This is Part 1 of the 2-part series on Ways to be Amazingly Productive.
Do you find it difficult to catch up with your work and be productive on a consistent basis?
Perhaps you feel like you are spinning your wheels and still not be making much progress in your work and life.
Work and productivity should not feel like a difficulty and a burden even though that is just the way we might feel sometimes.
At the end of the day, do you feel great that you have accomplished what you would really like to do or do you feel like another day has gone by and you were not able to grasp it in its entirety.
The common perception of being productive in our minds might be more and more work. But after a while, it just feels like being on the treadmill.
We may need to redefine productivity to make it more awesome, make it more human and make it more interesting.
We need to infuse productivity with play, happiness and purpose.
How can we infuse our workday with joy and be highly productive at the same time?
Of course, the benefits of making productivity something fun, exciting, inspiring and utterly awesome is numerous. Imagine what a great feeling it would be to get out of bed every morning excited and engaged in doing and going about our day instead of feeling uninspired.
Since we spend so much of our day working towards something, either at home or outside, finding ways and means of making work interesting and engaging is beneficial for all of us.
Here are a few ideas that you might find useful:
1. Figure Out Your “Why”: Intentional Productivity and Understanding Who You Are and What Makes you Tick
“By why what I mean is what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning and why should anyone care?”- Simon Sinek, Author of Start with Why
When we get in the super productive mode and have a lot to do on our minds, the only things on our mental radar are the questions like how, when and what. You may want to schedule things in and then go for it but the real deep reasons why you do something gets lost amidst the busywork.
Did you ever in the middle of many lattes and lists have an epiphany of slowing down and asking the question “why?” Why are you doing what you are doing?
I call this intentional productivity.
If you take a moment and connect with the “why” question and get into the deeper levels of motivation and inspiration, you may be able to bring more energy and vitality to your work.
In order to increase intentional productivity, you will have to understand what makes you tick and your skills and strengths on a very intimate basis. Make a list of your greatest skills, strengths and what you love to do and connect it with a deep sense of a “why” and increase the incidence of these events.
Now you have a recipe for inspired productivity. If you very clearly understand what makes you tick and a sense of “why,” you will be able to gravitate towards the tasks and projects that really matter to you! And you can indicate your preferences towards this new found knowledge and delegate or drop off the tasks that you are not really good at or do not really want to do.
Imagine the incredible boost of productivity and good feelings that will flood you on a daily basis if you knew intimately what made you tick and chose tasks on that basis.
In his TED talk, author and speaker Simon Sinek speaks about the golden circle theory. Sinek’s theory consists of 3 concentric circles with the innermost circle being the “why” and subsequently followed by “how” and “what.”
Sinek explains that most organizations know “what” they do and “how” they do it but very few can clearly explain “why” they do what they do. The “why” question is the purpose question.
Sinek also explains that during the civil rights movement, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. constantly said “I believe” and he gave the “I have a dream” speech and not the “I have a plan” speech and connected with the similar beliefs of many others. “I have a dream” and “I believe” are “why” questions and “I have a plan” is a “what” question.
Sinek asks why is that the Wright brothers were able to achieve the first manned flight when there were teams that were better qualified and with much better resources?
According to Sinek, companies like Apple have a very deep sense of understanding of their “why” question. Knowing the “why” very clearly makes them very attractive to customers who connect to them on the basis of their deeper reasons.
Make productivity intentional by understanding what makes you tick: your skills, strengths and what you love to do and asking “why” you do what you are doing.
When you connect your skills and passions and your “why” with a higher purpose or giving great value to others, you have tapped into the power of inspired productively.
2. Mini Power-Lists
One of the biggest factors that keeps us stuck on a consistent basis is overwhelm. Once you are confronted with a bottomless to do list, the overwhelm mechanism kicks into high gear. If you are making great progress on a few tasks, then you may be inspired to go through the list.
But if you hit some obstacles, the deflection in concentration and morale is just enough to switch on the overwhelm mode.
If you are experiencing listlessness, indecision, sleepiness and avoidance, know that you may have hit up against the overwhelm monster.
