“Productivity” may be the goal, but we first have to understand that goal. As it turns out, productivity is not just about getting things done. Along with high performance, productivity is rooted in how we actually manage ourselves.
Sure, our calendars are in sync, but how much margin have we gained? Are we still working weekends to hit deadlines? And, despite the endless mobile devices and web-based tools at our disposal, are we any less distracted?
Even the most successful professionals find themselves alarmingly affixed to their technical gadgets as they strive to maintain “inbox zero.” We’ve become slaves to clocks. We’ve become shackled to to-do lists. And, as much as we’d like to believe that the latest app is helping us, it’s not.
Clifford Nass, co-author of the study Cognitive Control of Media Multitaskers, confirmed this. In an interview on NPR, Nass said, “The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science; and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks — including multitasking.”
So, stop multitasking and attend to three actions that can really booast your “prolific productivity.”
1. Take a stress recess.
Like most entrepreneurs, you are likely very ambitious, bent on creating change through sheer effort. You push your mind to extremes, with heavy, high-responsibility workloads and test your stamina daily. And that’s socially acceptable, because in our go-go-go, more-more-more society it’s easy to fall in line with the 24/7 grind. However, while you see yourself as throttling through your to-do list, you’re also creating the ultimate productivity killer: stress.
Chronic stress is detrimental to brain function and health –and it limits your ability to fight off more stress. Imagine trying to be productive when you’re saddled with low energy, a bad memory and faulty decision-making. On the other hand, acute stress can also be part of the reason we “get in the zone.” This period of super-productivity comes from increases in memory, focus and learning performance.
Therefore, prolific productivity lies not in doing more things, but in doing the meaningful things more. How does a 500 percent increase sound?
The takeaway: Peel away low-value activities and distractions. Instead, schedule time with people and projects that keep your energy high. These pursuits and relationships are enjoyable and vital to maintaining a holistic well-being.
2. Create calm.
In our quest to “manage” time, we often see new problems evolve. We undermine meaningful family time by switching on a laptop. We skip breaks, sacrifice sleep and work while on vacation. At first, this busyness feels productive, but over time, feelings of guilt, anxiety and the sense that we’re overwhelmed arise. The lesson here is that you cannot manage stress in the same stressful way you create it.
Nor can you do your best work without deep rest. Fatigue creates disorganization, mistakes and frustration, leading to still-longer hours. In contrast, “unplugged” breaks, where you consciously keep yourself away from anything work related, improves focus and mental recovery. This rejuvenation time is crucial for creative problem-solving, allowing your subconscious mind to sort and synthesize information.
Supporting research, published in the Harvard Business Reviewsuggests viewing time off as an absolute reqirement. Businesses have reported such benefits as increased employee job satisfaction, better work-life balance and improved communication.
The takeaway: Implement “bridges” to and from work-related activities in order to ramp up. And, more importantly, throttle down after a tough day. Mastering the discipline to decelerate and disconnect from work inspires better relationships and helps you perform better under pressure.
3. Accelerate adaptation.
Despite living in a rapidly ever-changing world, humans by nature are creatures of habit. When we encounter any kind of resistance or discomfort, we’re quick to run somewhere to feel “safe.” We sacrifice our own progress and what’s important to us in order to feel we are a part of something. Unfortunately, it’s this safe feeling that also leads us to grow stagnant and wilt in our own comfort.
Eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail, not because they’re bad business people, but because they get stuck in their ways. We’d rather relish our minor wins, even as they slowly erode away, than face our fears or challenge the status quo. Personal innovation is business innovation. And it’s required to compete in today’s marketplace.
The takeaway: Build systems for creative learning and rapid behavior change. Projects will come to a slow grind, businesses will hit plateaus and people will reach certain thresholds. But do not become content with “this is enough.”
Prolific productivity happens when you’ve learned effective ways to grow during change while also meeting your own needs.
The faster, the better.