Nearly everybody wants to be more productive and efficient. You’ve probably had to do a personality test or two at the office to identify strengths and weaknesses so the team could work better together and get more done. Even our personal lives are inundated with ideas on how to get more done. Apps, books, blog posts (yeah, like this one), articles.
And yet everyone always seems to feel behind. Exhausted. Frustrated. Drowning in busy work.
And so we study productivity, trying to learn how to get ahead.
The following statistics will change rapidly, but as of the writing of this post:
The first several results of a Pinterest search for “productivity” included pins such as “50 Productivity Tips to Boost Your Brainpower”, “7 TED Talks that Will Make You More Productive”, “How to Plan Your Week to be Productive”.
The headline “50 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone” ought to tell you something. (If you need that many productivity apps, there’s a problem.)
Amazon.com has 82,734 results for a search for the term “productivity”.
Google is even worse – “About 220,000,000 results”.
How on earth is someone supposed to actually be productive if they spend all their time learning about productivity? It seems like a trap, a potential endless cycle.
The real secret is, it’s less about the tricks and more about you.
The truth of the matter is, the most productive people don’t spend their time studying productivity. Sure, they may add a trick or two every once in a while when it comes across their radar. Their favorite blogger might mention an idea that looks appealing, and they slip it into their morning routine along with their daily cup of coffee. Or perhaps once or twice a year they take a look at their priorities and reevaluate.
But the endless lists of books and apps indicates that the root of the issue probably isn’t as much about knowing HOW to be productive, and it’s more about the fact that there’s a massive desire for more productivity. Supply and demand, people.
So if you find yourself downloading dozens of apps (and probably deleting them a few months later to graduate to the next one) or buying multiple planners or diaries, or even reading book after book on the subject, but your life isn’t really changing, I’ve got some honest, albeit a bit brutal, medicine for you.
How to actually accomplish your business and life goals
First, you have to set goals. This might require some help, and that’s okay. It can be hard to set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) without a fresh set of eyes on them. And it can be hard to be realistic. Some people try to set way too many goals at one time, while others don’t set enough. (I’ve done both at different times in my life, so no judgment from me!)
Second, you need a plan. If the goals are measurable and time-bound, as referenced above, the plan should be somewhat straightforward. But the bottom line is, a goal shows you where you need to go, and by when. The plan is like the road map. It gives you the directions, one step after another, to get to your destination.
You want to build a house? Great. Just don’t expect to install windows if the foundation isn’t established. You want to run a marathon? Awesome! But if you haven’t run or even jogged in the last five years, you better start with some brisk walking or you’ll be headed to the hospital. Use the plan to go in a logical order.
Third, the most important step, do it. It sounds far too simple, but this is where the productivity issue comes in – and the tough love.
One of the reasons that so many people fail to accomplish their goals (if they’ve actually set goals!) is that they allow distraction to overwhelm them. The most important work gets set aside for the high volume of busy-work. To revisit our previous examples, if you get too focused on picking out a paint color for your house, you will hold up the entire house-building project. Or if you are distracted by all the songs you could download for your running playlist, and buying new shoes every few months to “help boost your speed and endurance”, you’re avoiding the actual goal.
To put it bluntly, your goals can be accomplished if you get off your behind and make it happen. A truly productive person doesn’t sit around reading the latest dozen books on productivity, he is too busy accomplishing things! He doesn’t waste his time thumbing through productivity apps, because his time is better spent building his business and managing his home.
To be fair, there are loads of great ideas out there that you could implement that could help you be more productive. And if you really struggle in this area, it’s not my advice to never try to improve. It’s not a waste of your time to learn new ways to accomplish things. But you must not let “improving your productivity” become more important than actually accomplishing your goals. The supply and demand we noted earlier would indicate that many people are committing a significant amount of time and money to the skill of productivity.
And I believe the best thing you can do is to stop investing in productivity, and invest in your goals.
Get up. Move. Do something. Take the step you need to take today to meet your goals. That’s where you will find real relief and joy, overcoming the frustration you’ve been experiencing.