Think differently to improve productivity

Increasing productivity is something that many of us struggle with, and finding the time to balance all of the things that we want or need to do can be tricky.  I’ve shared a lot of tips for improving productivity over the years, but I think that many of us need to spend time thinking differently about our work if we really want to be productive over the long term. Here are a few things to think about if you want to be able to get more done by enjoying what you do.

  • Focus. Last week, I talked about minimizing distractions, which is a good first step toward giving yourself the space to focus on what you really need to accomplish. Having the willpower to focus and achieve a real state of flow helps you can accomplish a large amount of work in a shorter amount of time. So turn off all of those distractions, avoid multitasking and focus on the work that is important to you.
  • Importance. Not all activities are created equal, but most of us struggle to balance the urgent work with the important work. We need to think about how we spend our time and the impact of what we do over the long term. Email is a good example of this concept: most people consider email to be urgent, and some of it is urgent, but most of it is not important. I could easily spend all day on email, but I’d rather accomplish something real and tangible. In a year, will it really matter than you responded to all of your email immediately or would you rather be known for doing something really amazing and interesting?
  • Love your work. I think a lot of people misunderstand this idea. Unless you are in a really unique position, most of us have a love/hate relationship with our work. There are things that we love doing, but we also have those tedious or unpleasant tasks that come with every job. The big question is: Where do you focus? Do you focus or dwell on the unpleasant parts of your work or do you get those unpleasant tasks out of the way so that you can focus on what you enjoy? If you spend all of your energy thinking about the things that you hate about your job, you’ll never be happy in your work. Find the things that you love about your job and focus your energy on thinking about the good, rather than dwelling on the unpleasant. Loving your job is all about having the right attitude about your work.
  • Live. While loving your work is important, most of us work as way to support the rest of our lives. Workaholic tendencies are common among web workers, so we need to take the time to remind ourselves to take some time away from work to really live our lives. This one is hard for me, but I’m making a big effort this year to take advantage of business travel to see more of the world by combining vacation with trips to visit places I’ve never been. I’m also making more time to meet new people and spend time with family and friends away from our computers to have good food, great conversation and human interactions. Doing something new and learning from it can give you a whole new perspective on a work problem when you least expect it. Even a short vacation or an evening with new friends can help improve your mood and help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your work with a new outlook.
  • Fitness. So many of my friends ignore their health, leaving them drained of energy and lethargic. Getting outside or to the gym to get your blood pumping can make a huge difference in your energy levels and mood. The more social among us can find group activities that can be done in pairs or groups, or you can use your fitness time as a way to spend some time alone. I tend to run in the summer and lift weights in the winter, but I have friends who walk, bike, go hiking, play sports, do martial arts or yoga and so much more. The key is to find something you enjoy doing to improve your fitness. Those endorphins can make a big difference in your productivity.

While tips and tricks to improve productivity are great, the real key to better long-term productivity is in your attitude and how you think about your work.