Productivity isn’t being busy.
Productivity isn’t being exhausted.
Productivity isn’t about maximising every single millisecond.
Productivity isn’t even about output or how much you achieve or how quickly. You could do the crossword in your fastest time yet but for what? Why does that matter?
You could complete a hundred crosswords a day which certainly makes you prolific but not productive.
There’s more to productivity than simply churning things out for the sake of it. Your intention behind the task actually accounts for a lot.
If you’re doing the crossword to relax, how you feel when you finish is the point. Whether you take ten minutes or an hour is irrelevant. If you’re doing the crossword to keep your brain nimble then getting quicker might be a sign that it’s working.
Productivity, or being productive, comes in many different forms. Not just bent over a desk producing incredible work but the whole system that leads to that creation. Productivity looks like many different things.
Productivity looks like Effectiveness
Slaving away over a report at 10pm, taking twice as long to complete it as you normally would being you’re exhausted isn’t being effective. Doing a brain dump of your thoughts, getting a good nights sleep and finishing the report quickly when you’re fresh is being effective.
This means that the best, most productive, use of your time might be rest. It’s taking a break. It’s going for a walk around the block and getting fresh air. It’s having that five-minute chat with your colleague in the kitchen. It’s taking a proper lunch break away from your desk to refuel for the afternoon.
Chugging away at it, hour after hour, ploughing on and on and on for endless hours is not a recipe for effective working. Give yourself the space to recharge your energy and come back to it when you’re working at full capacity.
Productivity looks like Inspiration
Now, this is a controversial one because I do believe you need to show up consistently. Whatever it is that you want in life, you need to show up for it every single day. For me, that means working on my business in some shape or form every day. But we don’t feel inspired every day.
Rarely do we get inspired sitting behind our desks. We get inspired by life. By our friends, travel, reading, exploring new places and trying new things. Part of living a productive life is allowing room for play. Room for new experiences. Room for inspiration and ideas to come to you.
Getting our creative juices flowing, dreaming up new ideas, tuning in to what we want from life. These things are essential. These drive us forward, create aspiration and inspiration in our lives. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is get out and have fun!
Productivity looks like Working on the Right Things
Almost everyone, myself included, can real off a long list of things they could be working on. There are literally millions of options on how we can spend our time. Netflix alone gives us thousands.
When there are so many options, so many possibilities, it’s hard to know which task is the right choice. There are a couple of questions you can ask to check-in that you’re making the best use of your time:
- What’s important in your life?
- What task has the greatest impact on getting you where you’re going?
The first question gets you in alignment with your priorities. And this can be at work too. What’s most important at work will be the projects that move you forward, maybe some deadlines. The second question focuses you. From all of the possible actions you could take in alignment with your priorities, which one is going to move you forward the most? This is about getting bang for our buck. We know we have limited time so let’s ensure we start with the activities that will make the difference we’re looking forward.
Pay attention here that you’re not overcomplicating something. Just because it’s important to your life, does not mean it can be simple. The difficulty level is not a sign of significance. What would it look like if it was easy?
Productivity looks like Curiosity
Being intrigued by something is enough. There doesn’t need to be any greater reason for something other than it catches your attention. Our lives are meant to be rich and multi-faceted. Our lives are meant to be enjoyed. Because I feel like it is the entire justification.
Don’t get caught up in everything needing to serve some greater purpose. That only non-fiction is productive reading. That you should only listen to informative podcasts. Or only read industry magazines from your field. If your interest is captured, explore it.
It’s easy to get caught up in that being productive means spending all of your time improving. Expanding your mind. But all that does it put unnecessary pressure on us and leech the fun out of everything. Let your curiosity guide you and let that be enough of a reason to do something.
Productivity looks like Flow
I am my most focused in the morning so I dedicate that time to my most important projects. I make sure I go to bed on time so I’m up and at ’em the following day. When it comes to maximising time, this morning window is the only time I’m worried about. I know if I get a solid two or three hours each morning on the right things, I know I’m in good shape. No matter how the rest of the day goes.
This means scheduling meetings at other times. This means always having a plan for the morning so I don’t waste time deciding what to do. This means relocating to a quieter part of the office so I can focus and am less likely to be interrupted. It means turning off emails and my phone. I go all in on making the morning as effective as possible because that’s when I’m operating at my best. And when I maximise that time, I get enough done that rest doesn’t matter.
Productivity is about the Whole System
Nothing is in isolation in our lives. When we have a fight with a friend, it can be hard to focus at work. When we’re exhausted, we struggle to pick up the steps in dance class.
How we eat, sleep, breathe affects everything. This means the best thing you can do, the most productive thing, can take any form. It can mean naps, catching up with a friend, cancelling a meeting. None of these actions is what you would typically consider being productive but in the larger context of what you are working towards, they could be the best thing you can do.
Productivity isn’t about doing more, it’s about doing more of the things that light you up.