Simple System to Boost Personal Productivity

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Opening Notes

Fair Warning: This post is going to come off as super boomer, but I don’t care. I’m just some 25 year old grad student rambling.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading (binge reading really). I’ve been reading business books that successful founders and businessmen have read and recommend to others. One that I’m currently reading is The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. Honestly it’s a book that has captivated me and grabbed my attention not only because it’s written as a thriller and takes you upon a journey of a plant manager rethinking the way he does things and how his systems truly work. It’s a captivating story, but even more so what I really want to point out is the book got me to rethink about how I run my own day to day life and how I measure productivity. The Goal, as the name implies, got me to shift my perspective on what I deem as important and productive and what goals really are.

Definition of Goals

One of the first things that I understood from reading the book is that it’s not enough to have goals, you have to understand what is a TRUE goal and what is just a means to the goal. Often times, goals have their own subgoals that we think are the true end goals. But this isn’t true and it’s easy to become mistaken.

In the book our main character Alex Rogo believes that the goal of his failing manufacturing plant is to improve efficiencies and to minimize all possible costs. Yet by trying to achieve those two goals, his plant is failing and on the verge of shut down. It isn’t until he meets a former physicist of his in an airport that he is told that is not the true goal of a business. A true end goal of a business is to make profits, and efficiencies and minimizing costs are just a means to the end goal which is making profit. There are many means to an end goal, but those means can again easily be mistaken for the end goals themselves.

With that being said, an end goal can be thought of as a very high level, common sense, straight to the point statement, and then sub-goals can be written as a means and steps to be taken to achieve the end goal(s).

So in short, to help improve productivity, there are two very basic definitions for a goal.

  1. End Goal: The overall goal you are trying to achieve and just might never be achieved unless you give very explicit end dates and definitions to it.
  2. Sub-Goal: A stepping stone, or a means to the goal. Sub goals are much more clearer defined and serve as direction and steps to take towards your end goal.

How To Actually Boost Productivity

Now knowing what we know about goals, I’m going to simply address my method of boosting productivity. I use a small 13 inch x 9 inch whiteboard to write down my goals and sub goals. I use the SMART method to jot them down and define them. I give flexible deadlines and have daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and annual goals. I never bother going past a year because who the hell knows what will even happen tomorrow, so no point in having crazy long term goals with clear definitions that you expect to achieve 5 years out from today.

Before going ahead though. What the hell is productivity anyways? No seriously how do we know if we’re being productive or not? Well here’s a simple answer. You know you’re being productive based on whether or not you’re achieving your goals and knocking them out. Specifically the more sub-goals you knock out, the closer you are to achieving your end goal.

Think of super long term goals like this. When you go to summit a mountain. Do you make a super specific and well defined plan on how you’re going to reach the top of say a 14k foot mountain? Absolutely not. You just know these two things:

  1. In order to make it to the top you need to take one step after the other
  2. You’ll figure it out as you go

Figuring it out is using the sub-goals to point you in the write direction.

Ok so now I write everything down… now what? We’ll it’s simple, once I write everything down and have specific deadlines… I go and do those things. Being productive is not that complicated. This of course assumes that you are properly going towards your goals and not away from them. How do you do that? Well it all depends on how you measure whether or not you’re achieving your goal or not.

Put it simply, in The Goal, the end goal was for the plant to be profitable. How did Alex Rogo know he was achieving his goal? Simple, he looked at his bottom line and seeing whether it was going up or down. He was achieving sub-goals which were getting him closer to the goal using his measurement of net profit. Since he saw net profit growing, he knew that he was doing something right and clearly was getting closer to achieving his end goal.

So go out and get yourself a $5 white board and a set of erasable markers and get to work. As for what your goals should be? What am I your father? I’m just some idiot writing to myself on my own blog. Do some critical thinking and figure out what it is you want to set out and achieve.

Closing Notes

That’s it. That’s my boomer rant. Good luck and hopefully this was a pleasurable read. Oh and if you do end up failing… don’t worry about it. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to it. I know you can do it.

Love from your dumb idiot blogger.

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