Why do you want to be more productive?

I used to think productivity was about getting more stuff done. Looking back now, I was like the classic Dilbert-type middle manager, constantly fire-fighting conflicting demands that kept finding their way to me.

Why do you want to be productiveThere was one project that I led on that nearly burnt me out completely. It was big and complicated, the clients were both angry and indecisive and we were constantly running over-budget.

No matter what I tried or however many extra hours I worked, I just couldn’t make a dent in my ever-expanding to-do list and each Sunday evening the depression sunk in as the dreaded Monday morning progress meeting edged closer.

Eventually the project limped its way across the finishing line. For my troubles I received a meagre bonus and got overlooked in a promotion, but it was nice not to have to dread Monday mornings anymore.

I vowed to myself to never get stuck in that position again and after failing to get the promotion, I moved to a competitor, received a pay rise and then moved on to become a freelance consultant. A happy ending, you’ll be pleased to hear!

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really great people and one of the key things I’ve learnt from them is that value counts so much more than output.

In fact I’ve made this my personal definition of productivity:

Productivity = Output x Value

Output by itself is no use if the things you create have little value – producing them is only a waste of your time. But on the other hand, creating something of value requires a level of discipline and efficiency to actually get it done.

So both are important to be successful, but in the end value (or quality) has the edge over output as far as I am concerned.

Nowadays my motivation for being productive is to find ways to increase the value I can offer.

I know that time is limited and that we all have to make choices about how we spend it, so I think a lot about long-term goals and how to ensure I allocate time to work towards those goals each day.

By honing my productivity skills on a daily basis, I’ve got better (but definitely not perfect) at managing the constant flow of busy day-to-day tasks and this has allowed me to free up time and energy to work on things that really challenge and develop me. This provides a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Different people though, have differing reasons for wanting to be productive and while its clear there is a perennial interest in being able to get things done, it really helps to have a clear rationale as to why you want to be more productive.

For some, it might be as simple as wanting to reduce the levels of stress that result from having too many things to do. For others the motivation could be financial or self-esteem related, or it could just be an inner drive to be world-class at a chosen profession.

Motives matter a lot and it is important to spend time thinking about your own motives to help decide what productivity techniques and lifestyle changes you need to reach your goals, as sometimes it takes a more structural change in our lives to truly realise our full potential.

Your challenge: Define your personal productivity challenges

Write a letter to yourself explaining the reasons why you feel you need to improve your productivity. Try to dig beneath the surface of each motive to discover the underlying issues and desires. At the end of the letter summarise each issue or desire in a brief statement.

The value of this exercise is that it helps simplify and crystallise your motives, which helps you to look at them more objectively to decide which ones are important and how you will address them.

Good luck 🙂