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Shift Your Perspective to Increase Productivity

2013 March 7

Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. Peter Drucker

If you long to be more productiveWhat 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.

Thank youI hope you’ll consider contributing to the conversation by leaving a comment and sharing this post with your friends! In fact I’d love to connect with YOU! To follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., just click here.

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Mahalo!

32 Responses
  1. March 28, 2013

    Productivity and lazyless are best friends for me. Every time when i feel like operate full out I have a feeling that I can do it pretty good and no one will see it anyway so the laziness comes here. I dunno how to fight with it. Thanks for inspiring article) I realized that there are so many aiming for!
    Evan recently posted..Top 30 Internet Marketing WordPress Themes 2013My Profile

  2. March 24, 2013

    We all want to be productive, but not all of us are successful managing our time. I agree that before you aim to be productive you need to ask yourself first why you want to be productive in the first place. Knowing your purpose stimulate you to do your day-to-day tasks at work.
    Lei Broch recently posted..The successes and horrors of AndroidMy Profile

  3. March 14, 2013

    Thanks for your nice article Marquita. I love the phrase “organize interruptions”. Though I have my own timetable, it somehow always end up being shelved because of the interruptions. I guess we just have to identify which of these interruptions are really necessary so we can still get on with our more important tasks.

  4. March 13, 2013

    Thank you for these very ispiring article. I myself have trouble with productivity sometimes. I think it’s because of poor time management.

  5. March 12, 2013

    A little more focus and a more organized perspective in life will definitely bring you great things. Thank you very much for your idea of staying focused to be more productive. Shifting your aim to be better, got it.

  6. March 12, 2013

    I love your visuals with the butterfly. It’s about not making a fuss with the passing of days or weeks. Seize the day!

  7. March 11, 2013

    Hi Marquita

    Thanks for the great article ! I just started following you on Twitter and added your blog to the long list of PR blogs I subscribe to. Looking forward to reading more from you!
    Alina recently posted..Appeal To Social Network with These Topic IdeasMy Profile

  8. March 10, 2013

    Hey Marty,

    Thanks for breaking the day down like that. I puts things in to perspective. I have a to do list, but it only ever has the 3 most important things on their that must be completed for that day. This doesn’t include emails and phone calls, but the three things that will propel my business forward. Everything else is left for the universe to sort out.

    Thanks for sharing all your tips and advice.

    Beth :)
    Beth Hewitt recently posted..Finding Influences for your blogs brandMy Profile

  9. March 10, 2013

    The exercise you suggest is much like how I began the process to quit smoking almost 10 year ago. Start noticing what you’re doing and for how long? What was the result you produced doing that task? Look to see what it is you want to accomplish and, of course, WHY. Once armed with all this data you can begin the task of maximizing the use of your time.

    In a blink of an eye our songs are sung,
    The kids are grown having kids of their own.
    And, looking back on seeds planted young,
    Did they bear the fruit the planter had sown?

    One hopes there is meaning and purpose to spare,
    We should now make the time, be wise, take care.

    RICK
    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – HabitsMy Profile

  10. March 10, 2013

    Marty,

    Thanks for breaking that all done. Most people don’t really realize how little free time they have each day. That forces us all to ask that question: So with so few hours each day to do what I actually want to do, do I really want to spend that time watching TV and reading the newspaper, etc? Or do I want to spend that time doing something positive and productive and hopefully, enjoyable?

    Knowing your “WHY” really helps you get your life in focus and your priorties straight, as well, as you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~ Jupiter Jim
    Jupiter Jim recently posted..Why I Don’t Use WordPress JetPackMy Profile

  11. March 9, 2013

    Marty,

    I like your suggestion to first discover you Why before getting involved with gadgets for time management. We can also get so good and managing minutia and not focusing on the big picture. Once we really understand our why and we understand what steps we need to take, we can start delegating some of the tedious tasks to others so we can devote our time to those activities that we are most skillful at and that lead to our success.

    Dr. Erica
    Erica Goodstone recently posted..Love in the Blizzard of Life – Day 30 – FLOWMy Profile

  12. March 9, 2013

    Thanks for this post. It gave me great insight on changes that I need to do to get myself more organized and better productivity within my business. Thanks again

  13. March 9, 2013

    Hi Marquita:

    First off, I absolutely love that quote by Peter Drucker. I am so guilty of trying to be efficient at things that I should be doing at all. :)

    I loved how you broke down this post!

    It reminded of the principle of putting in the big rocks first.

    Thanks!
    Kevin
    Kevin Martineau recently posted..Are you an overfunctioner?My Profile

  14. March 9, 2013

    Hi Marty. Great post, and much in line with the posts I read this evening on trusting and loving yourself. I struggle with productivity, but I’m getting better at focusing. It’s a good feeling to make progress. I have a different schedule for my online business that depends on what music lessons I have to teach. Some days I can’t do as much online, and I try to do important things first. Thanks for this article.

    All the best,
    Leslie
    Leslie Denning recently posted..Automatic Body: Week 4My Profile

  15. March 9, 2013

    Marquita,
    so nice to come to your blog often and learn more and more from your wisdom and experiences… love it.

    Increase Productivity have been always my main concern.. mostly because I usually work alone better than in groups… and because of this fact, I tend to add more and more into my plate at all time, and by doing that, I end up overwhelm with things to do.

    That is when something that I have developed within, kicks in and become a lot more productive to be able to complete what tasks I took.

    Just last week I had had to do some rearranging around my place and only had two days before a deadline that I set for my self.

    To make it short.. all was done and actually, it was done way before the deadline.

