I wrote this article as a master guide to productivity. Well OK, I don't know about a master guide but one thing is for sure: implementing these steps will help you increase your output if you implement them towards the tasks that you're passionate about.

The process I've documented below is the one that I personally use, and frankly, I have had excellent results. Before jumping in, try not to treat this like every other article (scan, consider, forget). Write down the steps, see how they specifically apply to your situation, and by all means, be sure to put them into action!

Remember, nothing changes until you change, or as I like to say, change isn't change until you change!

Here are the 7 Master Steps to Productivity

  • Step #1: Write Down What You Want to Accomplish and Give it a Deadline
    Most people know to do this but few actually put this step into action. It's critical that you define each task that you want to accomplish and give each task a deadline.

    Paul Meyer said, If you're not making the progress that you would like to make, and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.

    Written goals with deadlines (when seen daily) will drive you to be more productive. Without knowing exactly where you are going, you will most likely stagnate.

    Let's use the example of me losing weight for illustration purposes:

    • - It certainly wouldn't be productive for me to think, I want to lose weight.
    • - The best thing for me to do is to give myself a deadline to accomplish the goal. Then place my desired weight with the respective deadline in a place where I will see it daily (like my vanity mirror). Finally, I should create a picture in my mind of me at my ideal weight. This picture will help drive my actions.
  • Step #2: Create a Simple Plan for Getting Things Done
    It's obviously not enough to just have a written goal with a deadline. Having a goal is like having the address to where you want to go. The address will certainly help you get to your destination, but it's not enough. You also need a plan, or directions to get you from where you are, to where you want to be.

    Do you have a plan for achieving your goals? Where is your plan documented?

    Back to our weight loss example:
    A weight loss plan may look something like this:

    • - Run on treadmill for one hour daily
    • - Plan all meals (limiting calories to 1700 a day)
    • - Read motivational weight loss material for 10 minutes daily prior to lunch.

    Your plan should be detailed, specific, and have a direct impact on your goal.

  • Step #3: Schedule Critical Tasks Daily
    Having a goal and a plan is still not enough. Now you must schedule your critical task! Critical tasks are tasks that directly impact the achievement of your goal. If your goalis to write a book, a critical task may be to write for 2 hours a day.

    In our weight loss example, here's how we would schedule our critical tasks:

    • - 7:00am - 8:00am - Run for one Hour on Treadmill
    • - 11:00am - 11:10am - Read Motivational Weight Loss Material
    • - 8:00pm - 8:15pm - Plan Meals for Next Day and Track Progress

    Have you scheduled your critical task? Do you know what they are?

    Note: Never have more than three critical tasks.

  • Step #4: Eat that Ugly Frog First
    The ugly frog represents a critical task that you are reluctant to perform. The best thing to do with an ugly frog is to eat it first.

    In our weight loss example, the ugly frog would be:

    • - Running on the treadmill at 7:00am.

    Eating the ugly frog daily is usually the difference between success and failure. Do yourself a favor and eat that ugly frog at your first available time-slot.

  • Step #5: Focus on the task at Hand
    Broken focus is the number one reason goals aren't accomplished.

    Paul Meyer said, Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.

    You must stay focused on your critical tasks just as the sailor is focused on the port in the harbor in which he is headed. Don't let anything side track you from completing your critical task on a daily basis.

    Back to our weight loss example - Here are a couple of things that could break my focus if I was trying to lose weight:

    • - A family member brings donuts over to the house
    • - At 7:15am (while on the treadmill) I remember that I need to return a friends phone call and decide that is more important.

    The key is to remain focused in the face of distractions. Distractions will come, just as sure as you're reading these words right now. You must expect distractions and maneuver around them.

    What distractions do you have? How can you maneuver around them? You must carefully allocate your time. Your daily task selectionis critical.

    You should always ask yourself:

    • - Is what I'm doing right now in alignment with my goals?
    • - Is this a level 10 on the critical scale, or just a level 5?
    • - Am I focused on my top 3 critical tasks?
  • Step #6: Just Say No
    Just say no to tasks that are not in alignment with your goals. The word no is probably the biggest time saver there is so increase your no ratio if you want to increase your productivity.

    The number one person you'll probably have to say no to is yourself. Your mind is good at coming up with new things to do to get you off track. So remember, just say no, because the quickest way to stop a man with a good idea, is to give him two.

    Back to our weight loss example; there will be many opportunities for me to say no:

    • - If I've planned a healthy lunch (based on my diet plan), and someone asks me to join them at a steak house...

    It's best if I just say no, in a nice way, as eating a steak for lunch is not in alignment with my goals.

  • Step #7: Track and Report Your Progress
    Finally, there's nothing like some good ole' peer pressure to get you motivated. Tell someone about your goal and keep them posted on your progress!

    This is how the tracking and reporting process would work in our weight loss example:

    • - I would tell my wife, I will lose 16 pounds by December 31. This is how I'm planning on completing this task, and I will update you on my progress every Saturday at 8:00am.

    Knowing that I have to be accountable on a specific goal, on a specific day, to a specific person, is a great motivator. This level of specificity is a very important part of productivity.

    The goal and deadline should be clear, the plan should be clear, the critical task should be clear, the scheduling of the task should be clear, and the reporting process should be clear. If there's clarity, there will be progress.

In conclusion, don't let this article be just another good article. Decide to put these steps into action to significantly increase yourproductivity. Remember nothing just happens, you have to make things happen and you start by getting into action!

Photo Credit: Alex Osterwalder