Productivity and success are intimately related.
Whatever success means to you, if you want to see better results, it’s worth spending at least a little time analysing how efficiently you’re getting things done.
This was certainly true for me.
Quitting my job
A while ago, I decided that I wanted to change career, which forced me to think about how I operated.
When I worked as a physiotherapist, I was employed to do my boss’s bidding, sticking to a predefined schedule with little room to move.
I was allocated a certain number of new patients each week and only then had the freedom to arrange patients’ follow up appointments.
Although it made sense to be efficient in completing my paperwork before it piled up at the end of the day, I was limited in the productive behaviours I could realistically employ with my patients.
Their recovery times were ultimately dictated by the severity of their injuries and although I employed the most effective treatment for each situation, their rehab times were somewhat out of my control.
Add to that the physical restriction of only being able to see a certain number of new patients per day, and productivity became an afterthought.
Until I quit my physio job and started working for myself, that is.
Productivity and success
My career change involved diving headfirst into the unknown, first dabbling in freelance writing and then digital marketing, culminating in my current role at a startup.
It was only when making this transition that productivity became an important consideration.
Freelance writing is a job that perhaps best exemplifies the causal relationship between productivity and success.
Often writers are paid per word or a pre-agreed amount for a finished piece.
Let’s say you’re commissioned to write a blog article for a company, who agree to pay you $X.
Now, you could spend the full day writing that article, or you could improve your ability to produce more words per minute, halving the time taken to write an article.
Now you can produce two articles per day and double your earnings.
As a freelancer, it boils down to increasing your output for each unit of time.
Even after transitioning to a marketing role, I discovered the same principle at play.
If I’m able to complete my work more efficiently, it liberates more administration time to learn new skills for existing projects and pitching new clients.
Both contribute a net positive effect to my business. It reminds me of the great scene from the Pursuit of Happiness with Will Smith…
This efficiency ultimately extends to your client relationships, who unsurprisingly, are happier when you can deliver more.
After all, who would you prefer to hire – a worker who replies immediately and produces more value for your company, or one who routinely misses deadlines and underperforms?
All of this postulation isn’t isolated to freelance relationships either, and is applicable to many jobs.
Just as I’m sure I could have found ways to boost productivity as a physiotherapist, I’m certain you can uncover optimisations in your own role.
Are there any systems you can adjust to improve your current operations?
What’s your equivalent of not putting the phone down between calls or targeting the CEO direct?
Could this save you time, and ultimately translate to cost savings for your employer?
Demonstrating such value could be a great case for securing praise or promotion.
What success means to you
So far we’ve only mentioned the benefits of productivity as it relates to material success, but the effects don’t end there.
After all, not everyone wants to make more money.
For you, success might mean simple living in the countryside, volunteering in your community or making pottery.
All forms of success do have one thing in common, however; they’re dependent on maximising your time to dedicate it to your most life-enhancing activities.
If you want to make art, it sensible then, to install efficient routines for tackling life admin and creating additional time for your passion.
The butterfly effect
Productivity isn’t just about doing things you don’t want to do quickly, however.
There’s also the general snowball effect that occurs when learning how to be more productive.
If you become the type of person with effective processes in place, you quickly cross-pollinate other areas of your life.
Initially, you might learn productive work habits to spend more time at your local charity, but your organisation skills might allow you to raise more money for the cause and extend your operations.
Likewise, productivity at work might provide additional motivation to improve your diet and exercise habits.
Productivity provides an extra sense of control with far-reaching effects.
In this way, it’s a cornerstone habit that we’d all do well to wield effectively.
So, how do you do it?
How to be more productive
Obviously, productivity varies from person to person and role to role.
What works for me might not be applicable to a mother of three.
However, the following tips are general enough that they can be modified according to your individual needs.
- Analyse your daily activities to see where your time is spent and identify inefficiencies
- Delegate, outsource or automate where possible
- Plan your days ahead of time, using a calendar, and stick to your schedule to avoid indecision
- Instigate systems where one action flows into another, like a well-oiled machine
- Practice performing certain activities at 1.5 or 2X speed, or enough to make these tasks uncomfortable – this training will help you realise you can decrease implementation time
- Be willing to sacrifice some quality – done is better than perfect
There are no secrets to becoming more productive.
Often there are obvious enhancements you can make to yield your 80% Pareto ROI.
Focus on these in the first instance and don’t get bogged down in minutiae.
When you experience the positive effects of the productive lifestyle firsthand, success, however you define it, will surely follow.