Thursday, November 19, 2009

Increasing Personal Productivity - Part 1

Have you ever wished you could get more done in the time that you had? Do you have any items on your to-do list that just never seem to go away (i.e. get done)? Unfortunately, I have answered "yes" to both of these questions within the last few months.

In my reading I have stumbled onto something that has already helped me, and I think is going to make a big difference going forward. The beauty of it is that it is so simple.

I am currently reading David Allen's "Getting Things Done" and have grasped onto a simple, yet profound concept he calls "next actions." Let me give you an example.

Last week I came across an item on my to-do list called, "Follow up with ABC Company about potential project." It has been sitting on my list for well over two months. Every time I see it I say to myself, "Oh, yeah, I really need to do that...uh, later." Then I move on to something else. This time when I looked at it , however, I realized something important. I needed to define the next action.

Defining the next action simply means to define precisely the next physical action that is needed to complete the task. Many times our inaction is the result of not making a clear decision about what actually needs to be done. In my example above, "Follow up with ABC Company about potential project" is too vague. Was I going to call my contact? Was I going to send him and email? In either case, what was I going to say/write? So, when I would see that item on my list I subconciously recognized I hadn't made those decisions and, therefore, didn't really know what to do. As a result, I would move on to something else where I did know what to do.

Now that I have clearly defined the next action, the task is off my list. Voila!

In my next post, I will cover another simple, yet profound concept that has helped me improve my personal productivity.

Seize the day!

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