Productivity Improvement Tips and Common Productivity Traps

By , on Nov 6, 2011

Over the years, I tried many productivity tools to keep up with my ever-growing to do list. I had the original Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor Platinum, and Sony Clie T-665C; but in the end, nothing beats my trusty old notebook. There’s something about the ability to quickly write, doodle, and sketch without worrying about the particulars, like the Graffiti handwriting recognition system that can’t be replicated — these PDAs (personal digital assistants) are simply too clumsy.

Common Productivity Traps

Even with the notebook, it takes a lot of discipline to maximize my productivity. Some of the pitfalls I usually fell victim to, and still having problem with, are:

  • Do something immediately and forget other tasks I need to do because I didn’t bother to write them down.
  • Write down a task that only takes a few minutes to complete (a mini-task), so that I have the satisfaction of crossing it off. This is actually counter-productive.
  • Don’t make a note as soon as I thought of something, and then later forget.
  • Try to do too many things at the same time, and invariably something goes wrong.
  • Get distracted while doing an extended task.

Productivity Improvement Tips

To help me improve, I tried the following with some success:

  • Before I start each day, I write down all the tasks I can think of, including the mini-tasks.
  • Eliminate unnecessary tasks.
  • Tackle the more time-sensitive and smaller tasks first.
  • As soon as a thought pop into my head, I take note (I forget easily).
  • If a mini-task comes up, I try to do it right away and don’t bother to put it in my notebook.
  • Don’t start something if I know I don’t have enough time to do a good job — e.g., don’t read comments on my posts unless I have time to answer them, or don’t read a post on another blog unless I have time to finish the post, etc.
  • Group related tasks into one extended tasks — e.g., don’t check email every 10 minutes, just do it once in the morning, at noon, and in the late afternoon.
  • Don’t try to do more than two things at once.

What are your favorite productivity tips?


Andy Tenton Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the owner of Money Destiny and the publisher of

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