A Framework to Study Personal Productivity

Personal productivity is such a broad field of study and encompasses so many topics of discussion!  The catalog of seminars I currently offer lists 21 courses, all related to personal productivity.  I could literally talk for two weeks non-stop about everything I’ve learned in the past 14 years of full-time study on how to improve personal productivity.  So I thought it would be helpful to suggest a framework in which to discuss and study the various components.

In order to be productive, you have to:

1.      Set yourself up for success.  You have to do a lot of things before you can dream of being productive.  You must put systems in place and maintain those systems.  They are the enablers; the supports upon which your productivity is able to spring forth.  I will call these FOUNDATIONS.  Foundational elements are factors such as your energy level, the way you set up your space, organizational systems, and advance planning.

2.      Prevent things from destroying your productivity.  You might have all the Foundations in place, and then everyone else comes along and messes it all up.  We have to try to stop, avoid, avert, or ward off these bandits.  I will call these OBSTACLES.  Obstacles may include interruptions, ineffective meetings, improper delegation, and excessive socializing.

3.      Make the best use of every minute every day.  Once you’ve set yourself up for success and protected yourself from environmental influences, then your self-discipline kicks in.  This is what you actually do while you’re trying (or not) to be productive.  This is what I call your EXECUTION.  Your ability to execute will depend on how well you’ve laid out your schedule, how you use downtime, your decision-making abilities, concentration level, avoidance of multi-tasking, etc.

So there you have it: FOE.  A constant reminder that productivity is not always easy, but the rewards are immeasurable.

Some things can be in all three categories, depending upon what phrase of the process we’re referring to:

·        Technology, for example, is necessary for Execution, but it can also be a Foundation, if you don’t have the right resources and tools at your disposal, or an Obstacle if you don’t know how to use it correctly or don’t have your setting such that you’re not constantly interrupted. 

·        Meetings can also be in all three categories.  When Executed well, meetings can be a beautiful thing to behold.  But if the Foundational elements of a code of conduct, agenda, advance reading materials, expectations, etc., aren’t present, it can’t be executed properly.  And if during the meeting we’re seeing side conversations, items coming in that weren’t on the agenda originally, or starting and stopping late, for example, meetings realize huge Obstacles that stymie the return.

I’d love your input on this.  What elements of personal productivity fall in each category?  Where are your strengths and weaknesses?  What other examples touch all three?  I send free eBooks for posting comments, so let us hear from you (and don’t forget your email address).



  1. Hi Laura. I love the idea, and in my study (over far fewer years so far!) I completely understand what you’re saying – “Personal Productivity” encompasses so many areas, including:

    * Time Management
    * Motivation
    * Changing Habits
    * Overcoming Procrastination
    * Goals
    * Courage
    * Work/Career
    * Wealth/Money
    * Momentum
    * Problem Solving
    * Balance
    * Fulfillment
    * Consciousness

    I’ve tried to address some of the *habits* that are common to methods [1], but I haven’t thought at the level you bring up. Good stuff to think about…

    Thanks for the post!

    [1] A Framework to Study Personal Productivity – http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2006/07/what-are-essential-habits-of-gtd.html