Tough Talk About Personal ProductivityTime for some tough talk about time management and personal productivity.

In a recent piece for Inc., management consultant Steve Tobak pulled no punches with his views on this important topic.

What used to really count for something—working, playing, thinking, feeling, etc.—“now takes a backseat to the instant gratification of distraction, addiction, self-importance, attention seeking, and minutiae.”

This could be why your personal productivity seems to have gone up in smoke.

Feeling distracted by social media? That happens, Tobak says, “because you crave a quick fix for attention.”

Lost in the jungle of your email inbox? The reason is “it makes you feel important.”

In short: “You waste ridiculous amounts of time doing things that don’t really matter because you choose to do them.”

OK, we get it.

So what’s the solution?

Here are Tobak’s blunt suggestions.

Avoid Online Activity During Work Hours

Social media in all its tweeting, blogging, posting, status updating manifestations “destroys your personal productivity.”

Unless it's a legitimate part of your job, do it away from the office and after work hours.

Respect Deadlines

If you say you have to finish a meeting by 11:00 a.m., stick to your commitment. “Deadlines force discipline. That’s why deadlines work.”

Get Your Priorities in Order

A long time ago, Tobak began classifying his to-do list according to priority. “A”= Time critical. “B”= Important. “C”= Everything else.

Start by working on your As. When those are completed, go to your Bs.

After awhile, he says, “you learn that you never get to the Cs. And you know what? It never matters.”

Say “No” Often, “Maybe” Never

It’s not easy saying “no” to people, but when you do, amazingly enough, life goes on.

Tobak offers a quick, helpful guide about what to say no to: “If it’s not a goal, a priority, important, or fun, say no.”

“Maybe” should never be part of your lexicon, he adds. Saying “maybe” to someone’s request is “just being controlling and self-important.”

Mute Your Devices

We’re only human. When we hear an email chime or some other alert from our phone or laptop, we stop whatever we’re doing to find out what’s going on. “Ignore that tug to respond right away to every request,” Tobak says.

(A more productive approach is simply setting aside a small chunk of your daily time to attend to email messages.)

“Also, never answer a call unless you’re expecting it or have time for it. Even if it’s your boss.”

Work from Home

Look at your schedule. Do you find your time mostly taken up by meetings? Maybe that’s why it seems you can never get anything done. Tobak does much of his work at home, “a lot of my strategizing and thinking, too.”

You make your own choices, and set your own priorities. If you turn away from all the distractions of daily life, it turns out “you have way more control than you realize.”

How do you cope with personal productivity drain?