Productivity is a funny thing.
I haven’t found a consistent definition of what it means to “be productive.” In fact, before a recent talk I gave at the University of South Florida, I surveyed 44 college students asking them what being productive meant to them. I received 44 different answers!
Here’s a few:
- “Making the most of your time.”
- “Working efficiently.”
- “Having a list of items to complete, and completing them in a timely manner.”
- “Getting a ton of stuff done in less time so you have more time to do stuff that’s important to you.”
- “Utilizing every hour of the day to get something accomplished.”
- “Doing things that I don’t want to do, but did anyway.”
I love the last one.
It’s no wonder we’re all talking about how to be more productive, yet still confused about what the concept even means!
How can we be or do more of something if we aren’t able to define what it is we’re trying to do?
Productivity vs. Effectiveness
When I first wandered into this space, I was dabbling with the idea of effectiveness. I wanted to help people be more effective at work. I didn’t want to be the “Productivity Guy.” The Productivity Guy comes with too much explanation.
I’d rather be the “Effectiveness Guy.” Effectiveness is easy to grasp. It punches you between the eyes.
“Is he effective in this position?” asked the Vice President.
“Why, yes he is. In just three months, he’s been able to increase our department’s profitability 15%, something would have taken his predecessor his entire career!” responded the Manager.
If someone is effective at his or her job, he or she is accomplishing the goals they set out to achieve, and goals can be clearly defined…
Productivity goals, not so much.
Yet, when I officially made my passion my business, I went the productivity route in lieu of the effectiveness alternative.
I decided to own the baggage and embrace the confusion.
To me, productivity was this mysterious puzzle that needed solving; a challenge to take on in order to make the concept more tangible and help people build some framework around what we’re all trying to do.
What are Our Best Activities?
I like Amber de la Garza’s definition of productivity:
One could argue what it means to be the best, but we’re getting closer to the real meaning of our nebulous target.
I think of productivity as getting the RIGHT things done.
The right things aren’t one-size-fits all.
The right things are different for everyone, they’re the things we do to drive us closer to our purpose.
That’s why productivity is so cool to me: it’s fun to help people figure out their personalized “right” things, their purpose-driven, “best” activities.
Once we figure out what’s right, we can then develop strategies to free up time to work on them. Only then can we use productivity tactics to free up that time.
What is Our Best Time?
Productivity is also about spending our best time on what matters. If we’re half-hearted in our effort, too tired, or our head isn’t in it, our best activities lose meaning.
Our best time is when we’re 100% in the moment. When we’re in a flow.
When we’re with our kids (off our phones) and spending quality time with them, are we being productive? Absolutely.
It’s not always about work.
Our kids are not only our best activities, they’re our best work; a reflection of ourselves.
They’re the reason I strive each day to be productive.
My passion is to help entrepreneurial-minded parents get their time back so they can spend it on their own purpose.
Yet, my kids reflect my purpose.
It’s my responsibility to be the positive example in their lives; the father who has the time for them. The one who’s always around.
If I make time now, in the prime of my career, to develop a close relationship with my three children they’re going to live purpose-driven lives.
They’ll refuse to be caught up in the rat race. Through example, I have the opportunity to live deliberately, to show them an alternate way of thinking.
Nevertheless, I can’t accomplish my life’s work if I can’t clear out my head and live in the moment.
Being physically present isn’t enough. That’s where productivity comes into play. How can we setup the infrastructure in our lives to free up space in our heads to work on the right things?
Bringing it Back (On Purpose)
Last week, Brian Horvath, Clem Harrod and I conducted our first Q&A session for The Make it Snappy Productivity Show. We called it “The Purpose Panel,” and we dove into many different strategies for being productive on purpose.
If we’re not working on the things that only we can do; if we’re struggling with tasks that drain us day in and day out, it’s almost impossible to be present in the moment when it matters most.
It’s not worth it; there’s someone else in the world who would relish the opportunity to work on that soul-sucking task. Give it to that person, or give it up altogether.
We work on things we don’t want to do because we feel like we “should” do them; all the while they’re keeping us from doing what we’ve been created to do. They’re pushing us away from working towards our purpose.
If you don’t know your purpose, I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of time thinking about it.
This may surprise you.
Isn’t that the point? To understand my purpose in life? Well….yes, but here’s the thing.
I believe we can move closer to our purpose by asking ourselves a simple question:
“What can I do with my time that feels meaningful?”
If “meaningful” is a little too “woo-woo” for you, substitute it with “important.”
Keep in mind this is coming from an engineer, someone trained to make decisions based on data. Yet, when it comes to spending my time on what I feel is important, I know. We always know.
Trust your gut on this one; trust God.
You may retort, “Hey, I’m working on this task that I hate because it’s important to my job.” I get it.
So why is your job important to you?
Why does your job having meaning? Does it have meaning at all?
How is the job contributing to your ability to spend your time does the things that really feel important?
If it’s not, or worse, if it’s taking away from your ability to do the things that matter it may be time to consider refocusing.
If you’re looking for a group dedicated to holding each other accountable for you may consider joining our Facebook community. Our P.O.P. family is our growing community of productivity enthusiasts, dedicated to holding each other accountable each day to work on the things that matter. We’re looking for high performers; for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded employees who seek greatness. The only cost is your high engagement.
You may submit your request to join P.O.P. by clicking here.
Stay productive on purpose!
Question: What one decision can you make today that will allow you to spend more time on the “right” things?
I’d love to hear your story! You can leave a comment by clicking here.