Productivity is a ratio between the input and the output. The input is the effort that you put in and the output is the value that you get out. The more productive you are, the more value you get for the least amount of effort.
There are many potential outputs to be enjoyed for work done – the value can be monetary (money), emotional (happiness, quality relationship), intellectual (ideas, new knowledge etc.) or any other kind in nature. The input is, of course, your time and effort.
There are three categories to consider if you want to improve your productivity:
- Effectiveness – Doing the right things
- Efficiency – Doing things the right way
- Working hours
Working too much makes you less productive
First, let’s stop at working longer hours. At first glance, it might seem that working longer hours will provide you with more value. If you work longer hours you can create more value (technically you are not more productive at least in most cases, but you could enjoy more value created for the extra time you work).
Well, we all have a limited amount of time in a day. You can maybe add a few additional hours to your daily schedule for a month or so, but sooner or later you’ll become less productive or even burn out.
When you work crazy long hours, you:
- Start making more mistakes
- Overload your working memory
- Need more breaks
- Are less satisfied
- Get fed up with work, people etc.
You definitely won’t become more successful simply by increasing the amount of time you work. Actually, in the long run, your productivity will start to decline. For sure, all successful people are hard workers, but it’s much better to work smart than to work hard.
When we talk about the amount of time you invest into work, there is only one concept that can dramatically improve your productivity. It’s called deep work, meaning that in the hours you decide to work, you really work as focused as possible and don’t fool around. It's already about efficiency, but deep work is so important that it also deserves to be mentioned here.
We can all be at work, you know – spend time in the office, and not do any real work at all.
Be effective – Do the right things
Improving your productivity starts with improving your effectiveness, meaning doing the right things. The right things are those that have the biggest impact on your future success. These are the important, not urgent things, the hard tasks that create the most value.
We’re all driven towards low‑value activities, enjoying a fake feeling of progress, avoiding doing the hard things that bring real results. That's because doing hard things is hard.
Being effective means prioritizing correctly and performing the right set of activities on a regular basis.
Being effective means:
- Focusing on the strategy
- Having a long-term view
- Pursuing the right goals
- Doing hard things that really lead to success
You will become more effective if you will strategically choose industries that are growing fast, innovate a lot and strategically develop skills that are in high demand and in short supply.
Be efficient – Do things the right way
Being effective is not enough to become more productive. You also have to improve your efficiency. If effectiveness means doing the right things, efficiency means doing things the right way.
It’s about your skills for a particular task, speed and the quality of the work you do. Besides setting the right strategy and priorities, getting skilled up is one the best ways to improve your productivity.
Here is an example. I decided to learn Photoshop. The first time I opened the program it took me an hour to design a simple circle with some text in it. Now I can do it in a few seconds. Improving my Photoshop skills made me a million times more productive in this regard. What used to take me 60 minutes, I can now do in 1 minute. Isn’t that awesome?
There’s a saying that says that any new skill doubles your chances of success. And it’s true. Learning to master sales, networking, technology, online marketing, and other skills of the 21st century will absolutely dramatically improve your productivity.
Being efficient means:
- Focusing on the process
- Keeping short-term view
- Keeping your skills brushed up
- To use technology and other tools to complete work faster
- To be careful about every minute and dollar spent
- To execute
As mentioned, the best way to be more efficient is to do deep work, meaning that in the hours you decide to work, you really work as focused as possible and don’t fool around. Next to that, getting skilled up can help you achieve much more in the same amount of time.
How to become more productive – Do the right things the right way
To improve your productivity you have to do the right things the right way.
You have to choose the right markets, develop the skills in demand, and perform the hard tasks on a regular basis, while keeping the long-term view. You can be the best performer, but if there's no demand for your work, you simply can't be productive and successful.
On the other hand, you can hit the sweet spot with the activities you do, but your lavishness, laziness or poor execution prevent you from achieving the maximum productivity and success.
|Efficient||Productive and successful||Working hard with no rewards|
|Inefficient||Some rewards, gets outperformed||Poor work, no results|
The idea of personal productivity is to create more value for yourself (monetary, emotional, intellectual, etc.) for the same amount of work and effort. In summary, here is how to become more productive:
- You can work longer hours, but it's not really an increase in personal productivity. At some point working too much becomes counter-productive. But you should absolutely learn to do deep focused work during working hours.
- Nevertheless, you should set your priorities better and make sure you spend 80% of your time working on tasks that will have the biggest impact on your long-term success.
- Then, you should tackle the hard tasks with deep work, while becoming more resourceful in developing new skills, acquiring new knowledge and expanding your professional network.
Efficient and effective individual is productive and successful individual.