Everyone assumes that being more productive is simply about getting more done in less time. If you are a productive person, you definitely accomplish more in months than many people do in years. But productivity is more of a way of being. You could be doing less and at the same time, be more productive.

When it comes to working smarter and not harder, everyone knows the usual tricks: manage your time, take strategic breaks, get enough sleep. And that’s all good advice, but you’ve probably asked yourself if there’s more you can be doing. After all, you’re already using those strategies, and you still find yourself with more work than you can possibly do in one day.

Some people think productivity is about doing more. They’re wrong! In fact, productivity is about working smarter and getting the important things done.

Let’s look at two extremes of the working spectrum: a frantic Wall Street trader and a Buddhist monk. Ideally, what you want to find is the perfect meeting place between these two.

The prototypical stock trader works at such frenzied pace that his intentions become scattered and he fails to see the meaning and value of his work. Meanwhile, the monk takes the time each day to meditate and reflect upon what’s meaningful, yet he works at such a deliberate place that he doesn’t accomplish very much.

In this post we’ll explore a number of tips that will help you strike the perfect balance between your inner monk and Wall Street trader, so that you can be the most productive version of yourself.

Tip 1: Recognize your personal values and motivations to increase your productivity.
The concept of being productive is meaningless without a good understanding of your values or what is important to you personally. Being productive isn’t just a matter of being busy. It isn’t a matter of doing a lot of things. Productivity is accomplishing important things. Many people try to get organized so they can do more, but really they are just trying to fit a bunch more unimportant things into their day. Until they define what is really important to them, just scheduling a bunch of tasks won’t help them really accomplish more.

Tip 2: Get more done with the rule of 3.
The Rule of 3 is a productivity technique that focuses on achieving three meaningful outcomes every day, week, month, and year. The Rule of 3 comes from J.D. Meier’s fantastic book on agile time management, Getting Results the Agile Way.

The Rule of Three is a very simple way to get better results with skill.
Rather than get overwhelmed by your tasks, you get intentional about your three victories that you want to accomplish. Think in Three Wins. This puts you in control, no matter how chaotic things are around you.

Tip 3: Avoid procrastination.
Wondering how to stop procrastination? Many people are. Most of us have found ourselves putting things off and just watching ourselves do it, as if from the perspective of an outsider looking in, at least at one time or another. While we may tackle certain projects with gusto, some tasks leave us feeling paralyzed with inertia, watching our deadlines approach (or pass us by) as we wonder how to force ourselves to move forward.

Some of the most effective tips to stop procrastinating includes:

• Breaking down big tasks.
• Taking advantage of “activation energy.”
• Setting cues.
• Rewarding yourself.
• Enlisting others.
• Honouring your mood and energy levels.

Tip 4: Overworking can lead to inefficiency.
There’s a dark side to the modern always-on, super-connected workplace. Despite being more productive than ever, we’re also working more than ever. Modern workers are seriously overworked and putting in longer hours than at any time since statistics have been kept.

The problem is that instead of our minds and bodies telling us we need to cut back, they adapt. But that only works so much. Eventually the long hours take their tolls and we wind up exhausted, stressed, and burnt out.

For most people, working more equals getting more done. But things are never that simple, especially when you consider that our energy reserves are not unlimited. So, to make the most of your time, you need to take control of your schedule such that you are using your energy and attention as best you can.

There is no perfect equation that can tell you exactly how much work you’ll get done during any given hour.

Tip 5: For a more productive brain, commit to writing down your goals.
Writing down goals helps productivity by giving an element of structure to hopes and dreams that might otherwise prove ephemeral. Taking the next step and writing these goals down further improves your chances of achieving them in a variety of ways, including:

• Enhancing visualization
• Providing you with a how-to guide
• Making goals easier to analyze
• Reducing procrastination

In sum…
Being productive isn’t only about getting more things done – it’s about working smarter by finding ways to be efficient and make the most of your time. To do that you have to acknowledge what’s most important to you and only then take care of business in the most efficient way possible.