Welcome to the 2017 SpeedRead.io
Personal Productivity Survey Results

In February 2017 SpeedRead.io conducted an online survey among 548 US adults asking about their attitudes, behaviors and advice regarding personal productivity.

These are the results.

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#1 We’re struggling to keep up, particularly during middle age

16% of respondents were dissatisfied with their level of personal productivity. Generally this dissatisfaction increased into middle age and we hypothesize that peaking career and childcare pressures combine to expose productivity skill shortfalls around this age.

Levels of "overwhelm" – the feeling of being unable to cope with the demands being placed upon you – are a concerning 89% amongst those dissatisfied with their personal productivity.

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#2 We’re wasting our time on social media when we’d rather be learning a new language

No surprises here. The siren song of social media and instant gratification web browsing continues to be a major drain on our personal productivity. 37% of respondents claimed that browsing the web or using social media was the primary cause of diminished productivity.

Nearly all of those respondents expressed a desire to limit their browsing or social media activity with 7% having deleted one or more apps in order to help achieve this.

Unhindered by productivity or time constraints the top three things people would like to do is travel (25%), go back to school (14%) or learn a new language (11%).

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#3 Morning rituals pay off. Handsomely.

Morning rituals with at least some time given over to productivity enhancing activity were surprisingly popular with 28% of respondents claiming regular participation. The most common activities included exercise (45%), meditation (17%) and planning the day ahead (8%).

93% of respondents who always engage in a morning ritual were satisfied with their levels of personal productivity versus just 76% of all respondents. And just 7% of those who always engage in a morning ritual suffer from feelings of overwhelm versus 14% generally.

Engaging in a regular morning ritual seems to pay off: Incidence rates of regular participation in morning rituals increases with seniority, peaking at 91% amongst business owners. College graduates and postgraduates are most likely to engage in a morning ritual (38% and 46% respectively).

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#4 The To-Do list is still king of productivity tools

15% of respondents still rely on the humble to-do list in order to organize their day which was the top quoted productivity tool in use by respondents.

However, digital productivity apps have gained a meaningful foothold with Trello, Evernote, Google Docs, OneNote and Wunderlist quoted as the top apps in use by respondents.

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#5 Personal productivity skills may have a place in the school curriculum

Improved productivity skills were much desired by respondents with 21% saying they would like to better be able to prioritize their tasks.

Generally speaking the desire to learn productivity skills increased with decreasing education levels. Furthermore part-time workers and the unemployed were significantly more likely to desire increased productivity and prioritization skills. The results posed an interesting question regarding correlation versus causation between these factors which was outside the scope of this study.

The emergent picture was one of an acute skill gap in terms of productivity tools and techniques. From meditation to prioritization tools there was considerable desire among respondents to empower themselves with skills which perhaps have a place in the school classroom.

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#6 Take some advice: Focus, prioritize and plan ahead

When asked for their #1 piece of productivity advice the resulting hints and tips varied greatly but three specific pieces of advice where mentioned consistently: Plan ahead (18% of respondents), prioritize (26% of respondents), and focus (33% of respondents).

Plan Ahead: Allow time to think about what the week or day ahead is going to look like. A little mindfulness in advance can be hugely effective.

"I typically start planning for my week on Sunday evening. I then plan each day as soon as I wake up. I pick 2 or 3 things that I absolutely must achieve that day and, as a rule, these are the first things I do. Plan, plan, plan."— Survey Respondent

Prioritize: Work on things early, preferably the very first thing you do, in the day that have the highest impact on achieving your goals.

"Avoid at all costs getting bogged down in trivia. First thing in the day do the most important tasks which have the highest impact on achieving your goals."— Survey Respondent

Focus: Eliminate distractions, clear your workspace, leave Facebook and Twitter. Actively seek out chunks of undistracted time for you to work on your goals.

"Eliminate distractions. Leave Facebook and Twitter. Focus only on what you are trying to achieve. Write clear goals listing the benefits of attaining these. Then make sure to work on those for 2-3 hours daily, uninterrupted, whether you feel like it or not."— Survey Respondent