WHY: Why Focus on Productivity?
Governments are measured by it, employees are rated by it, and the quality of your life can depend on it. What is it? Productivity.
“Productivity is not just about doing more. It’s about creating more impact with less work.” Those words have been attributed to many different people, likely because so many want to take credit for its wisdom.
In the workplace, the adage, “work smarter, not harder,” is thrown around every day. Why? Because it’s great advice. Smart habits include techniques for improving productivity for the myriad daily tasks that befall us. These tasks might be considered mindless busywork, but if you can knock out those responsibilities in record time, you’ve just freed up more of your day to accomplish the things that will allow you to get ahead.
The tenets of high productivity apply to not just professional goals, but to personal ones as well. Good habits can benefit all aspects of your life, freeing up time to achieve that elusive, ideal work-life balance.
When bedtime arrives each day, it is likely that you will judge that day’s success (or lack thereof) by what you were able to accomplish during those hours you were awake. That’s motivation enough to study and practice good productivity habits, but there are many more reasons.
MushMonday engages its readers with quality content about why you should focus on productivity, what is standing in your way, and how to overcome those obstacles. Let’s begin with the “why.”
“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” Few will argue that Winston Churchill was a great leader during a tumultuous time in history. The quote above alludes to his desire and ability both to accomplish great things and inspire others to greatness. Churchill was also notorious for being a prolific napper. How could he do so much and sleep so much? The answer is productivity. In the hours he was awake, he worked hard and he worked smart. He led a country through a dark time in history to come out triumphant on the other side, but he didn’t do it alone. Churchill inspired and rallied others by serving as a great model of productivity.
Today’s children often look no further than their own homes for habits to emulate. Your habits, whether productive or not, will be modeled by your children. If you achieve high productivity, you will show your kids that hard work yields results. Not only that, but you will free up more quality time to spend with them.
Focus on Productivity To Be Valuable
In the realm of philosophy and self-help, it is easy to say that only our opinion of our worth is important, but that’s not very practical advice. It often does matter, to current employers and potential employers, what your perceived value as an employee is. Nothing makes an employee more valuable than results, and nothing achieves greater results than working efficiently, thus increasing productivity.
Focus on Productivity To Achieve Happiness
Dr. Edward Stieglitz said, “The important thing to you is not how many years in your life, but how much life in your years!” You can find a version of that quote in just about any collection of motivational posters or memes. It inspires us to do more, be more, and achieve more. If those pursuits are our passions as well, we will get even more satisfaction in our lives. No time to follow those dreams? Make time by being more productive in your everyday tasks. Few simple actions will take you further in life than increasing your level of productivity.
Focus on Productivity To Accomplish Goals
If a question relates to work procedures, chances are the answer includes a practice of goal-setting. Sales? Set sales targets. Nonprofit operations? Set fundraising goals. Project management? List the objectives. Regardless of the terminology, goals are fundamental to producing results. And what is fundamental to accomplishing those goals? You guessed it. Productivity.
Good productivity habits relate not only to time management, but they represent a smarter way of operating. Although the practice of setting goals is most often found in a workplace, it can be extremely beneficial to apply the same concepts to the rest of your life as well, to do things such as save for retirement, lose weight, or plan a dream vacation.
Focus on Productivity To Have Freedom
Increased productivity can free up time for us to chase our passions, to change our environment, and possibly to alter the trajectory of our lives. For example, task delegation is a great technique to increase overall productivity by releasing you from the stranglehold of repetitive, tedious, or time-consuming activities. By studying and applying basic productivity techniques, you can taste the sweet freedom it can bring.
Focus on Productivity To Grow
“It’s not about being the best. It’s about being better than you were yesterday.” A desire for constant improvement is a baseline characteristic of many ambitious personalities. Good productivity habits can benefit you in many different areas of your life, professional and personal, financial and spiritual, and many
Focus on Productivity To Learn New Skills
While freeing up time to binge-watch new TV shows is perfectly acceptable, chances are that if you’re reading this, you are frustrated with your inability to pursue new interests because of time-limiting responsibilities or a restrictive job. It may seem there’s just no time. Honing your productivity skills can provide the free time you need to learn new skills and increase the quality of your life. Not to mention, good productivity habits are great new skills to acquire in and of themselves.
