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How to Be More Productive: Key Principles for Success

The desire to become more productive is the main reason why people become interested in time management. And this is natural: we all want to cope with our tasks faster and achieve maximum results in life. Let’s look at the main principles of increasing productivity and analyze some of the misconceptions associated with this concept.

How to Be More Productive

Productivity Must Have a Meaning

Nothing discredits time management as much as the cult of productivity that has developed in recent years. Its main dogma is as follows: everyone needs productivity at all times.

There are too many preachers of this cult today. On the Internet, we constantly come across “super-efficient people” who blog, play sports, travel around the world, hit jackpots at the Book of Dead slots, learn languages, launch startups, make ikebana, and they have time for all this.

Modern people involuntarily compare themselves to these “supermen” and are ashamed of their “low productivity”. And once ashamed, they begin to kick, scold, and motivate themselves furiously to get at least a little closer to “perfection”.

And there are two problems here.

First, this “perfection” is often completely false. The Internet makes it easy to create beautiful pictures with nothing behind them. For example, a blogger posts selfies with exercise equipment in the background, and we think that he is actively engaged in sports. But in reality, it may turn out that he visited the gym for the first and last time.

Secondly, this “perfection” may have no meaning for us personally. Let’s say that by some miracle we have carved out time for Spanish, calligraphy and some capoeira. The only thing to do is to understand why we need it all.

The truth is that productivity itself is not necessary for anyone. It’s just a tool to get some kind of result: improving life, accomplishing goals, increasing income, etc. If we don’t know what result we want to get, this tool automatically becomes useless junk.

Think about why you personally need productivity. For example:

  • To earn more money.
  • To spend more time with your family.
  • To have a successful career, etc.

These answers help you understand what you need to do to be more productive. If there is no clear answer, you may be dealing with an imposed value.

Productivity Isn’t a Job

The most damaging misconception about productivity is: I work hard, so I’m productive. People think that if they’re swamped with work and collapsing from fatigue by the evening, they’re on the right track.

This predictably leads to doing work for the sake of doing work. To keep themselves busy, people grab on to all tasks in a row, without regard to their actual usefulness. They tidy up the house many times a day, check email endlessly, and make “very important calls” that could have been done without.

They are indeed busy. But it’s the busyness of a squirrel in a wheel that doesn’t make life any better.

In reality, work is just “pay” for the results we want. We don’t need the task of “doing the dishes”: we need clean dishes. We don’t need the task of “going to the store”: we need groceries.

Striving to accomplish as many tasks as possible is the same as striving to spend as much money as possible.

Yet the tasks themselves are of unequal value. If we dust or clean up spam in the mail, it will have little or no impact. If we learn a useful skill or finish an important project, it will have a significant impact on our quality of life.

Hence the conclusion: to increase productivity, we should focus not on work in general, but on tasks that produce maximum results.

In practice:

  1. Analyze your time management. Collect the tasks completed in the last three days and organize them into the squares of the Eisenhower matrix. If you have a preponderance of tasks from the “important squares” A and B, you are really focused on results. If most of your time is spent on boxes C and D, you are more of a busy person.
  2. Determine what activities are really important to you. Usually, important activities are those that are related to a person’s main goals and values. For example, if your goal is a professional career, then important tasks for you would be “finish your current project” and “update your portfolio.” The more impact a task has on our lives, the more important it is.
  3. Prioritize. Do important tasks first. This increases the chances of completing them successfully. Ideally, important tasks should be done at the beginning of the day.
  4. Set a limit on work. Determine X amount of time after which you will do nothing. Yes, it’s possible that you won’t have time to complete some tasks. But if you prioritize (see the previous point), only minor tasks will remain on your list and can be painlessly postponed.

A Productive Job Is a Productive Vacation

Many people believe that productivity can be increased simply by increasing the time to work. And at first glance it seems logical: if we do Y work for X amount of time, we will do 2Y work for 2X amount of time.

But real life is more complicated than a school problem about diggers. If we mechanically increase the time for work, at some point productivity stops increasing and begins to fall. Work is slower, harder, and its quality decreases markedly. The “labor enthusiasm” is gradually replaced by apathy and even disgust for your work.

Why does this happen?

The fact is that human labor activity consists of two phases: work and rest. During work we use up the resources of the organism, and during rest these resources gradually return to normal.

To maintain high productivity, it’s important that both phases are in balance. Simply put, the body should spend exactly as much resources as it can recover.

When a person mechanically increases the time for work, at some point he begins to use up the time intended for rest. The balance is disturbed: the body does not have time to restore resources, and productivity decreases.

In practice:

  1. Find the optimal ratio of work and rest. This ratio is different for everyone, so you will have to experiment. You can start with the proportion of “2 hours of work to 1 hour of rest”, and then, depending on how you feel, adjust it as needed.
  2. Rest should be not only long, but also rhythmic. During work, it’s desirable to take breaks at regular intervals. This helps prevent premature fatigue. It’s convenient to maintain a constant rhythm with the help of a “tomato” timer.
  3. Try to use all types of rest. It should include short and long breaks, evening leisure, weekends and vacations. An integrated approach to rest ensures maximum recovery of the body’s resources.

Also Read: How to Vacation with Your Dog at Your Side?

Don’t Ignore Routine

Routines are things we do on a regular basis. For example, we make the bed and wash the dishes daily, and we also drive to work on weekdays. The same tasks are also found in our professional activities: meetings, reports, checking corporate emails, etc.

Usually people don’t give routine much importance. Washing dishes and writing reports are not important things to think about.

The problem is that routine is a huge part of our lives. We do it all the time, so even the smallest routine tasks gradually add up over days and weeks and sometimes months and years.

This is an incredible amount of time that we tend to ignore. And as a result, this time simply passes without having a noticeable impact on our lives.

The good news is that routine can be a great tool for increasing productivity. Repetitive tasks have a powerful cumulative effect: even small changes we make to these routines gradually accumulate and produce great results.

Let’s say it takes you an hour and a half to get to and from work. If you listen to audiobooks on the way, you will absorb more than 300 hours of useful information in a year.

This approach applies to all routine tasks. Each repetitive task is a signal that something can be improved in this place.

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