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When I was younger, I asked the esoteric question: What is the purpose of life? But once I answered that question, I became more productive in life.
Purpose and productivity go hand in hand.
But maybe I’m jumping the gun.
Let’s first consider that in order to figure out how to be more productive in life, you have to know the true meaning of “productive.” And it’s a very subjective definition, although there is the more matter-of-fact version.
According to the dictionary, being productive suggests producing a large amount of something (usually work). But the term, “large amount” can be interpreted in different ways.
I may feel writing 1000 words a day constitutes a productive writing day. You, the quintessential wordsmith, may laugh at the prospect. You may believe that the minimum number of verbiage has to contain 3,000 words per day.
And to compound the confusion, what about quality? If we reach our respective goals in quantity, does the word, “productive” become compromised if the end result is less than stellar?
We may have accomplished a lot in a given day, but can we consider ourselves productive if someone else devalues our work, relegating it to meaningless.
Similarly, if we’re not proud of our efforts, does this suggest that our productivity is merely an inane illusion?
I’ll leave these points to be debated among productivity experts.
For this blog’s purpose, let’s just assume that each of us has concrete ideas about what we need to do or create in life, and that we simply want to be proud of what we do or create.
So let’s circle back to the question: How can we become more productive in life? Here are seven powerful tips to put personal productivity into overdrive:
How to be More Productive: Work Less!
This may sound counterintuitive, but in order to produce more, you have to work less.
Have you ever felt as though your brain was transforming to mush before your very eyes ? After hours of toiling at a project, your head may start to ache, and your focus and concentration may leave you by the wayside.
Humans are just not equipped to work around the clock, although some of us test this theory on a daily basis.
And as the hours mount in a given day, the productivity curve begins to shift in a downward direction.
Consider the Svartedalens experiment , conducted by the forward-thinking Swedes. (1) In the Svartedalens retirement home, a group of nurses were given an abridged day, working six hours although receiving compensation for eight.
When this group of nurses were compared to their counterparts (serving as a control group), the Svartedalens nurses shined. They took less time off than their more “hard-working” peers, had half as many sick days, and did 64% more activities with the elderly patients (serving as a criterion for productivity).
As an added plus, the 68 nurses who enjoyed the shorter shifts were much happier. And in my book, a happy work experience is probably a more productive one!
(Time to introduce the 30-hour week in the U.S. for the sake of productivity, if not sanity.)
Productivity Tip #2 – Delegate
Are you one of those folks who assert, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Yes, I applaud your independence, initiative, and work ethic
But you would be a lot more productive if you starting getting some help.
Recently, for example, I’ve been asking for a lot more help with household chores from my kids. Unfortunately, I did not get them as involved as I should have when they were younger.
Let’s just say I have much more free time after securing (legal) child labor. (Hey, they’re both over 18 now.)
Now you may argue that should not count as part of my productivity. But I counter that statement with the fact that chores have been predominantly my responsibility, and on my daily “to do” list.
And ultimately, I’m responsible, judging from my wife’s comments when she returns late from work at 7 PM.
As an added note, I’ve found that I complete my personal chores faster when I’m speaking with the kids. This is not surprising in light of the researched conducted by David Nowell, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist from Worcester, Massachusetts.
He believes that friends and loved ones in proximity increase productivity, especially when the work is dull or difficult. He advocates for the “body double” treatment to spur productivity, especially when the worker is distractable.(2)
Productivity Hack #3 – Listen to Music
As I’m writing this article, I just went to YouTube to listen to “Morning Mood“, a piece composed by classical composer, Edward Grieg.
I want to take advantage of the power in the music arrangement to increase my productivity.
A caveat must be made: If the music is too complex in structure (some of these classical arrangements are way too disjointed for my taste), productivity may wane.
If the music contains lyrics, or the task performed is too challenging, music may exert a negative influence on your productivity.
According to research by Teresa Lesiuk, a University of Miami faculty member, office workers were more productive with music piped in the background.(3)
Studies have shown music’s positive effects on processing and reading comprehension, too. (4)
In light of these facts, musicians may be more productive in life than any other vocational group.
Becoming More Productive Tip #4 – Take Away Distractions
Are you reading this article while you’re going back in forth to your inbox, social platforms, or texts?
You would read the article quicker, and assimilate much more information faster, if you would just concentrate on these words.
Oh no, the phone is ringing. Your significant other may be calling for your attention as well. Perhaps your children are demanding your help. at the same time.
But if you really want to be productive, you have to eliminate distractions, or get rid of them altogether.
Obviously, you’ll keep your friends and loved ones happily within proximity. But you must separate work and home areas, and don’t let the lines blur.
A friend who works from home has a separate office downstairs. He lets his family know that he needs a certain number of hours uninterrupted, barring emergencies, of course. He is usually able to complete work-related tasks in his own space, free of productivity-killing distractions.
My friend has also mastered the art of turning off the WiFi connection, rendering his phone on “airplane mode.” In the absence of notifications and other focus-compromising options, he can attack his work with tunnel vision.
It’s just common sense that distractions negatively impact productivity, and studies demonstrate this point. Psychological scientists working at George Mason University discovered that even small distractions can zap the productivity quotient .(5) Moreover, these distractions degrade work quality.
Remember: Take more breaks but filter out more distractions.
Productivity Strategy #5 – Learn to Say No
Accommodating too many requests will usurp your time. By saying, “yes,” your focus will often be on tasks that are unrelated to your pursuits.
Embrace a form of the Pareto Principle: 80% of your results will derive from 20% of your actions. And I almost guarantee that the 20% of effective actions does not derive from making other people happy (unless their your customers).
When you’re trying to please everyone, you can’t remain singularly focused on what you must do for yourself.
Please don’t misconstrue: I’m a staunch advocate of compassion. We should serve other people, whenever possible. But when your entire life revolves around saying “yes,” you may not be extending compassion and understanding toward yourself.
In college, I tried to help classmates … always. But this tendency to offer support to other students left little time for me to devote to my own work. Consequently, I did a lot of all-nighters when I shouldn’t have been in such a position.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.’ – Warren Buffet” quote=”‘The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.’ -Warren Buffet” theme=”style2″]
Becoming More Productive Method #6 – Give up Perfectionism
Give up that need to be perfect. We know how exhausting it is to constantly strive to achieve unattainable perfection.
How can you be productive in life when you’re always immobilized by perfection? You don’t even want to proceed because you’re worried about what you’ve done thus far is less than perfect.
Others get so caught up in the most minute detail, that they don’t see the forest before the trees. They’re caught in an infinite loop, assessing and correcting, without taking any steps forwards.
Other perfectionists need to find the perfect time to even start working. All conditions have to be ideal before engaging effort. Time ticks and productivity remains stagnant.
Even more sobering, perfectionists actually give up quicker than their more relaxed counterparts. No doubt, the fear of failure becomes overpowering, and too difficult to combat.
The drive to be perfect has a slew of health and psychological ill effects as well, stopping productivity in its tracks.
The quest to be optimally productive in life cannot be realized when perfectionism governs your decisions and actions.
Productivity Suggestion #7 – Automate
If you want to accelerate productivity and progress, automate. Get into the 21st Century, and see how technology, for example, can lighten your load, and get your tasks done quicker.
Time is the most valuable commodity, so saving it, will allow you to get more accomplished within a given time span.
In business, for example, I’m taking a closer look at marketing tools. For instance, can I share this post on all my social networks at once? Can I make videos more efficiently with special video creation and editing software? Can I use an autoresponder more effectively to deliver messages automatically without having to manually do it?
Whether at work or at home, there’s always ways you can conjure up to automate. At home, for example, you can automate many of your appliances, electronics, and devices. Look at these Amazon Home Automation Devices
And if you don’t trust appliances, you can always delegate or outsource.
Final Words on How to be More Productive
I’ve now provided seven clever ways to increase your productivity in life. Which one or combination of ideas will you implement? Will you forgo perfectionism, delegate more, work less, or apply another how to be more productive tip mentioned here? (Working less is most appealing to me.)
But even applying one strategy will help you become more productive in life.