Improving My Personal Productivity, Part 1 – Understanding How I Spend My Time

About half way through 2016, I was feeling that my personal productivity was particularly low. Work was getting away from me during the day and in the evenings I wasn’t managing to get any personal goals complete. I was spending time responding to other peoples requests rather than proactively setting my own agenda. Come August, I felt I had to slow down, say no and re-focus.

Towards the end of the year, I managed to pick up my productivity. Work felt better. My social time felt more deliberate. I even managed to put time toward personal projects which has led to the launch of this latest project.

With momentum in my favour, I want to push this to another level again. As I’m working on LBD but still in full-time work, improving personal productivity will be a major factor in it’s overall success.

Productivity is an amplifier

Productivity amplifies all our actions; allowing us to do more, better.

Learning by Doing Productivity Sketch
Less time, more output

Historically, being productive meant who could produce the most units of output in industry. As our work has changed though, so has the meaning of productivity. It doesn’t just refer to the amount of work you can do but also the importance of work you can do.

If every day we are just 10 minutes more productive, over the course of the year you have an extra 3,650 minutes. That is just under 61 hours or two and a half days.

What would you do with an extra two and a half days?

Understanding how I spend my time

Inspired by the Wait but Why post 100 Blocks a Day, I’m going to make a change.

In order to find a solution to the ‘how to be more productive?’ question, I need to first be fully aware of the problem. What is preventing me from being more productive now? And what can I change to be more productive?

To understand this, I am doing a full assessment of how I am currently spending my time. For two weeks (and possibly longer) I will be recording start times and end times for everything I do. When do I wake up? When do I start work? What do I do in between? What do I do when I’m home? As in the post, I’ll put all this time spent into a spreadsheet (although I’ll initially be writing them down as a note on my phone).

To start, I’ll be considering work as one large block, allowing me to focus on my personal time. If I find this useful, I’ll also break down my work hours into their individual components.

For each day, I’ll also make a simple note of how I felt. Did I feel productive? Yes or no. Did I feel productive throughout the day? Just in the morning? Just in the evening?

Some questions I want to answer

In tracking my time, I want to understand:

  1. Am I spending my most productive time on my most important tasks?
  2. How much time do I spend being responsive to others vs acting on my own agenda?
  3. Am I spending my time with people I want to spend time with?
  4. How much time do I spend with people vs on my own?
  5. What activities do I allow to ‘slip’ from my agenda?
  6. How much time do I spend on work (Deliveroo or personal) vs leisure?
  7. What days of the week do I deviate from my plan?
  8. How does alcohol effect my productivity the next day?
  9. Does my diet effect my productivity?
  10. How much time do I spend being healthy?

Once I’ve plotted my time spent, I should be able to make statements like: 10% of my time is spent on being healthy, 50% of my time is spent at work, and so on. I’m excited and nervous to see how this looks for me.

The road to improved productivity

In two weeks, I’ll share the results of my time assessment. I’ll break it down and categorise exactly how I actually spend my 100 blocks currently.

I’ll then be making a plan of how I desire to spend my 100 blocks. In an ideal world, what would I spend my time doing? How does it differ to the actual? What do I do too much of? What do I do too little of? And most importantly, how can I move from the actual closer to the planned ideal?

I’ll report back in two weeks time.


The original version of this post was published on my personal website and on Medium. I’d love to hear any comments, thoughts or feedback – you can tweet me at @stevanpopo.

If you want all the updates from Learning by Doing, you can follow my progress by subscribing to the LBD newsletter here.



  • You should be a part of a contest for one of the best blogs on the net.
    I am going to highly recommend this blog!

    • Stevan

      Thank you, I really appreciate your comment!

  • Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to make
    a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.

    • Stevan

      Thanks, I appreciate the comment. I do try to put time into these posts to make them useful! There are a bunch of techniques to help you get more done – have you tried reading this http://gettingthingsdone.com