How to be more productive
Do you constantly think there aren’t enough hours in the day and that you are busy?
This week’s blog post looks at productivity and considers:
- How long and how hard you work does not define productivity
- Tips for a productive calendar and to-do list
- The best emotions to generate for good productivity
- The importance of planning
- Why done is better than perfect
- A mindset for productivity
I am learning how to increase my productivity. Every week I practise seeing if I can get more done than I did the week before. It’s a bit of an obsession of mine. I’m one of those people who used to totally believe that there aren’t enough hours in the day and that I was ‘just too busy’. I now know that those beliefs, not only aren’t true, but that they also don’t serve me, and I am learning to let them go whilst I work hard to get more done.
If you’re like me and you like getting stuff done, if you like the sense of accomplishment, you’ll love learning about productivity, because it’s about what you produce.
Think of productivity in terms of how accomplished you are going to feel.
So, the more productive you are, the more you will create within a certain time frame, whether than is an hour, day, week, month or year.
This applies to you when you are at home with the kids, as much as it does when you are working.
How long and how hard you work does not define productivity
So, the definition of productivity does not refer to how much or how long you work. It doesn’t refer to how busy you are, and it doesn’t refer to how stressed you are. Some of my clients talk about how hard they work but it’s not relevant! It took me a while to get my head around that one. I used to believe, ‘just work hard and you will get there’! But how many hours you work is not relevant!
If you give yourself two years to write a book, it will take you two years. If you give yourself two months to write a book, it will take you two months. People think that the book written over two years will be better. Not necessarily. It may be the exact same number of hours, just spread over a longer period, that may or may not make that book better.
So instead of saying, “I don’t know how long this will take me” and then watching yourself work at the rate that you naturally work, you must turn it around. You have to say, “I have two hours to get this done.”
There’s a huge mental shift when you stop thinking about things in terms of your effort, or the amount of stress or the amount of time you put into something, and you start focusing on your productivity and what you’ve produced.
You want to be highly productive. You don’t want to just be putting in a lot of effort. And this is true for anybody.
So, when you are producing content, when you’re producing results in your life, that’s motivating and perpetuates momentum and it’s energising. If all you’re doing is putting tons of effort and stress and busy time in and you’re not producing anything, you’re not being productive, that effort and energy will wear you down and make you tired.
It’s the opposite effect. So, it doesn’t matter how long you have been at something. It doesn’t matter how much energy you have put into something. What matters is how much you’ve produced and what your results are. That determines your productivity.
Tips for a productive calendar and to-do-list
When you are working on being more productive, it’s very important that you don’t create a to-do list that has you spend time doing something. That is not useful.
When you’re calendaring your time to produce something, you need to have a result when you’re done. Not just time spent. This is a practice that I am learning. I’ve not got it totally sussed. When I put something on my calendar, for example, I need to write a blog post. I give myself one hour to write it.
When I give myself a short amount of time to produce a result, it’s much more energising and enjoyable.
I am learning how not to indulge in stress, not to indulge in confusion, not to check my Facebook. I don’t have time to do any of that stuff. I have one hour, to sit down and get it written so I sit down and get it done.
Now, some people think, “I like to be more spontaneous, I like to flow, I like to let myself be creative.”
And I’m guessing that if you are one of these people then your rate of productivity is low, because when you rely on your brain, it’s going to seek comfort and pleasure and avoid pain. But when you give yourself a time frame, your alertness goes up, your focus goes up, your productivity goes up.
The best emotions to generate for good productivity
So, what are the best emotions that you can generate in order to be productive? You will want to feel efficient. I love this as an emotion. People use it as a quality to describe someone else, but it’s a feeling too. Have you ever been in a situation where you feel efficient? You’re getting so much done in such a short amount of time. It’s great!
There’s minimum wasted effort, and if you think about what you are asking yourself to produce, when it takes an extra-long time, it’s because there’s a lot of wasted effort. Most wasted effort comes from allowing yourself to indulge in worry and confusion. It’s really draining, so don’t do it.
You will want to feel focused. You’re paying attention to one thing and you’re super constrained on it, and you want to feel clear. Feeling clear doesn’t mean that the material is clear. It doesn’t mean that the goal is perfectly clear exactly how you’re supposed to get something done. But you feel clear, and every time something comes up that’s a challenge, instead of indulging in confusion, you stay in clarity. Focus on the solution.
So, I’m going to give you some action steps that make productivity easier. Try them out and see how much you can do. I want to help you focus on what is it you’re trying to create and how you can be more productive, so you can create everything that you want in your life.
The importance of planning
Plan. Plan, plan, plan. Plan before you act. Starting faster doesn’t get it done faster if you don’t have a plan. Consider, what are the exact steps that are going to get you to the result that you want? What are all the piece parts that must happen for you to create that result? You do not get to say, “I don’t know”. If there’s a part of you that feels like you don’t know how to do something, then the plan includes figuring out how to do it, and the time frame for doing that.
Why done is better than perfect
The second thing is that you must give yourself a time limit. There’s no room for perfectionism. You cannot produce at a high level, you cannot have a high level of productivity if you want to be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is for scared people. Perfectionism means that it must be perfect so no one can judge you, so no one can reject you, so no one can point out something that you did wrong.
When you give yourself a time limit, meaning your work will be done at the end of that time limit and that’s what you will put out in the world, you will become much more efficient. You will become much more motivated to get the work done in a quicker amount of time so you’re able to double check it before you send it out into the world.
Stop perfecting ahead of time. Do not try and perfect something on the first round of results. This slows you down. You want to go back and revisit once you’ve produced it, once you’ve published it, you want to go back and try to perfect it. That is fine, if it’s not taking away from other work that you could be producing.
Now, I’m not suggesting you put D and F work out into the world. Don’t be sloppy and non-attentive. That’s not going to work, but you also can’t be constantly striving for A+ work and perfectionism because you won’t be able to produce at a good rate. The aim is B-. You got to get it done, you got to be efficient, you got to be productive, it’s got to be high quality, it’s got to be passable.
A mindset for productivity
Clean up your thinking first. Take five to ten minutes at the beginning of each day to clean up your negative thinking about the productivity, about what you’re going to produce. Otherwise you will find that your brain will talk you out of it.
You’re normal if every time you have something to do, every time you have something to complete, every time there’s something on your calendar that you need to focus on to get done, your brain tells you it’s a horrible idea. Your normal if your brain tells you to procrastinate. You’re normal if your brain tells you not to do it, and offers you a way out, a way to avoid it.
So, given that this is what your brain is going to do, you can plan for it.
It’s almost like this built in bot error, but when you plan for it and you know that it’s coming, you can override it and get to producing.
I want you to know that when you follow these steps, when you plan ahead of time, when you give yourself a time limit, when you stop perfecting and when you clean up your thinking first, your productivity will soar.
Here’s why productivity is so important. Everything you produce is not going to be a win. I’m going to say one out of ten are wins. So, if you’re not producing, you’re probably not having a lot of wins. A lot of production is going to end in what we would call failure, but that’s okay because the more you’re producing the more chance you have at wins.
What is it you’re wanting to produce in your life? Produce as much as you can in an energising way that fuels you instead of wearing you out.
Productivity Action Steps Recap
- Plan first – time invested in planning will be saved in multiples
- Set a time limit that constrains you
- Turn in B- work
- Clean up your thinking and generate the feeling that will help you whether that is efficient, focused, inspired, confident or committed.
If you want to explore productivity some more, you can: