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We’ve all had days when, at the end of the day, we’re driving home with the feeling we’ve accomplished absolutely nothing.   Seize that moment!  That moment of dissatisfaction can serve as the motivation we need to make the changes necessary to increase our personal productivity.

When a team of management consultants works with a company one of the tools they use is “Day in the Life Of” (DILO) studies.  These studies are conducted with managers to determine what percent of their time is spent in value added versus non value added activities and are conducted with enough management team members to reflect what’s going on in the company.

When I conducted my first set of studies I was shocked to find an average of only 24% of my client’s time was spent productively.  However, after conducting and reviewing hundreds of these studies for dozens of companies it was apparent that, in aggregate, the management of most companies spends less than half their time productively.

Having said that, in almost every company I discovered there are people who spent their time more productively than the average, some of them dramatically.

As a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, I set out to determine what tools and practices these people have in common and have found some commonality:

  1. They have a method for optimizing what they accomplish that works for them.  Their method might be one they personally developed or one of the recognized methods such as The Eisenhower Method, The Pomodora Technique, or Segment Management.
  2. They spend less than 100% of their workday “running” the business in order to carve out time to grow the business and make operational improvements.
  3.  They have an effective method of managing meetings, both those they chair and those they attend.
  4. They have a decision making model that provides a framework for how they make decision.

Over the next few weeks this blog will explore each of these so when we have that moment of dissatisfaction we can leverage these tools to increase our personal productivity.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.