Shift Your Perspective to Increase Productivity
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. Peter Drucker
What if it were within your power to clear the slate of all of your obligations and start over? What would you add or eliminate? Where are the areas in your life that you long to increase productivity?
While you ponder those questions, let’s take a look at what we mean by “productive.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines productive as “Having the quality or power of producing especially in abundance.”
Typically productivity is seen as the outcome of effective use of time management techniques which enable us to cram as much stuff into our day as is humanly possible.
But I’m going to suggest that you have the power to increase productivity in a more meaningful way by exercising a little creative license and refining that definition to “Having the quality or power to produce more in a way that is personally satisfying and fulfilling.”
Notice this definition shifts the emphasis away from the work and toward you. Creating a shift such as this requires a combination of attitude, intention and the willingness to face reality.
Sounds nice – but of course the question is where do you begin to create such a “shift” in perspective, let alone reality in a way that will enable you to become more productive?
Tips to Increase Productivity
When I decided to dig into this subject I began by compiling a list of the most frequently offered tips on how to increase productivity. After looking through a few dozen articles and research studies I came up with the following short list – they’ll look familiar to you.
- Organize interruptions
- Create a to do list / Trash your to do list
- Break tasks into one chunk at a time
- Make better decisions
- Stay focused
- Motivate yourself
- Learn to delegate
- Automate routines
- Do unpleasant things first
- Reward yourself often
As you can see the advice on how to be more productive tends to be rather vague, so very often it seems the next logical thing to do is to jump headlong into such things such as a time management system, list building, scheduling and gadget collecting.
The problem with that approach is it’s missing the critical steps necessary to lay the foundation for creating any sort of long-term meaningful change in your life.
Reality Check: How much time do you really have each day?
In order to gain a fresh perspective on becoming more productive I’m going to suggest you begin by taking a realistic look at how much time you actually have available to work with each day.
- Starting with 24 hours as our base, let’s first deduct 8 hours for sleep (you may tell yourself you need less sleep, but let’s go with what experts recommend for you to stay healthy), so that reduces the number of available hours remaining to 16.
- If you have a job, you work at least 8 hours a day, take an hour for lunch and we’ll throw in one and a half hours for commuting for good measure. That’s a total of 10 1/2 hours each day, so now your available time has been reduced to 5 1/2 hours a day. (If you’re self employed or work at home you likely don’t have a “regular” commute but you probably offset that by working longer hours so we’ll stick with the same amount of time.)
- You mostly likely give yourself a little time to get ready for your day in the morning and wind down before bed in the evening so we’ll deduct an additional 2 hours. Your 24 hour day has now been reduced to …
3 1/2 Available Hours
- Ah, but we’re not done yet. So, now you have 3 1/2 hours each day to cook, clean, pay bills, catch up with your spouse and children, get some laundry done, maybe chauffeur your kids to an activity or go to the store, help with homework, or spend time on your part-time home based business, and prepare for the next day.
If your daily commitments vary significantly try going through this exercise using that information, but for most people this is at least a close approximation to reality. You may have already had a sense of the limited amount of “free” time in your day, but to see it in black and white is quite an eye opener isn’t it? So what now?
Personal growth always begins with your “why”
- If you long to become more productive the first step is to get clear about why improving your productivity is important to you. Is this is about doing more in your life in general, or are there are specific areas where you long to be more productive?
- Recognize that you are in control. While we all have at least a few time commitments which really are outside our control (perhaps a health issue, a difficult family situation or a job you hate but fear leaving because of the economy), in most cases, we have a lot more power than we realize.
- Take a closer look at how you’re spending your time now by reviewing your schedule and commitments. I know most of us really hate this kind of exercise, but it’s pretty difficult to become more productive if you aren’t clear about how you’re spending your time now. Think back to the questions at the beginning of this article and ask yourself the purpose of each commitment and evaluate whether or not it really matters to you – is it an obligation, or simply a habit. In the case of obligations, look for a way to either make the best of it or relinquish it once and for all.
The point of this exercise is to enable you to see the big picture before turning to ANY system, gadgets or tools. This foundation of understanding will serve as your anchor as you establish your highest priorities and make important choices about how to become more productive – not simply to cram more stuff into each day, but to accomplish more in a way that is personally satisfying and fulfilling.
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