Often, you may be able to do priority based lists where you divide up your work and tasks into weighted lists based on what is important but if the sheer number of items on your list is massive, you may still experience overwhelm.
Instead of trying to manage the entire list, take your tasks and make a small power list of 3 to 5 items that you need to get done today. What are the projects and the tasks that need attention and priority today? Complete the items on the power list one after one and check them off.
After you get done with your mini power list, you can generate another list. Doing small portions of tasks instead of dealing with the whole list and completing them will keep you highly motivated. Small lists are inherently less overwhelming. Instead of dealing with a huge list of items and getting paralyzed, you work with a small list or a sub-set of your list every time.
Generate a mini-power list of items that you need to be done today and complete them instead of working with a huge list and getting overwhelmed.
Instead of doing too much, attempt to do less and enjoy it more.
3. Overcome Analysis-paralysis by Restricting Unlimited Choice and Allowing a Time Frame for Action
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there- Will Rogers
Are you thinking so much that you are unable to make any proper decisions? Do you analyze every decision to the point that making another decision is just so painful that you cringe at the very thought of making decisions? Getting stuck with analysis paralysis radically diminishes our productivity because we are unable to make quick decisions.
According to work done by Dr. Barry Schwartz and in his TED talk, he explains that giving yourself too much choice decreases happiness and makes you paralyzed. We think that giving ourself unlimited choices is better but unfortunately research studies indicate differently.
Also, having too much choice skyrockets our expectations and produces less satisfaction with making the one choice.
Opportunity cost or the cost of not choosing one choice with an unique set of benefits over another can significantly reduce our happiness levels.
So how can you get over the paradox of choice? Choices are great but if they are inducing analysis paralysis, it is time to set up some restrictions on choice and the time frame to make decisions.
Attempt to not get tempted by the lure of unlimited choice. Some choice is great but more choice is not necessarily better.
Restrict your choices somewhat and importantly set up a time frame for you to analyze and then to make a firm decision.
4. The Lean Startup Productivity Lessons: Stop Spinning Your Wheels and Take a New Approach
In his wonderful book, The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries describes the Lean Startup process as being building, measuring and learning. According to Ries, many startups fail because they take too long to launch a product that nobody ends up wanting.
In contrast, the lean method gets its power from a very quick launch, actual measurement of data and results and learning from the data. After this process, Ries describes that you can either persevere or pivot. If it is working you move ahead and if it is not, you pivot and do something different.
Now let us translate that into our productivity and our work. Instead of doing several tasks all by ourself and not taking feedback or measurement and then finding that we were doing the wrong thing altogether, how about taking the lean approach?
Launch a prototype of your idea quickly instead of working too long on it.
After a rough draft, put it onto the next process or measurement where you get actual feedback for your work. Based on the feedback, you learn from the feedback and then decide to make changes or go all out with what you have.
This productivity method when applied to your own work makes you launch quickly, test it out and based on actual results and not perceived conceptions or assumptions, you move forward.
Imaging the productivity boost you will receive if you were an adaptive learner and took quick action and were unafraid of metrics and feedback.
Taking advantage of feedback to pivot or persevere gives you a tremendous productivity boost.
Take quick actions towards your initial prototype.
Measure what you have accomplished by actual feedback from peers or customers.
Pivot and change or persevere and move forward. In the long-term, your productivity will increase on long-term projects because you are an adaptive learner and action taker.
5. Bust Through the Common Assumptions and Beliefs That Do Not Serve You
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”― Peter F. Drucker
Remember that everything we see, we perceive through the filters of out perception and beliefs. Our beliefs and ideas about things make us believe ideas and concepts and tunnel vision our thinking and understanding to go a certain way.
Productivity is no different. You may have a perceived idea of how difficult or easy or complex a problem or project might be. You may also be hesitant to take on certain tasks because you have pre-conceived ideas about them.
Some of the common enemies of happy productivity are fear, doubt, overwhelm, procrastination and a lack of confidence. Realize that by taking charge of your thinking process, your emotions, your beliefs, behavior and addressing a lack of inspired action, you can be highly productive.
