Productivity and GTD
How to Analyze Your Personal Productivity
"One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done." ~ Marie Curie
The smartest way to improve any aspect of a business (sales, costs, customer satisfaction, etc.) is to measure the current results related to that aspect, use the data to infer a strategy that may improve performance, implement that strategy and measure again to determine whether we were right or not. Surely we will fail occasionally before finding the correct clue, but having actual data on which support our decision is critical. Build, measure and learn. This is the mantra of The Lean Startup entrepreneurship method, so fashionable lately.
In my opinion, the smartest way to improve any aspect of your life—personal and professional—is similar to the above mechanism. You find out at what point you are regarding to that aspect of your life, think about what you can do to get closer to the desired result, do it and figure out where you are now. The problem is that it is much more difficult to obtain objective data on your personal situation, that on a company situation. If you are a 100 meters professional runner, it is easy to measure your best time and define and adjust training, feed and rest strategies, according to new measurements. But this is not usually the case…
As I told you in the article The Art of Making Decisions, making good choices can be very complicated because there are a number of subjective and external factors that affect you. However, if you are able to obtain objective measurements of the most relevant data needed for a particular decision, you will have a much better chance of succeeding with it.
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” ~ H. James Harrington
Due to the amount of tools that we have today, the success of the decisions we make is greatly determined by our ability to analyze data. But do not panic, this ability can be learned. Although the first time you see the data you will not have much idea of how to interpret it, after a few iterations you will know quite clearly how that data can be moved in the right direction.
Now, what should be measured to improve in the field of personal productivity? That is a tough question. In fact, I have not found anything on the internet that can guide me (probably, this is the reason we are all driven basically by our instincts in this territory… and fail so often). So I am defining my own metrics, based on what are considered best practices within the GTD methodology:
- Getting it all out of your head is important, so you should have an idea of how many things you collect every day and how this parameter evolves in time. A continued decline in this data may indicate you are ceasing to be productive.
- Devoting a specific time to process all the collected stuff, or emptying the inbox, means that you are separating properly the thinking stage from the doing stage, so you should know how many times a day you process your stuff and what percentage of stuff you process each time. Again, the time evolution of these data can either reinforce the habit or show you are wavering.
- Doing The Weekly Review is crucial, so you should know when you did it (and how deep) and what you skipped it.
- Everything you do should be aligned with your levels of perspective, so knowing what percentage of your actions meet this requirement can help you improve.
- Knowing how your goals, projects and areas of responsibility are progressing would help you analyze what aspects of your life you are focusing on and what you are leaving out.
- Although the handiest parameter is probably the number of tasks completed in each period, this is a tricky one. Not all tasks are equal, or are equally important, or require the same time to get done. It may be useful, but only in combination with other data.
What do you think? What metrics would you add if you had the chance to have a dashboard with all the relevant information to your personal productivity?