Downsize. Delegate. Delete.

I have observed that when people are informed they are not productive, the natural tendency is for them to take on more tasks almost as if they felt by showing they could complete a lot more tasks, they will be seen as productive team members. In a way, they are right. Productive people do complete tasks. However, they do NOT try to do everything. It may seem counterintuitive but sometimes the best way to become more productive is to do less. An Accountant doesn’t try to design the company website by themselves. They know that is not the most productive use of their time and skills.

Less is more
Wouldn’t you agree?
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One hour each day

If you were to google “Personal productivity” right now, a recurrent topic that would come up would be time management. We all have the same 24 hours a day yet not everyone gets the same returns from their 24 hours. This is because time management is actually a misnomer. You can’t manage time. It’s always there and it’s always flowing even if you aren’t doing anything. What you can manage are tasks and by extension, your priority.

Time never stops
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Smart work pays. Hard work does too

Some time ago, I had a WhatsApp conversation with a colleague on the merits of hard work vs smart work. Which is more likely to lead an individual to wealth? Hard work and smart work are terms that are quite difficult to define. When people say hard work, are they referring to back-breaking labour or to the act of working 8 hours a day? Similarly, what does smart work mean. I know someone who considers smart work to be only work done by Programmers. Going by his definition, most of us don’t do smart work. Which of the two kinds of work do you need to succeed?

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Lack of priorities (not lack of time)

In an earlier post, I referenced the formula below:

Productivity = Time spent * Intensity of focus

A friend reached out on whatsapp to ask how he was supposed to find one hour each day for deep focus on an important task. He is a busy man who felt all his time was already taken. Amused, I asked if he was willing to do an exercise that would help him identify how many free hours he had in a week.

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Choose your task in advance

“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”

Brian Tracy

The most productive people are not effective because they do every thing. Instead, highly productive people have become effective because they acknowledge there are things they should not be doing in the first place.

We all have a few hours each day to get things done. The good news is not all tasks have the same priority. The bad news is a lot of people don’t stop to figure out what is important and what is trivial.

Have you read it?
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Rest before work kills you

A popular misconception about personal productivity is that productive people are effective because they jump from one task to another without losing their stride. Many people have an image of a productivity guru armed with a to-do list that crosses off one task after the other 24/7. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The most productive people achieve what they do because they acknowledge they can’t produce the same output 24 hours a day. They take time out to rest.

Recently, I read a novel where the Protagonist, a high-flying Lawyer for a big firm is able to close a very important deal by working for 2 days without sleep and surviving on a diet of coffee. Such behaviour is destructive. Productivity is about taking control of your schedule so you can have enough time to rest at the end of the day. If you are pulling all-nighters every week and can’t go home at a decent hour because you are always at the office finishing some last minute important task, it is more likely you have failed to prioritise tasks.

Worker asleep at their desk
How many times has this happened to you?
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Handling email based tasks

An email is a to-do list that someone writes on. In the modern workplace, you can’t escape emails. They have become such a huge productivity drain that people attend courses just to learn how to manage their inbox. When you receive an email, it often comes with a task attached to it. Working on an email task immediately is not always the best response. If you choose to prioritise tasks set for you by someone else, as opposed to tasks you have set for yourself, how will you ensure the important tasks get done. Depending on the nature of the email you receive, you have 3 options for dealing with the task that comes along with it:

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Stop being busy and start being productive

Activity does not always equal productivity. The rise in number of online meetings has created a unique problem. People spend all day attending back-to-back meetings. An extreme case was someone who by virtue of having to attend meetings with different teams across different time zones was getting only 3 hours of sleep per day. That’s certainly a busy lifestyle. Is your busyness leading to more productive results? No one is paid to attend meetings but meetings can be very comforting because they give the illusion of work being done.

Does not equal productive
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Need an extra hour

Have you ever felt like you needed a few more hours in a day? Like if you had just that extra 60 minutes each day, you will be able to work on your goal. It’s a common sentiment among many people. If you are one of them, I have good news for you. You probably have more spare time than you think. Nobody is productive for 24 hours each day.

A pink clock
Perhaps if the hands moved just slower
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Priority is a singular word

Priority

A google search for define priority yields the following result:

Define priority web result
It’s singular

Note the example sentence “”the safety of the country takes priority over any other matter.” Also note the similar phrases: prime concern, first concern and most important consideration. The interesting thing to note about these examples is that they are all SINGULAR. There is no mention of priorities, prime concerns, first (,second and third) concerns or most important considerations.

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