Be your most productive self.

We all know what it means to be productive — we usually associate productivity with crossing things off our to-do list and getting everything done. True Productivity, however; isn’t about getting everything done, rather it’s about accomplishing the things that matter most to you. While mowing your lawn may be on your to-do list, being a better parent or a better friend may be a long-term goal that you’re working toward. With the right combination of planning and discipline, you can exponentially increase your personal productivity.

There are three key types of planning that you should be engaging in to ensure your success.

  1. Personal Strategic Planning. This is where you’re formulate your long-term goals, which will ultimately provide direction for the rest of your planning and goal-setting, and will help keep you focused on the big picture. You need to figure out who you are and what your different roles are. Most people have a number of roles that they play — parent, friend, teacher, teammate, manager, etc. Think about each role that you have, and take the time to think through the various stakeholders for each role. For example, if you’re married, then ‘spouse’ is one of your roles, with your significant other being a major stakeholder in that relationship. Now think through how you want to be and be seen by said stakeholders. Keeping with the spouse example, you may want to be thoughtful and supportive, and you may want to be seen as competent and caring. Identify these key behaviors and start working to make them a part of who you are by setting individual goals for each role. For instance, if you’re looking to be seen as more thoughtful, then you can set a goal that when your spouse’s birthday comes around, you’ll make a point to give them a personalized, hand-written card.
  2. Weekly Activity Scheduling. This is the beginning of taking your long-term goal and breaking it down into more actionable steps. At the start of each week, look at all of your roles and goals that you’ve identified, and review what you can do this week to move in the right direction. Then, pull out your calendar and block off actual time to work on those key activities. Studies have shown that productivity dramatically increases when you actually schedule activities and write them out.
  3. Daily Calibration. Dissecting your goals a bit further, daily calibration is all about looking at things that didn’t necessarily go as expected. Often times, life simply gets in the way of us accomplishing our goals, so taking 5-10 minutes each day to ask yourself what you didn’t get accomplished and why will go a long way toward improving your productivity. Look at new issues that have arisen, and figure out why you weren’t able to accomplish everything you set out to. Was there a family emergency? Did other things take priority? Were you simply too exhausted after a long work day? Once you’ve identified what didn’t get done, be sure that you put those ideas back on the calendar and block out time to dedicate to them.

In order to improve your personal productivity, you need to live all of the above, not simply check things off a list. In order to truly live this way, it requires a lot of discipline. Discipline is the ability to do what you know needs to be done even when you don’t necessarily want to. Taking the same spouse’s birthday example from earlier – even if you worked a 10 hour day and have no desire to pour your heart and soul into a thoughtful birthday card, discipline means carving aside 20 minutes (perhaps cutting into your relaxation time) and doing it, because it’s a goal (and a role) that really matters to you. Ultimately, you’ll feel better having done it, and learning discipline in you personal life will benefit you greatly in your professional endeavors as well. By properly setting your goals, planning through how you’ll achieve them, and maintaining some discipline, you can be truly productive.