Tips for personal productivity

Jo Strain, CMI Southern board member, shares her tips for making the most of your productivity.

With the sun shining, rising temperature and a growing desire to spend more time outside, it seems timely to share top tips for completing your workload more efficiently and effectively.

While we would all like to think we are great multi-taskers. Research has found this is not the case – a singular focus on a task until it is complete is the most efficient and effective method.

There are many different approaches to dealing with a heavy workload. Below I’ve shared my approach.

The simple act of following the same ‘ritual’ gets my brain into the right mindset of efficient working without wasting too much time or over thinking things:

  • take no more than 5 minutes to list the things that need doing
  • take less than 2 minutes to categorise your ‘To Do’ list into Urgent (must be done today), Important (has a big impact on your goals / objectives), and Other
  • take 2 minutes to assess if anything on the list be delegated to someone else? If so, delegate these items first.
  • take 2 minutes to prioritise the Urgent and Important items literally into 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. where 1 is the highest priority item for today.
  • allocate an amount of time to complete each item based on the amount of time you have available to complete your tasks today, and the impact (positive and/or negative) completing the task will have on your goals / objectives.
  • block out all interruptions – turn your mobile to silent/put the ansaphone on, make it clear to colleagues / family you do not want to be disturbed and find a quiet place to work or put on your headphones. I find putting headphones on helps reduce distractions and interruptions whether I choose to listen to music or not.
  • set a timer and start with item 1. If you find your thoughts wondering, bring them back to the current task and re-focus. If you remember something else which needs attention, write it down on your list and return immediately to the task in hand. If like me you are often struck by a creative idea – write it down, do a quick sketch and go back to the task in hand. Only review the priority of any new tasks you have identified when you have completed the current task.
  • when you have completed the first task, stretch, stand up, look into the long distance. If you have been working for 30 – 45 minutes, grab a glass of water. Dehydration is the enemy of efficient working.



“Drink water – a quick way to improve your productivity”

  • cross off item 1, select item 2 and get started
  • only tackle items on the ‘Other’ list if you have not already delegated them to someone else and you have sufficient time left. I find ‘Other’ items often resolve themselves or are no longer needed before they become either ‘Urgent or Important’.

I hope you find the tips above helpful. What works for you?



Webinars and resources on productivity

On Wednesday 22 November 2017 at 6.30pm, CMI Southern’s Peter Fisher, will be hosting a webinar to share personal productivity tips and tools. You can book a place on this webinar using the link below.

Time Management Webinar – Taking Back Control

CMI’s Management Direct features checklists and reading materials to help develop your management and leadership skills. It is available to members of the Chartered Management Institute as a free resource.

Juicing up your productivity – tips from the frontline (CMI Insight, 2017)

Impact on high workload on staff’s personal lives (CMI Insight, Dec 2016)

CMI Ann Francke’s top 3 productivity tips (CMI)

Investment in management training to improve productivity (CMI Insight, February 2017)

Tackle the gender pay gap and boost productivity written by the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee (CMI Insight, 2016)

Reading on multi-tasking ability

Why even mild dehydration is the enemy of effective working

  • Study Reveals Mild Dehydration Causes Anger, Fatigue and Mood Swings
  • Avoid dehydration in the workplace – study by Gopinthan et al. [2] studied the effects of dehydration on decision-making and cognitive performance, which could result in a decline in productivity and also could be associated with an increased risk of work-related accidents. In this study, subjects were passively dehydrated to 1, 2, 3 and 4% of body weight with specific testing throughout the decline. The study concluded that visual motor tracking, short-term memory, attention and arithmetic efficiency were all impaired at dehydration levels of 2% of body weight or more. In the extreme, the Gopinthan study also noted a 23% reduction in reaction time when subjects were 4% dehydrated.