A friend asked me a great question. She wrote, “Can you define “productivity”? What exactly does that mean to you? Does “productive” mean checking many, many tasks off your list? Or does it mean spending considerable time perfecting one thing, so it’s done well instead of quickly?”
I told her that my definition is having the time to focus on the most important task(s) that you need to do now without worrying about the items on your to-do list.
Some productivity experts look at it also as a way to be more in control. David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” told the Harvard Business Review, “I help people and organizations produce more with less input. I teach a set of best practices and a methodology that produce a greater sense of concentration and control.”
So, to be genuinely productive, you need to have effective systems in place. As I told my friend, it is not about getting the most done. It is about putting out solid work and having the time to do it.
Yet my friend asked, “What about non-task-related work…like creative ideation, brainstorming, strategic visioning, things like that? Sometimes we apply the word “productive” only to tasks, and we don’t give ourselves the mental capacity to do higher level and strategic thinking. “
I believe that all things (personal and professional) should be in your time management system. The only difference is where and when you will work on them. Strategic thinking or planning is a project, and it should be captured as a task; otherwise, it could be forgotten about.
Productivity also doesn’t mean that unless you complete your to-do list, you have failed. No one ever finishes their list because we are constantly generating new ideas. Tony Schwartz, the author of the best-seller “Be Excellent at Anything”, says, “We teach individuals and organizations how to manage energy more skillfully to get more work done in less time, more sustainably. That requires a new way of working—one that balances periods of high focus with intermittent renewal.
To me, a solid productivity system gives you the time you need to focus on the big picture of your work without the constant fear that you are forgetting something or missing a deadline. You have time to work on big-picture issues as well as smaller tasks. You will find that you have more control of your life, have less stress, and have the motivation to do your best work.