When people ask me what I do, I answer that I help people to organize their time, space and belongings. In effect, I’m all about productivity. In fact, one of the organizations I belong to is the National Association for Organizing and Productivity Professionals (NAPO).
At a recent NAPO Chapter meeting in Connecticut, a group of us were talking specifically about productivity. It has become a “hot button” topic, with many posts, videos, courses and memes offering instruction on how be more productive. But what exactly is productivity? Here are some thoughts we came up with:
- Articulating priorities and making progress against them
- Moving forward, rather becoming stuck or stalled
- Maximizing available time and money
- Achieving efficiency and balance in work and personal life
- Doing what is needed, as opposed to simply doing more
- Maintaining focus and silencing distractions
- Achieving desirable benchmarks
- Possessing some measure of control over my time
- Feeling content about past effort and achievements
As we talked, we tried to zero in on what it feels like to productive. These were some of the comments:
Productivity feels like…
- “Knowing exactly what I need to do each day, which task I should tackle first, and then actually doing it.”
- “Crossing things off my list.”
- “Getting the best price on something I need to buy because I’ve done my research.”
- “Having enough time and energy to enjoy my hobbies and spend time with my family.”
- “Receiving recognition when I’ve worked hard on a project.”
- “Staying on task for more than five minutes.”
- “Seeing visible progress, such as when the counter is clear or my inbox is empty.”
- “Hitting a goal I set for myself, such as completing a sale within a certain number of days.”
- “Being on time and not having to rush.”
- “Not forgetting things that I need or panicking because I can’t find what I need.”
- “Knowing I worked hard and did the best I could.”
- “Being able to schedule my work commitments around my personal life, so I can do things like go to my son’s game.”
- “Not blowing the day binge watching videos on the Internet.”
I thought this was a pretty interesting list. Productivity is truly multi-faceted, and “being productive” encapsulates a variety of characteristics. Furthermore, it seems to mean different things to different people. I imagine this reflects our individual strengths and struggles.
In light of this complexity, how can we become more productive? There clearly isn’t one formula. Instead, progress seems be associated with at least three factors.
Productivity can be enhanced by…
- Identifying our own personal weaknesses, or in more appealing words, our “areas for growth.”
One person may struggle with getting started on the tasks of the day, while another may need to work on knowing when to quit. Feeling more productive will only happen if we address what we individually need to improve.
- Focusing on what we can control.
While it may be true that others are interfering with our productivity (e.g. superiors with last minute requests, coworkers who interrupt us, children who have their own agenda), fixating on these issues won’t help us be more productive. In fact, doing so is likely to make us feel stuck and hopeless. Instead, it is helpful to concentrate our efforts on our own habits that are sabotaging our productivity.
- Setting a “measurable” objective for progress.
In order to stay motivated, most people need to experience positive change in a tangible manner. Having concrete success can help us keep going, so it is helpful to clearly define a success target. Maybe the goal is to be on time for at least 5 days in the week, or shut off the phone by 9:00pm for 30 days. Small goals are better, as they are realistic and within reach.
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Is there an aspect of your life in which you would like to be more productive? What change could you make this week?