Many clients first come to me because they want to improve their productivity. Often this is because they want to advance their career by becoming more effective and more efficient at work. Or they want to become better at doing the work or self-improvement: They want to find more motivation to take care of themselves and do the things they know they should do.
But perhaps productivity doesn’t interest you. Perhaps you’ve come here to learn how to become healthier and happier. Perhaps you’re here to gain some knowledge that will improve your mindset. Perhaps you’re here to learn shortcuts – to deliberately avoid productivity (read: work).
It’s an understandable desire to hope that there is something you can just know that will change your life for the better. That would be easier than having to do things in order to improve.
But knowing the right things to do isn’t the same thing as doing them, and it is the doing that matters most.
“‘Everybody already knows that’ is very different from ‘Everybody already does that.’” –James Clear1
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas if you don’t bring them to life. It doesn’t matter how smart and talented you are if you don’t put your abilities to good use. The world doesn’t care about your potential. It cares about what you produce. Productivity is essential.
But the goal should never be productivity for productivity’s sake. The purpose of enhancing productivity is to increase freedom.
Becoming better at productivity can mean improving your work ethic – building the brain muscles that give you the strength to get things done and developing the skill of self-motivation. Becoming better at productivity could mean spending more of your time getting things done. Or it could mean getting more done in less time.
But it isn’t just a matter of doing more things or doing things faster. It’s also about doing the right things: setting clear priorities, getting organized, and staying focused. Becoming better at productivity can mean finishing what you’ve started.
“We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently.”
It’s also about doing things better by improving your techniques, focusing on quality rather than quantity. Becoming better at productivity also means developing the capacity to do what Cal Newport calls “deep work”: distraction-free, high-intensity effort.2
And becoming better at productivity isn’t just about what you’re producing right now; it’s also about increasing your ability to be productive in the future by making investments in yourself.4 Your approach to productivity needs to be strategic.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your productivity is to take a break. You have to manage your energy as well as your time. Life cannot be a never-ending hustle from one task to the next. Remember, you’re a human, not a robot.
Making self-care my #1 priority each day is actually the single biggest productivity booster I’ve ever implemented, even though it means spending an hour and a half each morning not being productive on anything work related. Every day starts with exercise, meditation, and wisdom. There is a massive return on investment for that time spent.
There are countless little ways to become slightly better at productivity. Although these incremental improvements may seem insignificant, they add up. If you make a few changes and gain 15 minutes of extra productivity per day, that adds up to over 90 hours per year – more than two full work weeks. Be on the lookout for these small gains. Everything counts.
Let’s get to work.
1 Clear, James. “Do More of What Already Works.” http://jamesclear.com/checklist-solutions.
2 Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing, 2016.
3 Clear, James. “The Productivity Guide: Time Management Strategies That Work.” http://jamesclear.com/productivity.
4 Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Fireside, 1990.
Title Image: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/home-office-workstation-office-336378/. Text added.
Desk: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/cluttered-desk-dirty-education-1295494/.
Robot: Greenaway, John. “Robot on the Taff.” https://www.flickr.com/. Creative Commons 2.0. Text added.