    Your definition to “Having the quality or power to produce more in a way that is personally satisfying and fulfilling.” was put into practice last week here in my place.. and now that I got things sorted and cleaned out.. I have a sense of great accomplishment while I look around and see everything neat at the place it has to be and nothing is in the way for me to trip over haha :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing and your wisdom one again.
    nickc
    Nick Catricala recently posted..How do you handle life when a turn for the worse appear?My Profile

  16. March 9, 2013

    This is exactly my situation right now. I have just resigned from my regular job to work home based and all along I thought things would be quite easier for me. It turns out that I become more busy than ever and I am really having a headache managing my time. I am so glad to have read this post. Such an enlightenment to me.
    Connor Harley recently posted..What Makes a Business SuccessfulMy Profile

  17. Steve Borgman
    Twitter:
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    March 8, 2013

    Marquita, my latest simple online and iPhone site/app for getting things done is called ToDoist.com I’m not an affiliate, and I’m using the free version. What I love is the simplicity of it, and the ability to make projects and list to do’s underneath each project. It’s a great way to break bigger project down into smaller lists.

    • March 8, 2013

      Ah, and that would officially qualify as a “gadget” Steve :-) But it really does sound very cool!

  18. Nathalie Villeneuve
    Twitter:
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    March 8, 2013

    Great tips on productivity…I really think they can work. What strikes me is always the amount of time we actually have to apply our productivity…3 1/2 hours…oh! but wait laundry is not folded…LOL… I totally get how we must get organize and I struggle with that …but i am determined to aquire more skills in that.

    Great share Marti…Thank s SO much for sharing this.

    Nathalie
    Nathalie Villeneuve recently posted..Straight From The HeartMy Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Welcome back Nathalie, I used to use that “how much time do you really have” exercise when I was coaching. Most of the people I worked with were starting part-time businesses and inevitably the question would come up about how much time they had to commit. Rarely did anyone take the time to consider their existing obligations or commitments so I started using this as a little eye opener.

  19. March 8, 2013

    Marty,

    I love how you broke down the actual time that people have to work with. I do this with my team and it’s really revealing. It also helps people take action during the allotted time because they are aware of how finite it is.

    I will be sharing this one:)
    Flo Bradley recently posted..“Why Reinvent the Wheel?”My Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Hey Flo – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I am delighted you enjoyed the article!

  20. March 8, 2013

    This really spoke to me: “Create a to do list / Trash your to do list.” I have to work very hard to NOT be a slave to my to-do list, but at the same time stay organized enough to feel like I’ve accomplished what was important for the day. Thx for reminding me to keep perspective about what I need “to do.”
    Kimba recently posted..Don’t I Look Great… For Sixty?!My Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Hi Kimba, you know I have to admit I do not know what I would do without my to do list. I am such a (early) morning person that by the time 4pm roles around I start sinking – then I glance at my list and tell myself, just one more thing. We all have to find whatever system works best for us and then massage it a bit to accommodate “life.” Really enjoyed your post on white lies by the way :-)

  21. March 8, 2013

    I applaud this post, Marty!

    I explored this idea in my own post, An Argument Against Time Management, in which I advocate managing the quality of your time over the quantity of your time.

    Instead of focusing on doing more I say we focus on doing more that matters. I want to live an intentional life that fills me with good stuff!

    Thanks so much for sharing this inspired idea.

    Chrysta
    Chrysta Bairre recently posted..Give feedback that gives backMy Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Welcome back Chrysta, so glad you enjoyed the article and I will definitely have to jump over to your blog and look for the article you referenced – sounds really interesting :-)

  22. March 7, 2013

    Hi Marty, this was a really good exercise for me! I worked out I have an average of about 9 hours per day where I can increase productivity for my business. So, now I need to make myself more productive lol! I’ve only been back from an overseas trip for a week today, so it’s taking me awhile to get back into working.

    have a great weekend Marty! Julieanne
    Julieanne vanZyl recently posted..Attraction Marketing One on One TrainingMy Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Wow that’s great Julieanne – 9 hrs is a really nice chunk of time to work with. But first things first – take care of yourself and get settled back in after your trip :-)

  23. March 7, 2013

    Great tips Marty, You sure did make 24 hours in a day go by fast! Yes we all have the same amount of time and I know if I didn’t pay attention to it I could work on the same project for hours. I have found that if I put a time to things I can accomplish more. I am going to take more notice of what is important.. Thanks for sharing Chery :)
    Chery Schmidt recently posted..Becoming Conscious About Your Actions As An Online EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Welcome back Chery – well actually I didn’t make time do anything, the breakdown is pretty basic. The challenge for many people is they jump in to take on a new project – like starting a part-time business – without ever considering how much available time they actually have. I believe they call that putting the cart before the horse – saw it all the time when I was coaching entrepreneurs.

  24. March 7, 2013

    Hi Marty,
    Increasing our productivity seems to always be a struggle. And yes…it all comes down to realistic time management. You have given a great guideline here in this article.

    I think the most important thing we need to do is keep it real. To me, increasing my productivity is doing the most important task first like you said. That is pretty difficult to do unless you make a commitment to yourself and take action. Then it becomes a habit!

    We usually push that important task down until we are too tired to do anything with it. But making it a first priority works!

    Thanks for the wonderful tips,
    Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted..Why I’m Reviewing The Empower Network AgainMy Profile

    • March 8, 2013

      Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation Donna. You are so right – it is a struggle, not only to be as productive as we would like to be, but to include time for ourselves in the mix. It’s a delicate balancing act isn’t it?

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