Ask the Readers: How is your Productivity?

Couch Potato

The topic of productivity is a popular but frustrating one for some.

There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t see a post about how to be more productive. I know I’m always clicking on it and you likely are too.

How can we sleep less but feel more awake? How to do a 10 minute workout and lose weight? How do we just get shit done?

For some of us (myself included), productivity is something we still haven’t mastered. We keep looking for solutions!

I know what I should be doing to stay productive, but actually doing it is completely different. I still got a lot accomplished in 2011, but I know my productivity needs major improvement.

I believe anyone in the top of their field knows what it takes to be productive. They can do more in six months than some do in six years. They’ve developed a system of getting shit done and use automation to decrease the time they spend on work that’s not as fun.

What is their secret? How do they do it? Why is it such a pain in the butt for the rest of us?

What exactly is productivity?

Productivity isn’t measured in how long you work for.

It’s measured in the results you achieve in relation to what is required to produce it.

Being busy all day long doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. You can be busy shuffling papers, cleaning your pencil jar and finish one important task, but it doesn’t mean you’re productive.

For example, Jim and Bob both turn in their five page sales report at the end of the day to their boss. For Jim, it took five hours. Bob just took one hour to get it done.

Who’s more productive?

Bob of course. Same results but it just took an hour to get it done.

What if Jim found a way to get it done in an hour. However, Bob had his secretary type up the sales report, while he made five extra sales calls.

Who’s more productive? Bob is. Delegating it freed up his time to make sales calls and earn more money.

That’s what productivty is about. Trying to find that sweet spot where we can get the same results but spend less, or even no time on it. Then we have more time to work on things we love, or enjoy life.

That’s how some get more done in a day than others in a whole week.

The secret isn’t as guarded as the recipe for Coca-cola of Colonel Sander’s fried chicken. The answers are out there. Everyone has access to it.

It’s trying about trying different things, finding what works best for you, seeing your results, and then doing it consistently.

So how do we get get results in the most efficient way? How do we stay on task and not get distracted? How to we create more hours in a day?

That’s the big question. That’s why there’s an endless amount of productivity tips online.

  • Lifehacker  has a long list of posts just on the topic of productivity.
  • Craig Jarrow has a great blog called Time Management Ninja with ways to help win the battle over wasted time.
  • When I look in the Apple App store, I see so many different apps on how to stay focused, get more done, and stay organized.

That’s why virtual assistants are gaining popularity. Delegating work that’s not as enjoyable or time consuming gives us more time to do the things we love.

I’ve been using a virtual assistant service called Zirtual since last September and it’s nice to be able to get help with certain tasks and free up my time.

I’ve had Erik, co-founder of Zirtual, (what’s up!) help me figure out how to get married in Vegas, do research for blog posts, tell me how to bottle sauce, help research potential vacations, and research how to buy a mattress just to name a few.

Sure I could do all that myself, but that’s not the point. The point is those are tasks I can delegate so I have more time for other things.

They’re a startup in San Francisco and have all US college educated based VA’s. Check them out if you’re looking for a VA and tell them Benny sent you!

What works for some may not for others

The area of productivity is huge and continues to grow. First there’s more to distract us. Secondly, one might have mastered productivity, but then ten new people start looking for answers.

The reason there is an endless amount of productivity tips is because there’s no one right answer.

What works for one person may not work for others.

You just have to try different strategies and find what works for you.

I know for myself trying to be more productive is a work in progress. I’m not the person to ask for my best productivity tips. I KNOW what I should be doing. Here are just a few things I’ve read.

  • Don’t check your email until you’ve done your biggest task
  • Work in chunks like the Pomodoro technique
  • Close all social media, web browsers and email
  • Wear noise canceling headphones
  • Don’t multitask

It’s so easy to read those things and think “I can do that” and then actually go out to do it.

If you ask 100 people for their best productivity tip, you’ll get more than half with a different answer I bet. Everyone one is different. You have to find the pieces of the puzzle that will fit for you.

I also learned our focus is like a muscle. We need to train it to be able to focus longer. Some can’t do something for more than five minutes without being distracted and others can focus for an hour.

It’s like running. How can some run for two hours straight and others can’t do it for five minutes? Practice. Practice. Practice. Your mind is the same way.

More free time doesn’t mean more productive

Being productive isn’t easier if you have a family, kids, spouse, and/or a full time job.

Nor is it easy if you’re single and unemployed. You might think it would be, but it’s just as easy to do everything BUT the work you’re suppose to when you have so much free time.

Plus if you have so much free time, there’s no urgency.

Someone who’s married with kids could definitely be more productive than a bum at home. It’s the same reason a 150 years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise profits and productivity and overtime kills it. More time doesn’t mean more productive.

So what’s going to kick us in the butt to get productive? What’s going to motivate us to find the right combination of what works?

How do the successful people stay so productive? What’s their secret?

That’s what this survey below will help us figure out.

Firepole Marketing Productivity Survey

I was contacted by Danny Iny (the Freddy Krueger of blogging) and his business partner Peter over at Firepole Marketing about helping with a project they have this month. They want to find the productivity behaviors that make us successful.

Peter has created a survey to gather that information and will share the results next week.

Because I know many of you are working on something that requires your precious time, you wish you could do more in that time.

So I gladly said I’d help promote a survey they are running until March 24th. This is what Peter told me the survey is about:

The purpose of the survey is to identify the degree to which people employ certain behaviours and then figure out which one of these are commonly employed by successful people.

In addition, this whole month, they’re running a great series on productivity. Take a moment to fill out the survey. I filled it out and took me about 10 minutes.

