A critical process for healthy productivity systems.
Everyone has a productivity system. It might not have a name, it might be unique to you, but it’s a system, and it helps you get things done.
However, as robust as your system might be, it doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Life slowly eats away at it, and unless you do something to prevent that, there will be trouble ahead.
When this happens to me, I know it’s time for a personal productivity audit. Here’s what that looks like.
What is a Personal Productivity Audit?
A personal productivity audit is a chance for you to reflect upon the key parts of your productivity system. It’s a way to assess what is working and what is not.
Sometimes, a productivity audit will lead to important changes in your system. Other times, it will be an opportunity to tweak and better implement the system you already have.
Either way, a productivity audit is meant to be a preventative measure. It can stop you from being overwhelmed and keep you on the right track.
How to Do a Personal Productivity Audit
There’s not really a right or wrong way to go about this. You have to do what works for you. That’s the “personal” part of a personal productivity audit. However, if you are looking for ideas on where to start, here are three approaches you can try.
1. What is your ideal state?
If you were to describe your productivity system to someone else, or write a Medium article explaining it to the world, what would you say? This is your benchmark; your blueprint for success.
Now look at what you are doing right now. Does it match up? If not, look for where are you straying from that original blueprint.
2. Round up the usual suspects
The components of a good productivity system usually include things like email, calendar, tasks, and reference materials. When you do your personal productivity audit, break it down into these areas to see where the weak points are.
- Which of these areas are you excelling at?
- Where is there room for improvement?
- What is not working and why?
3. Gather the data you need
Time tracking apps like Toggl can be a valuable part of a productivity audit. When you know how your time is being spent, you can make decisions about whether you are spending that time well or not.
Your system might be working just fine, but if you are not using your time wisely, your day won’t be very productive.
The Results of My Last Personal Productivity Audit
To give you an idea of what this looks like in practice, I’m going to share with you the results of my last personal productivity audit. I identified several areas of concern.
- I noticed I was skipping my weekly reviews
- My tasks were not always getting sorted in my task manager
- My email inbox was never truly empty
So, nothing major, but definitely some things I need to address. For instance, I know the benefits of a weekly review. I just got out of the habit of doing one. I have lists in my task manager for a reason, and if I don’t get a better handle on my email, then I will only have myself to blame.
A productivity audit doesn’t have to make you reinvent the wheel. In my case, I picked up some bad habits. I can fix these now because they are relatively minor. However, without the information I got from my audit, these problems could quickly have got out of hand.
When Should You Do a Productivity Audit?
Remember, a personal productivity audit is a preventative measure. Don’t wait until everything around you is falling to pieces before you do one. Be proactive. Try to schedule an audit at least once or twice a year, whether you think you need it or not.
Just be aware that there will be times when you can’t wait for the next scheduled audit. There will be times when the wheels will start falling off your wagon and decisive action will be needed. Make sure that you recognize this when it happens and address it as soon as you can.
Think of it like visiting your doctor. You go once a year for a checkup, but if something doesn’t feel right in the interim, you schedule an appointment and get that taken care of. To keep your productivity system healthy, you need to follow a similar path.
Personal productivity audits are critical for helping you maintain a productivity system that works. When done regularly, they can help you stay on top of your game and achieve a better work-life balance.
An audit does take time to complete, but it’s time well spent. If you haven’t done one for a while, there’s no time like the present!
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