We have great admiration for productive people, especially, in the industry. They are a much sought after breed of people. It would be wise to examine the concept of productivity before we proceed to emulate productive people. Does productive mean efficient or effective? We are efficient when we do things right; we are effective when we do the right things.
Management Guru, Peter Drucker says: “ there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Effectiveness in the industry is measured in terms of the rate of output per unit to the cost of input. So effectiveness is the fulcrum around which productivity revolves.
Habits of Productive People
The following are some of the important habits followed by highly productive people.
- Focus on important tasks.
- Prepare a break-down of the various steps in the task.
- Plan for situations when things may go awry.
- Work before getting inspired, instead of waiting to get inspired.
- Establish a culture of deep work.
- Effective management of energy and not just time.
- Maintain a checklist of distractions to avoid.
A Brief Analysis of the Habits of Productive People
- Focusing on important tasks affords one the ability to distinguish between being efficient and effective; both these aspects are important for peak productivity but to be productive, front runners concentrate on high-value tasks and deploy their resources for doing these tasks to the best of their ability. Essential tasks need not be high-value tasks and can be delegated or, to the extent possible, to be automated. An inherent and powerful strategy that highly productive people employ is how to manage to get these works done efficiently.
- The creativity of highly focused people leads to an almost automatic corollary of breaking down the task into its various constituents. This step is very important because prioritization of every component could be focused on and treated efficiently. Having thus prioritized high-value work and non-high-value but essential work, delegation is clear-cut and efficient. So here, there is an amalgam of effectiveness and efficiency. Get set, go.
- Focused people are, usually, also highly productive people and hard-nosed realists. There is a stark realization that much in life is beyond our control and the best and well laid-out plans could go out of sync. Murphy’s Law is the best guide. Murphy’s First Law states that “ anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Murphy’s Fourth Law mandates that “ if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.” An interesting corollary to that is: “if there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.” A top-drawer requirement to ensure effective productivity is an alternate plan of action.
- It is a dearly held belief that all productive, illuminating wonders in the world were generated by flashes of brilliant insights or inspirations from beyond and above. This is not a felicitous but a fallacious and harmful premise. Human history shows succinctly that much-unheralded work and deep thought were the forerunners of all developments in our human history. Every poet, painter, sculptor, scientist, etc. experienced heartbreak, and failures before achieving their momentous discovery or work of art, etc. All learn from successful efforts and gladly so; highly productive people learn from failures – gladly accepted and clinically examined – that showed them how to proceed to the success that awaits them. However daunting commencing the work at hand is, waiting for inspiration is a negative trait and has its roots in procrastination- delaying the task. The highly productive people follow in the footsteps of the great women and men who toiled “long and hard in the night.” They, like their peers, focus on getting started irrespective of being motivated/inspired or not.
- By definition, “deep work” is the ability to focus without even a vestige of distraction on the demanding task on hand. This valuable skill in our world of today enables quick mastering of complicated information to enable arriving at better results in a short time. A culture of deep work is ingrained in highly productive people which enables them to be more and more effective as they proceed. Having assiduously cultivated the deep work culture they are like a powerhouse for achievements. Be as it may, some tasks are just hard, but there is no substitute for deep work.
- Though time and energy are important components of the task on hand, highly productive people, because of their mental clarity, prioritize these two important components. Effective management of energy and not just time alone is of paramount importance to achieve effectiveness. Effective management of energy involves a wide spectrum of activities calibrated to enhance the deployment of valuable energy for success and well-being. To begin with, highly productive people schedule the commencement time when they are most alert and relaxed physically, mentally emotionally, etc. Having a regular fixed time develops discipline which flowers into a good habit. They are aware of their work habits, e.g., a preference for working better in isolation. An important area to be planned meticulously is “ taking a break.” Taking a break is therapeutic and aids productivity in tremendous ways. Working at a computer screen for 8 hours is a disaster waiting to happen and it will. Depending on one’s physiological endurance, a short break of 5 minutes after concentrated work of 25 minutes or a 10-minute break after 60 minutes is essential. It is akin to recharging faculties and coming back to the task “recharged.” A few other strategies employed by highly productive people for effective management of energy are:
- Minimize avoidable person to person contact – be harder to be contacted.
- Cut down unnecessary interim decision making since delegation and/or automation has already been fixed.
- Avoid multitasking. It only disturbs focus on the task on hand and dissipates energy.
- During the planned schedule, avoid social media for entertainment, e-mails, What’s App messages, etc. It is counterproductive and energy-sapping.
- Use the possibility of getting bored positively – being comfortable with boredom is important since deep work is not always enjoyable. Using it positively means not succumbing to distractions of social media, etc.
- Highly productive people are highly organized mentally and emotionally and so they make provisions for things going awry. They also draw up a factual list of distractions that are possible in our world of today. A checklist of distractions to be avoided is drawn up and scrupulously implemented. This aids effectiveness and efficiency.
These highly productive people have the same time frames as all people in the world. Their day neither is 25 hours nor is their year of 13 months. They have learned assiduously to wring out maximum mileage from a day of 24 hours. To begin well is the mantra for success; they set, e.g., a morning routine geared for a peaceful and productive day. A common and oft used practice of early morning meditation, a brisk walk outdoors, light physical exercises sets the tone for the day. Every practice calls for discipline and self-motivation – practices and habits. The Eureka moment follows the “perspiration before the inspiration.”