Ask the Readers

You’re still with me? Great!

I want to hear from you. What’s your relationship with productivity? Good? Bad? Complicated?

If you’ve got a system to be more productive, please share with us.

What would you say to someone who’s looking for help?

If you’re not a productivity pro, like me, what do you know you need to stop to be more productive?

Awareness is the first step in changing bad habits.


Photo by Banalities

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17 responses to Ask the Readers: How is your Productivity?

  1. Benny!
    Thank so much for mentioning our survey. Folks, we can use your help, so please head on over to the Firepole Marketing blog and click through to the survey. Thank you!

  2. Benny, thanks for the post and also the survey. I’m going to complete it now.

    As per productivity, my problem has to do with availability of internet to do my work. Been an internet ‘trep, I always want to be online to get shits done but my country’s situation won’t allow me.

    For 7-8 days now, there has not been power and we rely on power plant (generator) for power. Considering the cost of fuel (petroleum) its kinda hard to put the plant on for more than 5 hours else its going to cost much.

    so at times, I just sit down here and dunno what else to do cause i guess i’m just sitting and wasting here.

    anytime I have the chance to work online with good internet connection, i do whine out!


    • Hey Sheyi! Wow that has to be difficult. If I don’t have internet for more than a few hours, I get stressed out. When you don’t have internet connection, you could try and stay productive by reading good books, exercising, planning, or just relaxing. That way when you have the internet on, you can focus and work hard.

      • Sure Benny but at times, when i don’t have what i really want, it gets me bored and to do other things are kinda difficult for me. But I’m trying my best though to get over not having internet connection and use the time for something good.


        • Craig Ballantyne over at wrote an interesting post about how he cancelled his internet connection and runs his online businesses from 1 hour a day from a coffee shop.

          Now, I take all that with a grain of salt, and Craig has more VAs than you can shake a stick at, so it’s hardly a fair comparison. But he does make a strong point that if you really distilled down the *inportant* and *necessary* stuff you need to do on the Net that you *can’t* do offline, well… it’s not that much *productive* work.

          Just food for discusion.


  3. Over the last couple of months, my productivity has turned into a revolutionary wheel! I just got involved in niche website development and got stuck with it! I’ve been pounding away at creating niche websites using market samurai and article marketing with unique article wizard. I’d say my fingers are now tired of typing and eyes are sleepy from keyword research analysis. But this blog post is inspiring me to continue!

    • Thanks for sharing Ryan! That’s awesome you’re working hard on your niche sites. Keep at it and hope you start getting those high Google rankings soon than later!

  4. i completely agree!!! delegating / outsourcing is the best technique ever
    I might think about a virtual assistant too. for now I’ve been training our domestic helper (the perks of living in China) run a lot of errands. I’ve even taught her to make roast lamb so I don’t have to cook dinner anymore hahah. the thing is though, with delegation of tasks, we still have the responsibility – at least that’s what i learnt as a manager. we still have responsibility for end results, and we must check the quality. i think that’s why delegating sometimes is hard, because we cannot ensure quality or the standard we want (esp for perfectionists like me!), and it takes a long time to teach someone to do something so many people make the mistake of doing it themselves. But just as I did with my helper, spending 30 minutes one day teaching her how to make roast, has saved me many many many hours of time subsequently!
    always delegate 🙂
    Noch Noch

    • I bet having a domestic helper in China is really inexpensive! Thanks for sharing your example. Training your assistant or helper well early on will save lots of time and trouble later on. That’s what I’ve learned. If we really want to get more done, we have to delegate for sure.

  5. I think my productivity is getting a little better this year over last. I have a consolidated task list that I keep on my phone all the time so that has saved me time from having multiple lists in multiple places. As they say, k.i.s.s.!

    • Keeping it simple! A great strategy. I know we’re always finding and trying new things to help us be more productive. Getting better is a good direction!

  6. Hi Benny,
    How are you?
    I agree with you about what you say for productivity. It happens to me to work for many hours and not be productive. What I have discovered is that whenever I have an activity scheduled in my daily program which makes me feel happy (such as a sport activity) then I am really productive. On the other hand when I have nothing to wait for I work for hours and hours and the results are disappointing.
    In addition, I believe that things are different for someone who has his own business and someone who has a 9-5 job. Sometimes when we work for others our goal is to get the job done but not as quickly as we could. We manage to distribute the job on the available hours and our goal isn’t to do as much work as we can….all that just because we don’t really care.
    how many times do we have the though : “if I finish earlier, my boss will give me more tasks…so I do slowly with my way!”
    Well, my main point is that if we have a challenge then we are more productive!
    About multitasking, I have written an article in my blog about blogging and multitasking. My experience is that blogging generates multitasking and we need to figure things out in order to avoid multitasking!
    As far as VA, could you give me an idea of prices in the company you mention?

    Thank you very much for that post!


  7. Hey Benny,

    Great info on getting things done. Could you send me an invite link for zirtual? I think it could really help me in my businesses.

  8. Excellent post, Benny. Very true that productivity is all about maximizing the output in a given time frame better than the average person. Like they say, don’t work hard but work smart. There is no point in putting in a 5 hour grind into something when there are people and services willing to do it for you for a fee that is less than what you lose from the loss of productivity in time taken trying to do it by yourself.


    • Thanks Jean. For awhile I was working hard, but not smart. I thought I was busy but when I wasn’t really doing anything that important. Now it’s much more important to work smart.

  9. I have noticed that ever since I have stopped watching TV, my productivity has increased tenfold… I have also started an exercise regime and I am more organised and productive than ever… I really believe that these 2 changes have made a great impact on not only my business, but life in general!

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