Focus on Productivity To Gain Knowledge
Some of the same habits that increase your level of productivity can also improve the speed at which you acquire and process knowledge. In today’s world, where people are constantly inundated with data in a variety of media, it is too easy to succumb to information overload. Without the ability to filter and prioritize, time is wasted responding to invaluable stimuli while valuable knowledge can be lost to you.
Random House defines productivity as the “quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods or services.” It’s that first word, quality, which is key. It’s not enough in this hectic world just to create or enhance; rather, one must create or enhance well, maximizing effort and energy to produce the best results in the most efficient way possible.
MushMonday aspires to improve your life by arming you with the motivation to work smarter, the information you need to identify the obstacles in your life that hinder you, and the skills and techniques you can use to rescue one of life’s most precious commodities, time.
After realizing how important productivity is to improving the quality of your life, but before jumping into the myriad strategies and techniques for increasing productivity, you need to understand what obstacles lie in your way. Some are obvious; some are not. Some will apply to you; some will not.
What follows is MushMonday’s list of the top 10 impediments to high productivity. It is not enough to know that these barriers exist, though. You must also identify exactly how they work to hinder you before determining your plan to overcome them. In other words, your strategies will be tailored to fit you, but first you need to take your measurements.
Not only does this list help you identify some of the biggest obstacles you may face every day, but it also serves to stimulate your thinking, allowing you to uncover other facets of your own life that are hindering your productivity.
Once you acknowledge what’s holding you back, you can begin to move beyond those obstacles. MushMonday will explore with you many proven strategies and techniques for altering your work habits and environment to maximize productivity, optimize your time, and catapult you to the next level.
But first, what is keeping you from achieving your best level of performance?
Tim Ferriss offers good advice to anyone struggling to accomplish more: “Focus on being productive rather than busy.” Your day likely begins with a long to-do list, even if it’s only a mental one. While it might be easy to scan your notes (or your brain) for those things that are simple or pleasant to do, this is not always the best use of your time. Sure, you will get some sense of accomplishment for checking 5-10 things off that list each day, but has that really gotten you further toward your personal or professional goals?
#2 Obstacle To Productivity – Multitasking
As Ernest Hemingway said, “Never mistake motion for action.” You may be moving in a hundred different directions at once and making no progress toward your final destination. If you try to juggle too many things at once, nothing has your full attention, and focus is a vital component to thoughtful and efficient work.
It’s not always possible, though, to shut your office door and give each task your undivided attention. Certain jobs force you to multi-task just to maintain status quo. Some thrive in this environment, but not everyone. The key is to figure out how to be most productive in your current situation, or how to change your situation to be most productive.
#3 Obstacle To Productivity – Inability To Say No
Most go-getters like you are dynamic personalities with a track record of competence and an ability to inspire. As such, you are probably asked to do just about everything for everyone, from joining boards of directors, speaking at events, attending social functions, and performing countless personal favors. You probably are reluctant to say no, wanting to please others and, in many cases, excited to do or learn something new; however, that level of responsiveness is unsustainable if you want to make notable progress toward your goals.
#4 Obstacle To Productivity – Social Media
Social media sites have been described as everything from wasteful time sinks to critical communication tools. Do they make you more productive or less productive? For most of us, social media participation is a double-edged sword, an enjoyable and highly stimulating activity that can severely inhibit our ability to stay on task. Take some time to analyze your own social media participation habits and how they affect your productivity.
#5 Obstacle To Productivity – Perfectionism
Many of us are all too familiar with perfectionism. It is a trait that often plagues doers and achievers because you place high expectations on yourselves. With each task or project, closely monitor your efforts to ensure you don’t cross the line where perfect becomes the enemy of good and your level of productivity diminishes. In business, this is called the law of diminishing returns, referring to the point at which the profits [benefits] gained are less than the money [energy] invested.
