I read Ben Franklin’s Autobiography for the first time when I was in my late
teens. That’s when I started a practice that he followed: reviewing my
performance every day. Franklin wrote the autobiography when he was older and he
took some time to reflect on what he learned from a lifetime of evaluating his
performance. That’s what I’m about to do, too.
I’ve been tracking my productivity for around fifty years now. Here’s what
has worked for me consistently over that half century.
The most important thing I can do if I want to be productive is get
enough good sleep. When I was travelling a lot, I had to learn to
neutralize the effect of hotel rooms and overcome the pull of late-night social
events. Now it’s easier, but sleep is still my most important productivity
I get the most done when I do productive work first thing in the
morning. “First thing” means before checking email or Twitter. It means
first thing. That’s most likely to happen if I take time to set up the work the
I limit my To Do list to five items. I set the top one the
night before. Then I fill in the rest after my first round of work and after
I’ve checked mail and such.
Checklists and reminders set me free to think about important
things. My system remembers things so my brain doesn’t have to.
When I’ve got something disagreeable to do, my days work better if I
do that difficult or unpleasant task first thing in the morning. I’ve
found that scheduling it and preparing for it get it off my mind so I can sleep
I make the most progress over time if I set up “move ahead” projects
for every quarter. Some are business and some are not. Then I schedule
a half day each week to work on the current project.
My life works better if I make a little progress on something every
day. If I get to the end of the day without any progress on anything, I
go to my file of Quick Projects and do one.
That’s what works for me. It’s the result of fifty years of paying attention
and keeping score. What I look at today is not what I was looking at fifty years
ago, or even fifty weeks ago. Situations and priorities changed and so did my
tracking system. Today’s system is the result of picking up ideas from many,
many places and trying them to see if they work for me.
Boss’s Bottom Line
You’ll do better today and over time, if you track your performance and try
new ways to improve it. Keep what works. Ditch what doesn’t.
I’ve picked up ideas from many sources over the years. Here are nice recent
posts that will give you ideas about what may work for you.