook and write, plan and clear my mind away from my PC. I also limit my incoming information by not reading any papers or watching the news as I want to read positive items which seem limited in tabloids. Jane

    • LJ Earnest says

      I found some great sites that give good news (instead of “regular news” which seems to be all death and destruction). I like stories about people who are doing good – it gives a lift to the day.

  2. Annie Mueller says

    I just ran across your site and was reading thru some of your older posts when I noticed this one linked to my article at Wisebread! That was a fun surprise! :)

    I love your tips to keep inputs consolidated – I really have to work on that, as I tend to have a “notebook” addiction and am always buying new ones for different topics, then forgetting which is for what and abandoning them… Not conducive for actually processing the information I put in them.
    I also find that getting away from the desk and blogging longhand is really helpful. I do my best thinking on paper, not on computer – so when I’m needing to outline or just get some ideas down, I start on paper and then move to the computer when I’m ready to fill in the blanks, so to speak.

    Anyway – am enjoying your site and all these great posts you’ve written! Thanks.

    • LJ Earnest says

      I am so glad I am not the only blogger who works longhand from time to time! I get so many puzzled looks when I tell people. :)

      I also have a notebook addiction. I only use one at a time, but I keep switching. I’m working on that…