The Art of Productivity

awareness busyness productivity

“It's not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” - Mary O'Connor

There is no real connection between work done and productivity. Some of the most productive things people do, which bring the most joy, money, insight, efficiency, or whatever, take very little time and effort.

And some of the most useless things take all day to do.

Americans glorify work, and there is a certain aura around people with an 80 hour workweek, but the amount of work doesn't actually matter. How it's applied--and the results achieved--that's what matters.

If you're familiar with the 80/20 Principle, you know what I'm talking about.

Awareness Supports Productivity

The key is to constantly be asking yourself, "Am I accomplishing something real here or just keeping myself busy?"

To do that, you must know your goals and keep them in mind.

"Furious Activity Is No Substitute for Understanding" -- Rev. H.H. Williams, Bishop of Carlyle, 1861

If your goal is to make money, whenever you're doing work, ask yourself if you are engaged in something that will actually bring in cash. Spending hours refining your workspace probably isn't going to do that.

If your goal is to learn a skill, always ask yourself if you're moving forward or simply idling and rehearsing the stuff you already know. It's so easy to get complacent because growth is scary.

If your goal is to travel to Nepal, are you doing the things that will move you in that direction or just dreaming about it? (There's nothing wrong with dreaming, just self-delusion ;-) ).

This requires a lot of self-awareness. You must know what your values are, how you work best, how you duck out of work, and how you lie to yourself. What does distraction feel like, compared to fascination?

Know What You Need to Be Productive

Everyone's different. I need to plan. That's how I make sure I actually do things. If I follow my system, and put my plan somewhere prominent, it happens. So for me, it's worth investing a good amount of time into planning.

For some people, planning is a form of procrastination.

You need to learn how you best make things happen.

Whenever things aren't happening, take a step back and check if you are doing the things that YOU need to do for you to move forward.

Productivity is the art of turning your ideas into reality. Just like any other art, there are universal principles, but the true artistry comes when you express those principles in your own way.

Ironically, you can be more productive by keeping your schedule clear and protecting the time, energy, and money you need to be creative. When you have a full day or errands and busywork, you have no time to actually create anything important.

This is why you can be too busy to get anything of value done. Don't fall into that trap.

This week's exercise will be identifying your priorities and taking the first steps to make sure your daily schedule is lined up with making them happen. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you get it.

Photo credit: Bill Ferriter on Flickr