The Art of Productivity
I’m sure you’ve had a similar conversation while talking to a friend or a colleague, “I don’t know what it is, I feel like I’ve been doing so much but I just haven’t been productive.” This is all too common in today’s hyper connected world. You’ve felt it, I’ve felt it, we all fight this fight. The mystery we’re going to dive straight into is how to become more productive.
According to Dictionary.com, Productivity can be defined as:
Now that we have a clear understanding of what Productivity is, we can identify how to best measure our productivity daily. We often set out to accomplish large goals such as losing weight, becoming financially independent, writing a book, studying for an exam, or any other goal. We then look back days, weeks, or even months later and say “Hey, I never accomplished that. I’ve just been so busy with other things.” In the end the desired results are not produced.
If these are truly important to us, then we must track our productivity daily.
“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter F. Drucker
While it is easy to have hours, days, weeks, and even months slip thru our fingers the question remains, “Did I accomplish what I set out to accomplish?” While I’m slowly shifting away from spending my time as a planner to a doer, I still firmly believe that taking the time to review progress daily can impact one’s success. However, this should does not alleviate the responsibility of acting and producing daily.
There’s a common misconception that to achieve anything in life we must work late into the night downing red bull and coffee while avoiding sleep. While at times there will be greater demands and energy investment phases, much of this race is a marathon with sprints built in. Foregoing sleep with the premise that you will get ahead without it is a bad idea. I’m yet to meet or even read about a person who has successfully operated like this for an extended period.
In today’s hyper connected world, the distractions are growing omnipresent in our lives. This can impact our productivity both positively and negatively. We are living in times where we can connect with people across the globe within seconds at fractions of the cost from a decade ago. This can easily lead to an increase in productivity as contractors from other parts of the world can partner with our businesses. Or this technology can diminish our productivity as hours of our lives are swept away consuming email, news feeds, social media posts, and other forms of entertainment which have negative returns on our productivity.
I believe this is something which takes a very conscious effort, to maintain a single-minded focus on your goal. These don’t have to be extremely large goals, rather these are those little goals that are required daily to become productive.
It is a common misconception to adopt the mentality that multi taskers were high achievers. In an ideal world we would all be juggling multiple projects while executing on the highest value tasks only. However, we live in the real world where Sometimes High Intensity Things happen. That’s life.
Failing to be productive is often due to a lack of clarity on what one should be doing, meaning actionable steps to execute every day. Those goals not written down on paper (still in our heads) are living in the dark, waiting to be exposed to any light.
Once we begin setting goals down on paper, magic begins to take place. Imagine you are looking through an unfocused camera lens. You see some shape far off in the distance, but it is extremely blurry and unclear. As we further break our goal down into smaller targets to hit every day, the lens automatically begins focusing and our picture becomes clearer.
Let’s take a scenario with our made-up friend Andrew. Andrew has a goal of learning how to play the guitar. Andrew bought his guitar almost a year ago, but still hasn’t learned to play any beginner level chords. At least Andrew took the first step of buying the guitar, so he’s proven he can follow through on actions. Now the guitar sits in Andrew’s room and he looks at it every day as he thinks to himself, “one day I’m going to learn how to play the guitar, I just have way too much going on right now.”
This cycle continues week after week for over 10 months. What Andrew hasn’t done is sit down and figure out how to hold himself accountable to practicing his desire to play the guitar. A classmate, who is an excellent guitar player some simple but useful advice with Andrew.
“Just practice for 15 minutes every single day.” Andrew’s classmate shared. “Write down every day of the month in a notebook and make a note next to each day of the 15-minute investment. If you end up putting a zero next to any day, you immediately notice it. This is an amazing method of building momentum which can be applied to any field of study or goal.”
Andrew’s classmate continued to share, “that’s how I started playing guitar, just 15 minutes every single day. I made sure I wrote that time down in a notebook so I couldn’t trick myself into thinking I’ve been practicing more than I actually have.”
Andrew began applying this simple practice by hanging a calendar on his wall. Every day Andrew added “15 minutes” to his calendar by waking up in the morning and immediately having a 15 minutes practice session watching YouTube tutorials. This momentum made him feel even more motivated and productive, further developing his skills. After the first month Andrew began adding a second 15 minute session every day to his practice and his calendar. After 3 months Andrew was playing some of his favorite songs and really found his passion for the guitar grow and develop.
It looks like we can all learn from Andrew how to be more productive. We must first create and write down our vision into a clear goal. From this single step, our journey towards our goal begins to gain momentum. Once the goal is clearly defined, we can then identify what actions are required and in what amounts each day to pull us closer to our goals. By tracking this information daily, it is extremely simple to see when we are falling off our path to success.
If it’s something that we truly care about, I know we can all make the time investments to improve productivity and reach new levels. Even if it starts with only 15 minutes every day.
Until next time, keep pushing and progressing.
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