#6 Obstacle To Productivity – Procrastination
Whoever said, “Time spent thinking about doing something takes away the time you actually have to do it” was probably a recovering procrastinator. For some, budgeting time over the course of days, weeks, or months is a perfectly reasonable and easy thing to do. For others, it is a laughable exercise in futility. This is because that second group of people are chronic procrastinators, putting off until tomorrow what should be done today. Take control of your work habits by budgeting your time to make the most productive use of it.
#7 Obstacle To Productivity – Lack Of Motivation
Walt Disney said it best, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing,” but sometimes that’s much easier said than done, especially when we are not motivated. In a commission-based job such as sales, the motivation is obvious. Make more sales, make more money. In other situations, the motivation is not as obvious, and it takes much more than a quote from Walt Disney to get going. For any task to which you expect to invest your precious time and energy, spend some time understanding exactly what your motivation is to do it. The clearer you can articulate or envision that ultimate reward, the easier it will be to find the energy to pursue it. And if you can’t find a good or clear reason to be motivated, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the task altogether.
#8 Obstacle To Productivity – Lack Of Competence
“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” Henry C. Link believed that not knowing how to do something can be crippling when it comes to your productivity. Instead of hesitating because you don’t have all the right skills, take a plunge and learn them. The more skills you acquire, the higher productivity you will have. And, after all, one of the reasons you want to increase your productivity is to create the time to learn new things.
#9 Obstacle To Productivity – Negativity
Studies have shown that happiness can make an employee more productive. The same holds true in our personal lives as well. Fear, self-doubt, and other negative thoughts are just as detrimental to your ability to accomplish your goals as anything else you might identify. That’s why The Power of Positive Thinking is one of the best-selling self-improvement books of all time. Norman Vincent Peale sold readers on the premise that if you “change your thoughts…, you change your world,” not because he was a good salesman, but because it’s true.
#10 Obstacle To Productivity – Lack Of Discipline
Paul Meyer said, “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” No one would expect a concert pianist to slack off when it comes to practice, or an Olympic swimmer to give his or her all every other stroke. Great achievement requires productive effort, and productive effort requires discipline. Once you master self-discipline, your track to accomplishing your goals becomes straighter, clearer, and shorter.
Obstacles to your productivity may not be obvious or easy to remove, but rest assured, they exist, and they can be conquered. Your journey will not be identical to everyone else’s, so there is no one-size-fits-all formula to instantly make you more productive. Ultimately, what will set you apart is your ability to identify what stands in the way of accomplishing your dreams, no matter what size or shape those dreams take, and then taking the necessary steps to blast those obstructions from your path. MushMonday can provide the dynamite.
Once you identify the obstacles hampering your productivity, it is time to do something about them. Pablo Picasso said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.” We all know it’s important to do something, but how do we ensure the actions we take will lead to success?
MushMonday showed you ten of the most common obstacles to productivity. Now let’s briefly overview some of the ways to release you from the stranglehold that these obstacles can have on your productivity. The specific techniques you practice should be specifically tailored to your situation and the problems you face on a daily basis. It should be the goal of any productivity strategy to get the best return on your investment of time and energy as possible.
Instead of choosing your next task arbitrarily, take time at the start of each day to prioritize your to-do list. There are a variety of techniques to accomplish this, such as ranking your to-dos according to completion length, relevance, or deadline. Not everyone’s system will be the same. MushMonday will help you choose a system of prioritization that works best for you in order to make you more productive, because, let’s face it, you will always be busy. What’s most important is to be productive.
#2: Increase Your Productivity – Know When To Multitask, and When Not To!
Studies have shown that multi-tasking can decrease productivity by more than a third. The reasons are obvious. Harder tasks require you to focus and minimize distractions. In these cases, multi-tasking impedes productivity.
Some jobs, however, require at least some level of multi-tasking. In those situations, try to segregate tasks by level of difficulty. Low-thought tasks, or busywork, is much easier to accomplish while multi-tasking. If you anticipate a period of time with fewer distractions, such as slower holiday periods or late Friday afternoons when fewer people are in the office, you can switch from busywork to more substantive work. MushMonday can offer specific techniques for thriving when multi-tasking is unavoidable, but a good start is to simply be aware of how multi-tasking can decrease your productivity.
