Productivity: Everything You Could Want to Know About Mastering It
Most people assign a simple definition to the word, “productivity.” It’s the amount of work they’re capable of completing within a set amount of time. But productivity is a complex concept, and reducing it to a single sentence doesn’t fully capture its meaning and significance.
In this post, I’ll share with you everything I know and have learned about what it means to live a productive life.
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What Is Productivity and Why Is It Important?
To understand the subject, you have to approach it holistically. It has many different angles, and we’ll touch on three. Through detailing the influence of planning, sustained focus and resource availability, we’ll provide a nuanced perspective on productivity while offering helpful management strategies.
1. Foresight and Planning
You can sit down in front of your desktop at work and have a vague idea of the day’s responsibilities, but without structure, your progress will suffer. Some people turn to post-it notes to remind them of their projects, while others write out short to-do lists, depending on numbered items to guide them toward their goals. While either method is somewhat helpful, neither is very effective.
To ensure your productivity throughout the workday — and in your personal life — you’ll likely find that a detailed schedule works best. You probably have access to programs that can assist you in organizing your week, and you should use them to manage your appointments, meetings and events. These online calendars will help you group your commitments together to maximize your efficiency.
As you create blocks in your schedule, allocate a reasonable amount of time to finish each task. Give yourself enough flexibility that you can pause every now and again, but try to adhere to the limits you’ve set for yourself. After all, almost every organization, regardless of industry, requires a high level of productivity from its employees to sustain operations and make a profit.
2. Sustained Focus
Distractions are inevitable. You’ll be fully immersed in a project, eyes glued to the screen, compiling sources or editing for typos when suddenly a ding from your phone shatters your concentration. Just like that, you’re no longer engaged in your work, wondering who messaged you and why — whether it was a friend hoping to meet for lunch or a family member with an emergency.
Sustaining your focus is essential to your productivity, and it isn’t exactly easy. You can put your phone on silent and place it in your desk, but the temptation to check for missed calls or texts is still there. To alleviate this constant itch, tell your friends and family to only contact you after work hours unless absolutely necessary, allowing you to give your full attention to the day’s tasks.
Your phone is just one example of a distraction, and employees jeopardize their productivity in other ways as well. They’ll drink several cups of coffee to keep them energized and alert, when in fact, too much caffeine has the opposite effect, harming their ability to focus. Making changes to your behavior can take care of these issues, and they’re often small adjustments that you may not have considered.
3. Resource Availability
Technology plays an integral role in productivity. Most employees in an office setting depend on modern equipment to perform their tasks, using desktops, printers, fax machines and other devices to produce and share their work. They need access to specific tools and programs in order to function, and without these resources, they can’t fulfill their responsibilities.
To understand the full impact of resource availability on productivity, look at the history of American agriculture. In 1790, almost 90 percent of the working population contributed to the country’s agriculture. In 2000, less than 1.5 percent of the working population sustained the industry, illustrating the enormous difference technology can make in production.
On a micro-level, resource availability can manifest as a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Make sure your router is operational, your station is orderly and stocked with supplies and all of your software is up-to-date. As long as you have the means to complete your work, you’ll find that moving from task to task is easier.
It’s the amount of work you’re capable of completing within a set amount of time, of course, but it’s more than that. It’s a reflection of your foresight and planning, the result of your sustained focus and your access to resources. Take care of all three, and watch yourself soar through any tasks that come your way.
What Does It Really Mean to Be Productive?
Productivity is a popular buzzword that’s used way too much. You always hear people talking about how productive they are. You’ll even see companies track employee productivity.
But what does being productive really mean?
The most common productivity definition is the rate at which a person does useful work. Simple enough, right? The faster you produce something, the more productive you are.
But maybe it’s not that simple.
What Does “Productive” Mean?
You see, productivity can mean something different for many people. It can be how fast you get something done, how much you get done or how capable you are at getting something done. It all depends on your situation and how you work.
But let’s look into what productivity might really mean.
Productivity isn’t just about sitting at your desk for hours at a time. If you aren’t working, then what’s the point? It’s about efficiently getting work done.
When it comes to productivity, quality is much more important than quantity. Most people believe you’re productive when you spend the most amount of time on a project. However, you aren’t really being productive if the quality of the finished product is sub-par. Don’t just work long hours. Work efficiently.
Make sure you’re actually working when you sit down in front of your computer. There are a few ways to do this. You can work at an office, coffee shop or library. These places create a positive work environment and make you more productive. No matter what your personal productivity definition is, you should try to submerge yourself in this environment. These environments will help you get to work and be efficient.
You might know some people who think they’re productive because they can multitask. Maybe you’re this person. I’m here to tell you that multitasking only creates distractions, and ultimately makes you less productive.
You might think you’re getting more work done, but you aren’t. You should only be focused on the task at hand. Anything other than the primary task is a distraction and is only slowing down your productivity. Distractions will make you work longer and less efficiently on your task.
Most distractions come in the form of text messages, emails or notifications. This might be painful to read, but you should turn off your phone. The least you can do is put it on airplane mode. Yes, you’ll be less connected, but this will make you much better off when it comes to productivity.
Distractions could also be other tasks that aren’t as important as your main task. Learning to say “no” to certain projects will make you more productive because you’ve prioritized the one or two that are more meaningful. Having less on your plate limits distractions and boosts productivity.
For most people, being productive is about how much work they get done in the current moment. However, it’s also about planning for the future and making sure you meet deadlines.
If you get everything done on time, you’re being productive. Procrastination begins when you miss a deadline and then everything else snowballs into a giant avalanche of not getting work done. Make a schedule so you get all your work done on time. You can schedule certain tasks on each day so you move forward towards your goal.
You can also make a to-do list for each day. Take your tasks for the day and break those into smaller, more achievable tasks. Each main task should be broken down into a step-by-step process. Now you have a clear outline for every step that needs to be taken throughout the day. Sometimes, a plan is all that’s needed to spawn productivity.
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Also published on Medium.