What is the Goal of Productivity?
Originally productivity is a measure of output although now it has become the idea of squeezing every bit of output that we can from a single day and getting more done in the least amount of time as possible. Therefore, defining your most ideal output is the route to take. Personalize the goal. Define your goal according to your line of work, your industry, how you work, and your work ethic.
When it comes to the productivity of my writing, I enhance for creativity. I’m fulfilled productively when I put together a creative piece or have an artistic idea that day. It’s all about what you optimize for.
We should go back to the basics. The whole productivity industry has become so complex that a beginner has no clear path to follow once they come across this field. There is no clear foundation.
The Latin word “Amator” describes somebody who is doing something because they love it, not because it’s their profession. In French, the word describes somebody who has a taste for something. The word shares its roots with Amare, which means “to love.” Together, these words underpin the English word “amateur.” Amateur productivity calls for something more than the surface when implementing a productivity system. It’s time to stop looking at productivity as a means to an end but a process you enjoy.
Benjamin Franklin put forth what might be considered the first “to-do” list in 1791. The productivity measure for Franklin’s was the completion of his list of tasks (wash, work, read, work, put things in their places). Franklin’s assessment was simple: start the day asking what good shall be done, and at the end of the day evaluate based on what was accomplished.
I think we need to go back to the basics and take a cue from productivity’s foundation. There’s beauty in simplicity and downright functionality. We need to let go of shiny tool syndrome and create a system that can work in whatever tool we move to because they will always be a better tool.
Let’s get back to notebooks, word documents, or spreadsheets for goal setting and project tracking. These lightweight tools are best. It gives the freedom to set, track, and update your progress on your most vital work without unnecessary and distracting add-ons. A piece of paper doesn’t force its structure upon you. The key to designing a system is to remove as many limitations as possible.
This concept reminds me of that scene from “Five Feet Apart” where Stella explained her use of just a simple handwritten to-do list: the joy of crossing off a task.
Manage your Energy, not your Time
The Energy Project carried out a series of tests detailing energy as an infinite resource and helping their subjects develop behaviors to manage their energy effectively. They do this by establishing specific rituals to expand and renew their energy. In the study done at Wachovia Bank, the participants outperformed a control group, demonstrating significantly greater improvements in year-over-year performance and productivity during the first quarter of 2006.
The whole study focused on the main wellsprings of energy in humans and I’ll be highlighting the rituals that have worked for me. With their help, I’ve been able to move from a full-fledged energy management crisis to excellent energy management skills.
Developing a regular exercise routine and taking breaks during the workday. Personally, exercising first thing in the morning gave me the energy and motivation to do the high leverage task firstly. Intense exercises increase BDNF, dopamine, serotonin, and metabolism in the body which improves our focus, productivity, energy, and brain optimization.
The value of regular breaks during focused work — which is evident in the popularity of the Pomodoro timer- is grounded in our physiology. “Ultradian rhythms” refer to 90- to 120-minute cycles during which our bodies slowly move from a high-energy state into a physiological trough. Toward the end of each cycle, the body begins to crave a period of recovery. Prolonged working causes our energy reservoirs to burn down as the day wears on.
When you become self-aware of your emotions and take control of them, they can improve the quality of your energy regardless of external circumstances. We need to learn to recognize the kind of events that trigger negative emotions then take control of your reactions.
A key ritual for diffusing negative emotions is deep breathing. When I’m anxious or overwhelmed, I take six deep breaths. It induces relaxation and recovery.
Perspective and contrast help us view our lives through different lenses and angles. For prioritizing what really matters, perception is an important tool.
My focus on energy entails two things:
Doing high leverage tasks first thing in the day. When I concentrate the first few hours of the day on my most important work, I emerge in the middle of the day feeling like I already had a productive day.
Deep Work- I find that focused work efficiently for 90 to 120 minutes saves more time than the accommodation of choice distractions during work.
Working from a place of inner purpose and personal meaning helps you tap into where you can focus better and feel positive energy towards that work.
Uncertainty in Productivity
Your brain is most intelligent when you don’t instruct it on what to do. When working on a new project there has to be room for creativity. You can’t meet uncertainty with rigid planning. It doesn’t work that way.
Set flexible deadlines. Don’t focus on timely goals or peg goals to our position around the sun. Instead set targets and focus more on the systems that’ll lead you to said goal. Fall in love with the process.
If you can set new goals and hit them on an expected timeline, you’re not thinking big enough. Beyond a couple of weeks, it might be impossible to predict what’s going to change, and how that will affect your strategy.
Individuality in Productivity
There’s a place for individuality in planning, organization, and productivity. I believe one of the reasons we can’t stick to one system and eventually stop having a system altogether is a lack of originality and personalization. Individuality is the quality or character of a particular person that distinguishes it from others of the same kind.
To highlight this point, let’s look at this study published by the University of California Berkeley in 2006, they gave two groups of students surveys designed to influence their mindset toward either collectivism or individualism. Then they divided the students into collectivist and individualist groups and instructed them to be creative in determining how to use a commercial space vacated by a restaurant. The individualist groups presented a greater number of ideas and twice as many non-restaurant ideas as the collectivist groups.
An individualist atmosphere is more conducive to creativity because of the personalized reward system like innovations and artistic implementations. Killing individuality in productivity would count as a double homicide. The less visible victim is creativity. Individuality is daring to make mistakes on the path towards the fruition of something you might not yet see. Courage is needed to express individuality and then to see it through.
Individuality is vastly under-rated, most people have been taught it is easier to comply or to follow something that is already working. But if we keep repeating what we do we’ll never reinvent the wheel.
“All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity.” -James Fenimore Cooper.