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How many times have you found yourself at the end of the day completely exhausted with list still overflowing with tasks? Shelves in the bookstores and libraries almost burst under the weight of books dedicated to productivity. You can find countless of tips, tricks and tools that should help you get things done and accomplish your goals. However, without knowing the theory, tools can be helpful only until some degree. In this post, you will find both, theory and also tools to implement it. Are you ready to change your life?
Effective vs Efficient
Do you know what is the difference between being effective and being efficient? When it comes to productivity, those two words should be clarified as first. In short, being effective is about doing the right things, finishing task and achieving your goals. On the other hand, when you are efficient you are focused on doing things in the most optimal way. For example, getting something done in the shortest amount of time or with smallest amount of resources. The problem with being efficient is that you might be doing wrong thing.
When you want to achieve your peak productivity, you have to consider whether you are effective or efficient. Your productivity can be at all-time high, but at the end of the day you might still feel like nothing was done. The cause of this might be that you are efficient instead of being effective. Meaning, regardless you are working your butt off, you are doing the wrong things. So, the first thing to “repair” your productivity is to ask what are you doing, instead of how much or how well are you doing it.
Just by questioning the task and goals you want to get done, you can find and fix the blind spots and significantly increase your productivity. What’s more, you might even realize that many of the things you are doing or wanting to do are waste of your time. By questioning those tasks and goals, not only your productivity will skyrocket, you will also get more time.
Productivity and procrastination
If there is one topic mentioned the most while discussing productivity, it is procrastination. When you ask them, many people will tell you that procrastination is bad for you. They think it is the first thing you should work on and possibly get rid off. Don’t believe that crap. Most of the false assumption these people have about procrastination is caused by hype and insufficient information. As many things in life, either procrastination is one way road. Sure, you can spend whole day doing nothing, but that might not be the real problem.
Remember, every consequence has a cause. Meaning, you tend to procrastinate for some reason, not just because you decided to. In the most cases, the underlying cause of your procrastination will be one of this big three–you are afraid of doing it, you don’t like it or don’t give a shit about it or you are exhausted. Any of these factors can be reason why your productivity is suffering. It is hard to choose what factor is the one–it will vary from person to person and from task to task. However, let’s talk briefly about each of them.
Productivity and fear
False evidence appearing real. Have you ever heard this one? If you read stuff about self–help you are probably familiar with this saying. As a concept, this might be useful in certain situations including starting new business, going on a date, cold calling clients, first day at new job, etc. These and alike situations have one thing in common … They are not life–threatening. You have no prior experiences you can rely on and therefore you are afraid.
Whole different thing is when you are in conditions that are question of life and death. For example, standing face to face hungry lion in African savannah, you can convince yourself about false evidence how much you can, but it will change nothing about that lion. Where am I getting to? If fear is what lowers your productivity–you are trying to run from something, escape from doing some task–you have to ask whether you are in life–threatening situation where fear is justified or is it just something new and unknown.
If the second option is true and you are just afraid of trying something new, grow a pair and do it. In most cases, you have nothing to lose (maybe your ego or self–esteem). As Richard Branson says: ”Screw it, let’s do it.” For the rest of situations (life and death) you can either reject it immediately or ask yourself what are the odds of success and failure (possible death) and then decide whether to do it or not. Anyway, remember to approach every situation with clear head and without assumptions.
Productivity and motivation
It is quite hard to keep your productivity on the highest level when you feel no motivation. One of the best ways to get certain task done is to look for “why”. You can try as many productivity tools as you want. You can read dozens or hundreds of books about productivity. However, none of it can help you as good old-school motivation. Motivation can be divided to two categories–extrinsic and intrinsic. Let’s discuss both of them.
In simple terms, extrinsic motivation driven by external rewards, i.e. what comes from the outside. This include things such as financial rewards, fame, grades, medals, praise and so on. This type of motivation is used a lot by companies to motivate employees. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from inside an individual. It is about the pleasure and sense of satisfaction you will get from completing the task or even working on it. This does not mean that you are not seeking rewards, they are just not enough to keep you motivated.
Now when you know what extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is, how you can use it to increase your productivity? You should use extrinsic motivators (outside) for tasks where you have little initial interest or in cases you are lacking basic skills. However, keep the rewards small and make sure they are tied the specific task or goal. After a while, once you will generate some intrinsic (inner) interest, you should slowly remove the external rewards.
Every time you want to add new task on your list, find what motivates you by asking following questions … Why do you want to do that thing? Why is the task so important for you that it needs to be on your list? How will you or someone benefit from it if you do it? Without knowing the reason for accomplishing something, you are just trying to break the wall with your head. Sure, you can succeed, but it will cost you much more time and energy. What’s more, you will not feel the same satisfaction and pleasure after you complete it. Remember to always look the “why”.
Productivity and energy
The last factor that can hinder your productivity are your energy levels. Simply said, you cannot expect to give your best if you are tired or exhausted. What’s more, trying to push through exhaustion will only cause you to burnout and require more rest than you would need initially. If the lack of energy or exhaustion are the reasons for your low productivity, there is only one thing you can do. Rest and recharge your batteries. For the long–term, make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle. That means exercising on a regular basis, healthy eating and allowing yourself to disconnect and recharge your energy.
After discussing the theory of productivity, let’s also take a look at what tools you can use to put the theory into practice.
One of the most mentioned productivity tools or tips is to keep daily to–do list. It does not matter what you do and what you want to get done. Having all the tasks written on list can do miracles. Remember to focus on the right things that needs to be accomplished. Some people like to write down the task in the evening the day before (me too) while other will do it as the first thing in the morning. Pick what suits you the best and make it a daily routine.
Warren Buffett’s 2 lists
Another list–related strategy comes from investor and billionaire Warren Buffett. This strategy composes of three steps. First, you have to write down your top 25 goals and task you want to accomplish. Second, circle the top 5 items from the list you created and write them down on new list. Third, start working on the top 5 ignoring the rest. All the tasks you didn’t circle are on a list that is called avoid-at-all-cost list. Until you accomplish your top 5 goals, these things on avoid-at-all-cost will get no attention from you.
Eat the frog
There is a great book by Brian Tracy called “Eat the frog”. No, it is not about French cuisine or animals. The message of this book is straightforward and simple–do the most important thing first each day. See, it is not rocket science. As soon as you get to work, start working on the task that is on the top of your list. Everything else is secondary. Remember that productivity is about doing the right things, not the most things. So, create a list of your tasks and goals and fire up the momentum working on the task of the day.
Did you know that Eisenhower had an incredible ability keep his productivity on high level for decades? True story. So, what was the secret Eisenhower knew? His strategy is known as the Eisenhower Box. The concept of this strategy is to create a matrix with four segments and distribute your tasks and goals. First is for urgent and important task that you will do immediately. Second segment is for important, but not urgent tasks. These can be scheduled to do later. Third segment is for urgent, but not important tasks. These you will delegate.
Fourth and last segment is for tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Tasks in this segment will be eliminated, no excuses. Important thing to realize that urgent tasks are what you feel like you need to react to. On the other hand, important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term goals, mission and values. Remember this difference.
Closing thoughts on becoming a productivity machine
Being productive is important for everyone who wants to accomplish his goals and reach his dreams. I hope this post will help you understand the topic of productivity more in-depth and master it. However, remember that just knowing the thing is not enough. You also have to apply the knowledge in order to change something. So don’t wait for perfect conditions and get to work. You to-do list is waiting!
What are your favorite tips and tricks on increasing productivity?
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