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Opinion: Being more productive doesn’t mean working harder – it means working smarter

Productivity involves finding your own rhythm and getting things done in the way that works best for you – according to your own skills and abilities writes Gill Hasson.

Image: Shutterstock/EtiAmmos

BEING PRODUCTIVE MEANS making things happen and getting things done.

What being productive doesn’t mean, though, is squeezing every minute out of every hour of every day to become some sort of productivity machine.

Being productive doesn’t mean working harder – it means working smarter and getting things done effectively and efficiently.

Do you want to get more done and be able to fit more in? Or would you like to achieve more by doing less?

If so – what’s stopping you from getting things done efficiently and effectively?

Perhaps you’re doing too much. Perhaps you rush round in a state of panic; you’ve got too much to do and too much to think about.

You can’t think clearly; your head is full of what you’re doing, what you haven’t done and what you’ve yet to do.

You’re certainly doing a lot, but you’re not doing it efficiently.

On the other hand, it could be that you’re not doing enough. You have things you want to get done but you get stuck; you find it difficult to get started, to keep going and get things finished. You don’t feel like you ever get much done.

It doesn’t have to be like this!

Whatever it is that’s getting in the way of you being more productive, it can be overcome.

The way you think – your attitude and approach – makes all the difference.

You need a productivity mindset: persistence, determination, and a positive, open mind; a willingness to be adaptable and flexible.

But as well as a productive mindset, it’s important to recognise that what you don’t do helps determine what you can do.

Identify commitments and chores that may be cluttering up your time and preventing you from getting on with the things you really want to do.

You might, though, feel that you should be able to fit it all in – other people seem to manage, don’t they?

Well, of course, there’s always someone else you know or hear about who seems to be getting so much done – who’s able to fit more into their days than you ever thought possible.

But that’s their life, not yours.

If you look more closely, you’ll find that productive people have set things up to succeed according to their skills, strengths, and abilities; their resources, interests, commitments, and obligations. And rather than working harder, they’re working smarter.

You can do the same.

Identify and draw on your own skills, strengths, and abilities to help you to be productive; to get things done effectively and efficiently.

Then, once you’ve looked at what’s getting in the way and identified the attributes you already have that can help you be more productive, you can start getting yourself more organised.

You’ll need to be clear about what it is that you want to get done – what areas and aspects of your life you want to be more productive in. Then, once you have a realistic idea about what, how much, and by when you want to get things done, the next thing to do is to plan how and when you’ll do it.

Of course, when it comes to productivity and time management, there’s nothing new about setting goals, planning, prioritizing, scheduling tasks, and having routines.

But what is new is the approach to doing these things. The emphasis is on the fact that productivity is personal.

It involves finding your own rhythm and getting things done in a way that works best for you; according to your circumstances, your skills and abilities, and the time, energy and resources you have.

You might, for example, be someone who needs to tackle difficult tasks and irritating chores head on. On the other hand, you might prefer to ease into your day.

Be aware of when might be the optimum time of day for you to be productive.

You’ll need to remain flexible and open to changing how you do things because no matter how organised you are – how well you plan your time and your tasks – and how efficiently and effectively you do them, challenges and setbacks happen.

You then have to let go of your plans. And plan again.

Having begun to look at why you might be struggling to be more productive look at what to do about those difficulties. One of the most common challenges is just getting started on things.

For many of us, it’s easy to keep putting things off. But the guilt and anxiety that you feel while procrastinating are often worse than the effort and energy you have to put into whatever it is that you’re putting off doing!

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The thing is, waiting until you really feel like doing something is a sure-fire way for things not to get done. In fact, it’s normal not to feel like doing something in the beginning.

There will always be setbacks, delays, and hold-ups. When there are setbacks and difficulties, you need to refocus your attention on what you can do that could move things forward for you.

If you really want to achieve something, there’s usually a way. And most likely, there’s more than one way.

Whether it’s a major delay or a minor hold up, you’ll need to know when to let go of what you can’t control and look at what you can control. When you do that, you take a step towards getting back on track.

When things aren’t going as well as you’d planned, one thing that can make a positive difference is to get help from others.

In fact, trying to do everything yourself is not the best use of your time, skills, or energy; struggling for hours or days before finally getting help can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

And then you can’t do anything properly. Other people are often more willing to help than you might think. But if you don’t ask, the answer is already no!

And yet, although other people can be of help, when it comes to being productive they can also be a hindrance.

In fact, learning to be more assertive – saying ‘no’ to other people’s requests or tasks if you’re too busy, if it is not that important, if someone else can handle it, or if it can be done later – is a key skill if you want to be more productive.

So is a balanced lifestyle.

If you’re going to give your best to being productive and getting things done, you need to aim for a balanced amount of work and rest in your life. 

This is an edited extract from Productivity: Get Motivated, Get Organised and Get Things Done by Gill Hasson (published by Capstone, April 2019)

Gill Hasson is a careers coach with over 20 years’ experience in the areas of personal & career development and a bestselling author of a number of books on personal wellbeing.

She is also a teacher for mental health organisations and delivers training for adult education organisations, voluntary and business organisations and the public sector.


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