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One Way to Tell If You're Serious Enough about Improving Your Productivity

Productivity and time management are big business, and for good reason: It's not enough to simply be good at your job anymore. If you want to get ahead in your career, you probably now find it necessary to handle, juggle and balance more projects, responsibilities and information than ever before.

For that reason, there's no shortage of books, videos, and seminars out there promising to help you get more out of every working day. Most of them have a lot of great information and tips that could help anyone to change their life in a short amount time. So why are so many of us still struggling to gain control over our daily calendars?

Part of the issue is that time management is a Catch-22: The busier you are, the less time you have to spend on learning to be more efficient. Another difficulty, however, lies in the fact that many of us wish we had better time management skills, but aren't really committed enough to make new habits stick.

With that in mind, here is a good way to tell if you are serious enough about increasing your productivity to succeed, not to mention getting a head start on the process at the same time:

Keep an accurate time log for two weeks. (If you need it, you can download my free Time-Tracker Worksheet at I'm guessing that you've heard this advice at least once or twice in the past. And, if you're like most of the busy professionals I meet with, you've largely ignored it. After all, you just don't have the time to keep track of your time, right? That's the kind of thinking that's preventing you from getting more done. When you keep a time log for at least a week, here are three things that happen right away:
  • First, you get a much more accurate picture of where your time is actually going. This is more important than you might think, so don't discount its value. Most of us think we know why we’re so busy, but it isn't until we see the hard numbers that we realize how much of our day is wasted – looking for things or information, playing Ping-Pong email, reading/viewing stuff on the internet or attending ineffective meetings or networking events. Once you identify the time-wasters, you can then know where to really focus for change.
  • Next, the simple act of recording our actions makes us better at managing our time. Since you probably don't want to write in your time log that you wasted half an hour clicking through wishful travel websites, you're less likely to do it in the first place. In that way, keeping a time log can be a very self-correcting process on its own.
  • Finally, simply committing to doing the tedious work of keeping a time log for at least 7-14 days will make you more serious about productivity. In other words, if you are committed enough to actually write down everything accurately, then you are probably committed enough to do what is needed to improve.

Very few people actually enjoy keeping time logs, but those of us who are experts in the field of time management and productivity keep insisting on them because they work. You can't change your habits until you have a very solid idea of what they actually are. And at the same time, keeping a time log is a great way to test yourself to see if you're serious enough about change to make some new habits stick. Like I also tell my kids, “Successful people are just those willing to do what the unsuccessful people were not.”

-- Kimberly Medlock

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

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Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

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