#3: Increase Your Productivity – Know When To Say No
Talented, dynamic people are constantly asked to participate in one task or another. To be more productive in your own life, you will need to learn when and how to say no. Often difficult at first, this is something that gets easier with practice. Note that this doesn’t mean to always say no. Many functions will be enjoyable, a pleasant break from your daily grind. Some opportunities will offer an opportunity to network with influential people. And sometimes, you need to help a friend because it’s the right thing to do. The key here is balance.
MushMonday will help you decide how to evaluate the benefits or drawbacks of any task and how to gracefully accept (with important limitations) or diplomatically decline (without burning bridges.) Perhaps the best advice here is to take your time. Don’t say yes or no too quickly.
#4: Increase Your Productivity – Ingest Social Media in Moderation
Some argue that checking social media accounts during the workday is an absolute no-no if you want to get more done. Others say that social media is not only a valuable communications tool, but that engaged workers have elevated moods, increasing overall productivity. Which is true? Well, both.
As with many things in life, moderation is key. Eliminating social media altogether may work for some, but for others, it can be severely demotivating. You must find that level of participation at which you stay connected and inspired, but your productivity stays unimpeded. For example, one strategy that might work for you is to allow a brief check of social media as a reward for accomplishing a task, or after a set period of uninterrupted work.
#5: Increase Your Productivity – Say Goodbye to Perfectionism
There is a fine, but very important, line between having a high standard of performance and having a crippling need for perfectionism. If you find yourself frequently unable to release work that is “good enough” or even “great” as you continue to pour unwarranted time into a project, searching for an elusive or even unattainable level of “perfect,” then you may have crossed that line. This can result in far more than just lost productivity, but also missed deadlines, loss of credibility, and possibly even a poor reputation. If you’re prone to perfectionism, you need to develop a strategy to combat it. MushMonday can help.
#6: Increaser Your Productivity – Conquer Procrastination
While it may be possible to eke out a successful project after waiting until the last minute – and indeed, for some, this is a way of life – chances are it will not only catch up to you at some point in the form of catastrophic results, but could even have ill effects on your health in the long term by adding avoidable stress and worry to your life. A common problem, procrastination is an enemy to high productivity, but luckily there are many time management techniques that can help you conquer that foe.
#7: Increase Your Productivity – Stay Motivated
If self-motivation is not one of your skills, it should be. You are responsible for your own destiny, and many of your ambitions can be lost to you if you can’t motivate yourself to put forth the extra effort to be more productive and stay on the path to accomplishing your goals and dreams. Self-motivation comes as naturally to some as breathing in and out, but if you’re not one of those lucky individuals, worry not. Many techniques are available to keep you moving in the right direction, like granting yourself rewards for completing a task or achieving a goal, or posting a vision board near your work space to constantly remind you of why you are working so hard in the first place.
#8: Increase Your Productivity – Sharpen Your Skill Set
New technology is constantly emerging, shaving time off our workday by providing smarter software to automate tasks and help you be more productive overall. It’s important to stay up to date with the many and varied technology platforms and tools in the marketplace. This will certainly help you optimize the impact of your work by increasing your productivity.
#9: Increase Your Productivity – Keep A Positive Attitude
Mental health and clarity are essential to maintaining the focus and energy it takes to work efficiently and effectively. Negative attitudes and thoughts can be quite detrimental not just to the amount and quality of your work, but also to your overall well-being. MushMonday can teach you how to reverse negativity and convert that wasted energy into production.
#10: Increase Your Productivity – Practice Discipline
Athletes, writers, businessmen, and every other professional group knows that in order to succeed, one must understand and practice strict levels of discipline. It can be as difficult as practicing one ice skating move for hours each day to perform it flawlessly, or as simple as setting your alarm for the same time each day. Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.” He knows that in order to produce results, one must put in the effort. To produce better results, make that effort more productive.
Before choosing new productivity strategies, you must first get to know yourself a little better. Take some time analyzing your particular situation and determining what specific obstacles stand in your way most frequently. Then use the information provided by MushMonday to pick the techniques you think will be most effective in combatting those obstacles and increasing your personal productivity. Be consistent and disciplined in your approach. After all, as Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.” Therefore, go, and be excellent.