A Dose of Discipline Can Get You Back on Track

A Publication  of the Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts, Inc.


Personal productivity can be increased with an attitude adjustment and a dose of discipline. There is no need to make a day 26 hours long or invent a time machine.

There are plenty of technology tools, training programs and trendy concepts available. They in- clude “supplements” that may increase your brain function  and smart phone  apps that  can make your life easier.

Here  are some proven, practical ways  to  in- crease your personal productivity every day. They do require simple doses of discipline.

Write down your top three priorities before you start your day. Focus on individual priorities that can be accomplished in two hours or less. Tasks that are going to take more than two hours to do should be broken down into smaller segments.

Some days you may only accomplish your top priority.  This is perfectly acceptable because you are completing  objectives that are important  to your success.

Commit yourself to being an effective listener in all situations. Tremendous amounts of energy are wasted every day because we really do not listen well.

Successful listeners make a commitment to pay attention, concentrate by giving their undivided at- tention to the individual they are communicating with, and collect the essential information  being discussed. Taking notes, recording the conversa- tion, or memorizing important information is criti- cal. Asking good questions helps confirm that you are getting the facts correct. Sometimes multiple questions are necessary to ensure you understand what is being communicated.

Accomplish  your work in 90-120 minute seg- ments. Take regular  breaks to  minimize  stress. Invest in your health by getting exercise, eating lunch away from your work area and clearing your mind of one project before starting a new one.

Increase your energy level by getting a good night’s rest. Sleep is important  to recharging our bodies. Experts recommend a reduction  in food and liquid  in-take at least two hours before bed time. Elimination of highly stimulating activity just before bed is also encouraged.

Constantly  seek out ways to improve your work process. Continuous   process improvement   of regular, repeated tasks can save time, money and energy. Simple math shows that a 12-minute time savings on a daily basis can yield more than a week (40 hours) of additional productivity over a year. Documenting the process improvement and shar- ing it with appropriate staff is important.  It  can lead to employees bringing ideas forward for con- sideration.

Touch a piece of paper only once. This includes letters, messages and memos. You should resolve it with an immediate reply, file it or throw it away. Expeditious resolution of communications also ap- plies to email, voicemail and text messages. When filing  items, it is important  to have a consistent labeling system across all electronic and printed platforms.

Forget about multitasking! The human brain is wired to handle one thing well at a time. Do not fool yourself or others about your capacity to ac- complish two or more higher brain tasks at one time. People who believe they are multitasking are actually switching between two or more tasks. While they appear to be very active, only their short-term productivity appears to be affected. Eventually they will burn out.

Defeat distractions. Turn  off device alarms. They frequently take your attention away from a significant task and divert it to a message that does not contribute to your productivity. Current stud- ies show that distractions and interruptions  take us away from our planned work for more than 20 minutes. We can then be further distracted, com- pounding our productivity loss.

Commit yourself to being a lifelong learner. Seeking opportunities to learn stimulates brain ac- tivity, promotes a healthy life style and reinforces a positive attitude.

Pulverize procrastination! It is one of the big- gest productivity challenges working professionals encounter on a regular basis. A fear concerning the size of a task frequently delays our actions to overcome procrastination. Lack of experience with the subject can also be a barrier.

The keys to conquer  procrastination are:

  • Identify a task that can be dealt with in  two hours or less.
  • Establish a quantifiable objective.
  • Tell somebody what you are planning to do and get started.
  • Complete the task to the objective standard.
  • Reward yourself for the task completion.

You can absolutely deal with procrastination by tackling  a task that is not too big and apply- ing the keys above. Start with a small task and build  success.

The concepts discussed in  this article  are a starting point for increasing your productivity. Pick one and apply it to your life  for  a 21-day period.  (Pick only one, otherwise you can over- whelm  yourself.)  Once  you have had  success with one new technique, try a second one.

Be realistic about increasing your produc- tivity.  A positive  attitude and  a willingness  to expend some enthusiastic energy will change your life.


Greg Enos is a speaker, author and trainer on personal productivity, listening and leadership, and consults with organizations to improve individual and team productivity. He can be reached  at (401) 333-9050 or gregenos@gregenos.com.