How Productive am I?

In our previous blog we talked about how we feel the key to personal productivity is to embrace that old enemy stress as a friend, celebrating its benefits but also managing it systematically and incrementally, in a positive way, to ensure you maximise your energy.

But where do you start? 

We recommend that you do so by asking yourself a very basic question – how productive am I now? And we’re not talking guesswork here. You need to look, as objectively as you can, at the reality of where you’re currently putting your effort. The process is quite straightforward – but it needs you to be honest and disciplined in recording what you do.

First you need to draw the simple time management matrix that was designed by Stephen Covey in his great book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Zone 1 relates to the urgent and important – pressing problems, deadlines, crises even. Making effort here is unavoidable but we need to ask how many of these demands have become urgent through procrastination, insufficient planning, poor communication and a whole host of other possible factors.

Zone 2 is where we do long-range development; we anticipate and prevent problems by using Plan-Do-Review methodology (more on that later in the series); we increase our skills and knowledge; and we invest in relationships using our core communication habits. Making effort here increases our ability to get things done before they become urgent. So it also shrinks Zone 1.

Zone 3 is the Zone of Deception because the noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance – but for whom? If we’re not careful we can spend a lot of time and effort here in meeting the priorities of other people.

And Zone 4? Well, we tend to go here simply to escape from Zones 1 and 3 – and we don’t get anything done that’s productive. At all.

Now, the key point here is research shows conclusively that people who use their time most effectively spend the vast majority of it in Zone 2.

This is the main generator of productivity. Double your Zone 2 score and you will probably halve the time spent fire-fighting in Zone 1 and quadruple the success of your enterprise at the same time.

So why not take the first step by doing this simple exercise to identify your Personal Productivity Score by doing the following:

  1. Calculate a quick subjective estimate. What percentage of your time – both at work and away from it – do you think you spend in each of the four zones, especially Zone 2?
  2. Then over the next three days – at least two of which must be work days – keep a diary of how you spend your time. Set the alarm on your phone or watch to go off every hour that you are aware and write down what you have been doing, under the four zone headings. At the end of three days calculate what percentage of time you have actually spent in each zone and compare the results of the two exercises. The figure in Zone 2 represents your Personal Productivity Score.

Reflecting on the results, what 2 changes might you be able to make to improve that score by 5%?