When you allow yourself to launch uninhibited and unleash your power of action, you become naturally and happily productive. Productivity stops being a dreadful word and transforms into something that you look forward to.
Become aware of assumptions and beliefs that you have prevented you to be happily productive.
Take charge of your thinking, emotions, behavior and action power.
By developing more inner vibrance and by addressing fear, doubt, overwhelm and self-confidence, you open the field for happy and amazing productivity.
6. The Art of Creative Productivity
“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”― Albert Einstein
In an engaging and short TED talk, Derek Sivers says that the opposite of what we think might also be true somewhere else. The example he gives is that streets have names and blocks do not in the US while in Japan, streets do not have names but blocks do.
If you limit yourself by thinking in one particular way, you may benefit by thinking of the opposite and holding the seeming opposites together may assist you in creative productivity.
If your productivity is decreasing because of the inability to see other ideas and opposites, you may benefit by allowing other insights and ideas.
Creative Productivity depends on not always doing the same thing repeatedly but also doing things in a new and novel way and creating value for others. Connect and combine different ideas and allow them to collide in your mind and create something novel from the combinations.
When you are open and receptive to your own creativity and allow different ideas and concepts to mix and match with existing tasks and projects, you have the potential of creating something novel.
Practice the art of creative productivity.
Allow your creativity to come up with novel combinations by connecting and combining ideas.
Allow yourself to look at the other side of the equation and look at opposites in order to be more productive.
7. Manage Energy, And Not Just Time
One of the ways to be highly and happily productive is to manage your energy levels. We are usually taught to manage our time and that being productive needs good time management skills. While time management might be important, managing your energy might be even more vital for happy productivity.
If you feel a lack of energy, it might be difficult to push through your day and be productive. But if you manage your energy by working out, eating right, staying hydrated and feeling great, happy productivity is more possible.
Get up early or work late but understand your natural rhythm and cycle for optimal productivity. Understand when you have high energy and when you are able to work your best and what are some of the habits and processes that allow you to be productive.
Having high energy levels and feeling great can make you happily productive.
Manage your energy levels and understand what makes you energized and what makes you lose energy and feel down.
Now over to you! What do you think of some of the ideas in this article? Please let me know in the comments below!
Read Part 2 here!
Photo Credit: ALT1040 via Compfight
So many great recommendations in this post, Harish. I’m a big list maker, so I liked your suggestion to make a power list of your top priorities. My version of intentional productivity is encompassed in a spreadsheet I created a while back tracking time spent on the things that inspire me and fulfill me the most (for me that would be meditating, exercise, writing, and gardening). All of those activities generate creative ideas that feed in to the rest of my work. If I’ve spent even a few minutes on some or (even better) all of those activities, I go to sleep at night feeling great. (Meditation is pretty much non-negotiable!)
Harish Kumar says
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Martha! I really love your system of having an excel sheet and tracking inspiring things. And I can totally relate to how those activities form the core and other things get creative ideas from them. It sounds very similar to the “hour of power” that I do in the morning comprising of meditation, yoga, affirmations and heartfelt gratitude work. I got the idea from a recorded seminar/e-book by Tony Robbins. Pretty much everything else falls together in place if these core activities are met! Activities such as these inspire and energize and leave us feeling great and happy which is a prerequisite for success and not the other way around (from research emerging from positive psychology).
Great ideas!! I particularly like the use of mini power lists and the one about having your energy levels in check.
Harish Kumar says
Thank you very much, Jacquie!
I am very glad that you liked the post!
Have a nice week,
Harry @ GoalsOnTrack says
Great tips. Managing energy not time is one of the best productivity ideas! We tend to think different time slots are all equal, but in fact they are all different. What’s best is to allocate your most important and energy taxing tasks to when you are most energetic.
Harish Kumar says
Thanks a lot for your comment, Harry!
I agree with you! I think that allocating important tasks based on energy levels is a great idea.
Have a nice weekend,