Productivity – what exactly is it, and how can you improve it?
Productivity refers to how efficiently you get things done. It’s often discussed in a work context, as employers try to boost workers’ productivity as much as possible.
However, you can leverage productivity to make major progress in personal life too. Whether it’s your health, fitness, or even interpersonal relationships you should strive for optimal productivity.
Why should you level up your productivity?
If you step up your productivity, the benefits are numerous.
First, on a practical level, you will get a lot more done. This will reduce stress in your life, and propel you towards your goals.
Next, as a result of getting more done, you will likely notice an improvement in your overall wellbeing. When we are moving forward with purpose and accomplishing tasks both small and large we feel a sense of pride and contentment within ourselves. This is no small thing.
Finally, for better or worse, we live in a world which puts accomplishment on a pedestal and respects success above all else. Productivity is a means by which you can get ahead of the competition and truly thrive – in both the personal and professional realms.
What are the biggest obstacles to productivity?
Cal Newport, renowned computer scientist and author of the bestselling book ‘Deep Work’ claims: ‘efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction’.
By dependence on distraction, Newport is referring to all of the ways we procrastinate and put off what we should be doing.
Do you periodically check your phone throughout the day? If the answer is yes, then chances are it could be hindering your productivity, and preventing your mind from accessing a state of deeper focus.
While it may seem trivial, clutter can be a real output-killer.
If your work space is littered with papers and things that aren’t essential for your work, then this can be another obstacle to productivity.
Try studying with documents and other objects all over the desk, and then try with just a book and a notepad and pen. See if you notice a difference.
Lack of direction
If you lack direction or goals, then you’ll likely have a hard time making any progress. You have to define the parameters and objectives of your work to ensure you stay on the right track.
Let’s take studying a language as an example.
You tell yourself you are going to ‘study spanish’. This is great and you feel good about it, but after a while of going through the grammar you ask yourself if you’ve done enough and this uncertainty will hurt your output.
Your goals don’t even need to be ambitious. You can simply commit to one grammar exercise a day, and that consistency will yield results in the long-term. Plus, once you do that one exercise for the day, you can feel satisfied that you’re making real progress.
Best productivity tips
Always take small steps. Whatever you want to get done – unless it is urgent – can be accomplished with a series of seemingly insignificant actions.
James Clear, the author of the hugely successful Atomic Habits, believes that overnight success isn’t real. ‘Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations’.
Think about what your goals are, and then write out what daily actions you can take that will lead you in the right direction.
Working out for 10 minutes a day is easier to stick to than working out 5 times a week for an hour each time. So whereas if you took the latter approach you might burn out and quit the habit, with the former you will probably build a very strong habit of working out.
Experiment with the pomodoro method, and see if it doesn’t help you stay focussed, and get more done throughout the day.
The pomodoro method has you work for 25 minutes, and resting for 5. This system can work wonders if you struggle to get started, or to maintain focus on a longer task.
Another system that can help is the todo list. Creating a todo list seems like an obvious thing to do, but it really does help you see exactly what you need to accomplish on any given day.
Minimise distractions and clutter
The more distractions you have such as emails and social media, the less likely you are to be consistently productive.
The same goes for clutter.
Reduce both distractions and clutter, and you could see your productivity skyrocket.
Best books on productivity
- James Clear – Atomic Habits
- Cal Newport – Deep Work
- Jocko Willink – Discipline Equals Freedom
- David Allen – Getting things done
- Brian Tracy – Eat That Frog!
To improve your productivity, you need to cultivate the conditions with which you can thrive.
This means you must remove distractions and clutter as best you can, figure out which systems work best for you, and focus on the small steps.
Once you implement these tips, or even just one of them, you will almost certainly notice a boost in your productivity and enjoy the many benefits!