The phrase “increased productivity” or “I’m more productive” has become quite cliche. It has lost its essential meaning. People somehow think that if they have the right task manager they’ll magically become more productive. This just doesn’t happen.
One has to understand what productivity is and its value and the ways in which it is obtained. Tools are useful as an assist but that is what they are; an assist in process of improving one’s productivity.
What Is it you’re trying to Accomplish by being more Productive
Productivity can be a number of things. At its most basic though it is simply improving one’s workflow so that not as much time is wasted or things are accomplished in a more organized fashion. Enhanced productivity for a student might mean they can meet their course load through a more organized processing of their tasks within a time-frame. As a result of being productive they might improve their grades or take on things they thought they had no time for but really wanted to do.
You need to want to be more productive to be truly more productive. Mouthing the words I’ll be more productive with that 34″ monitor is wishful thinking. The question quickly arises though why will you be more productive. If you think that Smartphone will make you more productive simply because you have it you will be in for a shock when fiddling with it burns up valuable time.
Being more productive requires focus, commitment, an understanding what you’re try to achieve and a methodology to sort of act as a map to lay the path. A simple lack of sleep will definitely damage your productivity and enhancing focus will increase productivity. Many people feel the multi-tasker is more productive but the opposite is true. The multi tasker just does more things poorly at the same time while the person working in a directed fashion on one thing is likely to be quite productive.
Increasing one’s productivity requires an understanding of the concept, how it applies to you and what you ultimately want to obtain. Commitment is necessary as you’ll be putting new practices into gear to become more productive.
Once you’ve decided you want to be more productive to either shine at work and make more money or get that raise you’ve been after and promotion then increasing your productivity will have a tangible payoff. If you’re a student and you are finding your studies are just too arduous and your stressed or not getting the grades you’d like you too might want to be more productive.
Whether it’s a company or an individual committed to enhancing productivity, commitment is essential. Secondly, you will need something to guide you and that is a well crafted methodology. Over time methodologies have come and gone or they’re still around in some form. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use David Allen’s GTD methodology or Getting Things Done. It is current and quite in vogue. This does not mean it is the ultimate but we need a starting place.
To attempt to become more productive without some methodology to provide guidance and structure to what you want to accomplish, you’ll likely just be buffetted in the wind. This really is just a road map helping you get from here to there and bumps in the road have to be expected as we’re human and not robots.
Too often people approach being more productive in a limited light like being faster at what they do or being able to do multiple things at the same time. Ultimately this can lead to disappointment and even chaos as the payoff generally is both transitory and temporary.
Prep, prep, prep…..
In the quest to become more productive preparation and study will be critically important followed by implementation. So to follow David Allen’s GTD model, the first thing that needs to be done is to understand it. At this stage in one’s preparation you will want to read a lot; attend seminars and get a good understanding of what’s required.
GTD at it’s simplest is a structured approach to getting things done by writing everything down. That is you have to clear your brain of all the stuff it is holding and to do this you write everything down in lists of tasks that need to get done. It is more than that though. A task fits in a list which can be just an area like personal vs work. Tasks can be one offs or a multiple of tasks are needed doing to accomplish something and this is referred to as a project.
In GTD a lot is made of the logical relationships between tasks and places and things. This increases efficiency. Prioritization is important a long with focus. Rather than multi-tasking as a form of task management, focus is what’s important. As you get more done now as a result of focus, prioritization and the reduction of chaos and you rid your mind of all that stuff, you can work on what is the most valuable and that is creativity. This loop is self-reinforcing and as you accomplish more but have more time to think and relax your commitment to your new found productivity increases.
Of course, the above is but a brief overview of the methodology but the idea here is just to demonstrate how a methodology can get you on the right track with measurable results.
As GTD became more popular, tools began to be developed around it to be an assist. If used properly, the tools can be extremely beneficial. If used improperly they can be a time waster and add confusion.
When we think of enhanced productivity we think of task managers. It’s far more than this. Task managers are helpful but we need things such as calendars to know how time is allocated. We need Note Takers to act as the bucket in which we store a variety of stuff from what’s been accomplished, research and what will be needed.
Around these broad categories are other tools that aid with things that have to get down. As you refine your system you will decide on your tool kit but it will require at a minimum a task manager, calendar and a powerful note taking system that is flexible.
In many ways, what I have described is very much a form of self development. Anything you can do to improve your satisfaction with what you’re doing is valuable. We’ve always known how important sleep is but is now recognized that it is critical for mental and physical health both of which is necessary as you work on increasing productivity. If you’re too tired you won’t be able to do the things needed to be more accomplished but at the same time more relaxed.
As you explore various aspects of productivity and incorporate a methodology and find the right tools to support your efforts, self development is very beneficial. This can be many things from exercise, to a walk in the park or even self-hypnosis. The idea is you’re working on yourself to decrease chaos and stress and increase focus and your sense of self.
The goal of enhanced productivity needs to be understood to be much more than a task manager like Todoist, 2do, Things etc. The tools can be valuable as long as they don’t become a distraction or the thing. It is the gamut of activities such understanding, focus, acquiring a methodology, practice, etc that all lead to increased productivity and what David Allen refers to as a The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.