How to Manage Productivity Goals
When people think about productivity, they assume that if they can check a large number of things off their to-do list then they’re being productive. That can be a part of it, (a fun part in my book) but it’s not the most important part.
Productivity is about how we spend our minutes, hours, days, and years in the pursuit of our goals. I find that viewing it from the perspective of days, weeks and months to be pretty automatic. I want to do my project, keep my job, etc, and so I do the things required to satisfy that. If I do a lot of them in a designated amount of time, I’m productive, right?
But, rather than continually staying focused on what’s in front of us, it pays to look up occasionally and take account of our broader goals for the long term.
What this does for me is create additional activities to add to my already busy schedule. But it’s important, in spite of the time it takes, if I want to bring my big dreams into reality. Counter-intuitively, doing this makes me even more productive. That’s because my longer term goals are more inspiring than my routine work. Small steps and concrete actions that I slip into my schedule keep those goals on my radar. Sometimes they almost feel like rewards.
On the other end of the spectrum, making good use of how I spend my minutes can add up to hours of work done. To take advantage of those small intervals while I wait for a program to load or something to process, it helps when I have a list of two-to-five-minute tasks nearby so I can turn to them while waiting or taking a break. An added advantage of this is the jolt of pleasure I get from checking yet another thing off my list.
Short-term vs. Long-term Productivity
Short-term productivity is simple. Show up, work hard and get it done. The days when I work doubly hard to meet a deadline seem so productive that I feel like a superhero! I get a LOT done! But I’ve also noticed that the following day (or days) I’m often drained and accomplish about half as much. Or less. But who cares–I met my deadline! I can take that well-deserved rest. It’s ironic to recognize, however, that averaged out over the entire week, I did about the same amount of work as I’d normally do, so I hadn’t actually increased my productivity after all.
For this reason, I like to evaluate my productivity on a weekly rather than a daily basis.
Long-term productivity goals, such as writing a book, taking on a year-long project, or even holding down a job while raising kids, must include sustainability. Without it, we burn out, leaving us more likely to procrastinate, eat emotionally and succumb to discouragement. Those times when we’re so busy that we can’t stop to take care of ourselves, is when we most need to.
Long-term productivity involves creating systems that provide nourishment for all aspects of our lives. For me, this involves the following:
- Making sure there are healthy foods available to grab.
- Setting up accountability for getting the exercise I need.
- Doing something every day that makes my heart sing. This can be as simple as actual singing, or can involve taking a few minutes to notice and appreciate something.
- Spending time with one or more people I care about, either in person or virtually.
- Connecting with a cause, purpose, my better self, or God. Anything larger than myself.
- Taking time to relax and chill out. Normally, lying back with a great piece of fiction fills this need for me, but when my time is limited lying down with my eyes closed and counting my breaths for a few minutes can be very rejuvenating.
- Doing something towards my personal development.
- Enjoying a creative activity. This can go beyond art—it can mean doing something I normally do, but in a creative way.
- Taking small steps toward a distant goal.
When you’re looking at long-term productivity, it’s important to do things on a regular basis to keep your spirits high. Mixing fun into your daily tasks doesn’t necessarily cost more time. My course, Get Motivated and Get it Done: Learning to Enjoy Doing Your Disliked Tasks, can show you how.