Personal Productivity Tips – Efficient Verses Effective Personal Productivity

‘Efficient’ has been the standard corporate buzzword for decades. For years, major companies have been desperate to improve efficiency, eliminate distractions and maximize the amount of time that their employees spend actually working.

With the changes in workplaces, the prevalence of work-at-home professions, and the dramatic differences in the way the current generation of professionals is approaching work, efficiency just doesn’t seem to cut it any more.

Nowadays, it’s about effectiveness, not efficiency. Truly effective personal productivity is the goal for employees and entrepreneurs worldwide, and efficient work is growing less and less important.

So why is efficiency less important? It comes down to the nature of the two forms of work. Simply put, you can work efficiently for 8 hours per day, cranking out work that isn’t remarkable, but bringing a level of quantity that any employer would love.

The problem is that the value of the work isn’t massive — it’s the same kind of work that could be replicated by anyone else with enough time.

Effective personal productivity is different. It’s not about cranking out work for work’s sake, it’s about selectively optimizing your work output to make sure that your work only ever results in tangible gains, remarkable work, and truly valuable results.

So next time you’ve got some time to work in, put the efficiency vs. effectiveness theory to use. Instead of focusing on quantity, focus on quality of output, value of your work and the utility of your time.

Effective personal productivity isn’t about pumping out valueless work. To master personal productivity you need to work towards always working for value, never wasting time that could be spent improving work, and disregarding quantity as an effective measure of output.

Personal Productivity Secrets – Part One

I felt inspired to write this article because of my own battle to become more productive. I usually work alone and seldom collaborate with others. Consequently, my productivity (or lack of it) becomes glaringly obvious.

Realizing this fact, I began to search for tools and techniques to help me improve in the areas of time management, personal productivity, and goal-setting. That was twenty years ago.

Recently, the thought occurred to me that other solo-workers will eventually come to the same conclusion I came to years ago — “If I want to increase my output, I will need to find the techniques to help me”. This is the first article in a five-part series. Following these steps will dramatically boost your results and your own personal productivity.

Before we launch into an avalanche of personal productivity and time management tips — there is one important step for you to complete. You will need to do an assessment of your current time usage. The step requires absolute honesty on your part and no one needs to see your results.

Starting Monday morning, do the following:

1. Get a digital watch, a notepad and pen
2. Record the start and stop time of every activity you do throughout the day
3. At the end of day add up and total the results for each activity
4. On Friday total up the columns

You now have a snapshot of your time usage for the week. The purpose of the exercise is to get a baseline of what you do and exactly how long it takes to do it. From the data you collect you will discover exactly where every minute goes and how efficiently you use your time.

Knowing where you spending your time will provide you with a foundation. Using the information you’ll receive in the next article in this series will help you to build upon that foundation.

Being completely honest with yourself about exactly how long you spend doing things like checking email, searching Facebook and doing low-priority busywork is up to you. No one will care if you fudge your numbers but if you’re serious about improving your performance on the job or at home, then doing this step is immensely important. The result of the assessment is the starting point you’ll build on.

Make the commitment to track your time over the next week and we will look at your results.

Managing Science and Research

Managing science and research requires a unique skill set that are not the same as general management skills required for other types of businesses.  General management theory is applicable to science and research management, but not sufficient to cater for the specific requirements of science and research management.  For that purpose we assume in this article that the reader is already familiar with general management principles and approaches.  Our focus here is to look at the specific requirements of science and research management.

An important aspect is understanding what would constitute good science and how to create an environment that would allow the knowledge generation aspect of science and research to flourish.  Important aspects that differ from general management principles are:

  1. Quality assurance often supersedes the process-focused approach in organization generally.  Especially where the problems are not standard and therefore require unique approaches to be solved, it is very difficult to provide consistent quality assurance and performance indicators.
  2. Science and research management requires a careful balance between investment and creating utility for current use.  Unless a considerable effort is made to constantly invest in more capabilities and growth of existing capabilities, management of science and research finds itself over the medium term with an increasingly stale and unproductive scientific research capability.  This requires a financial management approach that does not optimise for short term profit only, but also caters for the capability building of ongoing the investment.
  3. The people performing the science and research work are usually a scarce commodity, and replacing them require considerable investment of both time and money.  For this reason retention and ongoing development of existing experts needs to be a focus in the business model (this is true for all knowledge-intensive innovative environments).
  4. The work environment need to enable innovative and creative work, and facilitate and value team work.  The performance indicators for these are often difficult to define (they might even be intangible).  But giving attention to them and getting them right for the specific type of science and research work is very important for a successful science and research capability.

In addition to all of this there is the aspect of “managing science where it happens”, namely to ensure the scientific work itself is of a good quality and make the best use of the available capabilities.  Usually this is catered for by the various conventions that scientists and researchers of specific disciplines adhere to professionally.

However, the various sciences have a number of differences and commonalities that make maintaining the scientific rigour when work is done in more than one of the major branches of science very difficult.  For this reasons many research capabilities either restrict themselves to only selected branches of science, or they retain the barriers between the various sciences and never really get to an integrated scientific capability that spans across the boundaries of the sciences.  In the complex and highly connected societies we live in that is becoming an increasingly untenable situation.  We need to be able to integrate the sciences to be able to provide relevant and useful new knowledge, utilising the best that science offers. Using science in an integrated way  unlocks most value in situations like this.  We need to keep in mind that

  • All the sciences share a common goal to search for the “truth”, or “facts”, or “evidence.  This common goal provides the background against which we are able to identify a number of similarities.
  • There are some legitimate differences between the sciences that we cannot remove by forcing one approach on all the branches of science.

Accomplishing this is not easy. However, there are two sets of features that are common to all branches of the sciences.  They can be used in all branches of science to ensure that we are able to integrate our scientific work across the traditional branches of the sciences.  They are

  • The scientific productiveness features:  These are the features of science that facilitate its success in knowledge generation.  Knowledge can be generated in a number of ways, but these science has illustrated over the centuries that where these features are present and used appropriately they facilitate a level of success that is not otherwise possible.
  • The Scientific Capability Features:  These are the features that describe the way to go about knowledge generation utilising the scientific productivity features.

We have used these two for integrated scientific work in a number of cross-disciplinary applications (mostly to solve complex real life problems in strategic management decision making).  They have proven themselves to add value in the rigor, quality and relevance of cross-disciplinary scientific work.