How to Conquer The Problem of Productivity

Do you wish you were able to get more done in less time each day?

Do you hang on to the "10 steps to better time management" article and think someday you'll have time for it?

Do you use productivity apps and tools every day but they seem to create more work instead of less?

The world is full of ideas for time management, efficiency, and productivity. But with all these tips, hacks and tools available to us we still struggle to get it all done.

The Trouble with Productivity

There are endless lists of how-to's, tips, tools, or templates for increasing your productivity and they make it look so easy. I mean, it's just a list of 10 things, I can do that! Right? It turns out that these lists can be deceiving. They look simple enough, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. And, worse yet, easy for me might be difficult for you.

Productivity requires change.

We are human, so we're not so great with change. We have a love/hate relationship with change. We want it, but we don’t want to DO it. And change is especially tricky when it comes to habits and routines.  If you're not ready to change, productivity tips may not work for you.  Wanting to change and actually making change are two very different things.

Productivity requires purpose.

Whether you call it time management, efficiency, or productivity, all you want is a way to get more done with less stress. But looking for ways to get more done is a solving the wrong problem. Your problem is not that you don't do enough every day. Your problem is that you don't do enough of what matters every day. Which begs the question; do you know what truly matters to you?

Productivity requires commitment.

Then there’s the problem of the quick-fix. If I were smarter, I'd be selling you on the quick-fix because we can’t seem to resist them! But you're smart enough to know that there's no such thing. And productivity is no different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to commit to finding out what works for you and what doesn't.

It's also not a one and done deal. You have to play the long-game with productivity. It's not about overnight successes, it's about the cumulative benefits over time.

The Path to More of What Matters

Of course, we're not going to let a little trouble get in our way so here are some steps you can take to get those productivity tips to work for you.

Step 1: Know why

We know you are extremely capable of getting a lot done. So what is the point of doing even more work just to be more productive?

Productivity alone doesn't matter. Productivity in service to what matters, matters. Stop working hard to get a bunch of stuff done. Instead, focus on spending more time on the things that matter and less time on the things that don't.

This, my friends, is the joy of productivity!

Now you’re probably thinking this sound easy. You just do more of the stuff you like, and less of the stuff you don’t like. You’ve got this! But that’s the allure of the quick-fix talking, remember? What matters, your reason why, is not determined merely by your likes and dislikes. Your why must go deeper than this for you to get the true benefits of productivity.

Your why must focus on what matters to you and you alone. We are all guilty of disguising what matters to us as what matters to someone else. What matters to your spouse, your mother, your kids, your boss, or your pet guinea pig is not what matters to you. And, no, this won't result in some selfish act of you caring only about you. When you do this right, the people you care about will show up as what matters too.

When your reason to be more productive is deep and meaningful, it provides purpose and eases your resistance to change.

Step 2: Be a mad scientist!

Don't assume everything you hear about productivity works immediately or that it works for everyone. For every productivity tip you read about you can always find a counter-argument. Regardless of whether it's a well-researched concept or just something your role model for productivity does, you won't know how well it works for you until you test it.

Get ready to become the scientist and the subject of the study. I know, I know, this is NOT the way you run a real experiment. But it's better than not testing anything at all so let's not let perfect be the enemy and all that jazz.

Running experiments takes a little more effort than just winging it. You should only run one at a time, collect data, and decide what to do with the information.  It's not a lot of work, but it does require some consistency.  And the pay off will be big! There's no lab coat or protective goggles needed here, just a pen and a notebook for gathering data. Though if the lab coat makes you feel cool, then you do you.

The more you experiment, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the easier it becomes to adopt the change and commit to sustaining it. Learning is the fuel of life so think of these experiments as a way to top off your fuel tank. And who in their right mind would say no to more fuel?!

Step 3: Don't obsess and have fun!

I know you want to master this productivity thing and show everyone how awesome you are at it. I mean, why wouldn't you want that? I want that! But don't get too obsessed with this productivity thing. Take it from one who has gotten a little obsessed (okay, maybe more than a little). If you take it too far and use productivity to try and get it all done you will only create more stress to do all the productivity stuff in addition to your already busy day!

Don't obsess and miss out on the most important reason for increasing your productivity; to spend more time on what matters.  Productivity should help you enjoy your work more, reduce stress, and provide a structure that gives you flexibility. It should give you more time to do the things that really matter to you at work and at home. Productivity done right is a source of joy and freedom.

Just Start

So, what are you waiting for? Let's get started! Oh wait, I forgot, you don't have time! If only there were a way for you to be more productive so you could have time for all of this!

Now it's time for the tough love conversation because I do not accept “I don’t have time” as an excuse. This is not about time, it's about deciding to just start. Start small by picking one improvement to your productivity that you want to try.  Then make sure you know why, prepare your experiment, and have fun learning!

Just think about how it will feel when you take back control of your day and spend more time on what matters to you. That alone is worth a little effort; YOU are worth the effort.