The most important word in our cultures is “more” – we are bombarded by more products, more speed, more work and more stress. We’re forever trying to fit more into our already busy schedules. That’s why we crave – you guessed it – more productivity. But how far can we stretch ourselves and our schedules?
We don’t need to be doing more, just more of the right thing. That is easier said than done, especially in a workplace teeming with distractions that sap our attention and ability to focus. Our current myths about productivity are unsustainable and inefficient. That’s why, instead of productivity, we should start aiming for freedom.
Freedom can mean many things. The freedom to focus, for example, which means finding the time to focus and accomplish uninterrupted deep work. This makes another objective of productivity even more important – that is, the freedom to do nothing. It sounds counterintuitive, but most of our breakthrough ideas actually happen when our minds are at ease. Being productive during the week means we gain the freedom to do nothing in our time off, and that’s when the creative juices really begin to flow. When our diary starts to overflow and our to-do list become longer than our shopping list, we instinctively cut down on recreation and relaxation. But not only does skimping on rest and leisure damage our emotional health, it’s also completely ineffective.
Many of us believe that time is flexible, and our energy levels remain unchanged throughout the day. But time is fixed, and energy levels are finite and must be replenished just like focus and willpower.
Saying “Yes, I can” to every task/project coming your way is a common attitude in today’s business world. Every individual, manager or executive, has the habit of over-committing themselves by agreeing to every deadline. Now, this generous attitude might work in the beginning, but soon, all you are left with is a mountain of tasks and no time left to get them done. This is where you realize the power of the word “No” and how it can help to improve productivity at work.
Rituals are another tool that can help protect your time and maximize productivity. There are few things that impact your daily productivity, career trajectory, and overall well-being as much as your routines. As Will Durant writes in The Story of Philosophy (a quote often misattributed to Aristotle): “We are what we repeatedly do.”
Another great way to supercharge productivity is by having an ideal week napped out. We live in a world of distractions. The key to fighting the distraction economy we live in is to make it easier to stay focused. Start by checking your emails only twice a day and make good use of your phone’s “do not disturb” mode when you need to complete deep work.
Finally, take control of your workspace. Productivity is made up of more than just action items, emails, and process improvement. The environment around you can affect your mood and your results. Things like noise and temperature are proven to affect your typing speed and accuracy. Taking control of your workspace is an effective way to demonstrate productivity to yourself and others.