How to Boost Your Personal Effectiveness

Are you putting in large amounts of time and effort with little to show for it? Busyness is not effectiveness. It’s not enough to work hard, you have to work smart, too. And if you can combine the two, that’s when you can see incredible results.

8 simple ways to increase your personal effectiveness

  1. Follow the 80-20 Rule. Most things in life, work, projects, business, relationships don’t matter as much as you think. You can get lost in all the details, concentrating on stuff that just doesn’t really matter. The benefit of any endeavour tends to be concentrated in very few things. For example, if you clean all the large surfaces of your home and put everything back when you’ve finished using it, your home will – by and large – be clean and tidy. Cleaning out the toaster and behind the radiators is work that won’t bring much benefit. In everything you do, find the things that bring the most benefit and concentrate on those. The other stuff you can ignore, delegate or outsource.
  2. Multitasking is a productivity myth. Multitasking is just a way to do several things badly. Concentrate on one task at a time – you’ll be finished faster and the results will be better. If you can “batch” your work (do lots of the same tasks, e.g. answer email, prep vegetables, pay bills) then do so. But don’t flit between different tasks or do multiple things at once.
  3. Act “as if” you were a productive person. Productive people don’t waste time checking Facebook at work; they keep conversations short and to the point; they don’t spend any more time on something than necessary; they are concise in their communications. When you work, try to do so at a higher tempo than you’re use to. Play a game of how much you can get done in a set amount of time by concentrating and working at speed. You’re always capable of doing more than you think or more than you’re use to.
  4. Get sufficient sleep and sustenance. If you want to achieve more, it starts with getting enough sleep. How much varies with each individual: some can manage on four hours, others need eight. Whatever your number is, make sure you get it. If you’re serious about reaching your goals, you need to protect your sleep selfishly. Like your phone, you won’t go far on a quarter battery. In addition, you need to eat right, stay hydrated and exercise.
  5. Perfectionism will kill your dreams. Perfectionism is a response to fear. You’re scared of failing, being judged, embarrassed, rejected or feeling inadequate. Excellence is an admirable trait, not perfectionism. Perfectionists pull down everyone around them and it’s a form of spoiled, selfish behaviour. You don’t need to be perfect (to be honest, most people won’t even notice), you need to be productive. That’s not an excuse to produce substandard work but realise that 70% of something imperfect is infinitely better than 0% of something “perfect”. You can’t reach your goals based on what you will produce one day.
  6. Spend 20% of your time planning; 80% of your time doing. Don’t leap blindly into projects. Have a strategy. How do you know what strategy to use? It’s simple; google your topic and the words “how to”, “strategy” or “plan”. Then pick one of the results on the first or second page and start. The value is not in the strategy, it’s in the starting. Once you begin you can correct your course as you receive feedback. The secret is… There is no secret.
  7. Create habits and systems that work for you. Identify those things you need to do every day and create routines and systems around them. This saves time and needless mental processing. Routines become habits and habits, by definition, get done with little effort.
  8. Get up earlier. Some of the world’s most successful people start their working day at 4am. You’ll be amazed at the boost in your productivity if you develop the habit of rising early. As most people are waking up, you’ll be half-way through; by noon, you’ll have finished a typical working day. But perhaps the greatest benefit of getting up early is you live more of your life. There’s little difference between sleep and death. Don’t squander your life by over-sleeping. How do you get up early? Get sufficient sleep in the first place. 

Takeaway points

  1. If you want to achieve your life goals – whatever they are – you need to pay attention to how you use the finite time you have.
  2. Being productive is simply a question of developing the right habits.
  3. The good news? There are only a handful of habits you need to adopt to skyrocket your effectiveness.

Action steps

  1. Sort out your sleep patterns. Reaching your goals begins with getting sufficient sleep to charge your batteries and ensure you can put in the required hard work during your waking hours. Parents of young children and true insomniacs aside, there are few reasons not to handle your sleep challenges. Banning electronics from the bedroom is a big step in the right direction. Download an app that can help wake you during the lighter periods of your sleep cycle. Get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Not only will you be more productive but with sufficient sleep you will feel healthier and happier.
  2. Be accountable to someone. Tell someone you trust your weekly and monthly goals and ask them to check in with you at the appropriate time to discuss your progress – or lack thereof.
  3. Repeatedly ask, “What is the best way to use the next five minutes”. If you ever find yourself not sure what to do with your time, ask yourself this question. This is an incredibly powerful question that you should ask yourself many times throughout the day. If you keep maximising the value of every five minute segment, not only will you get a lot done but you will get a lot of the stuff that matters done.

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