What Does Productivity Mean on a Personal Level?

If I say the word “productivity”, you probably have a few associations. Things like:

  • Getting things done (or even Getting Things Done, the book/time management system…)
  • Creating to-do lists or checklists
  • Focusing on measurable metrics

Much of this works well in the professional domain. I work as a writer and writing coach, and I tend to have a list of specific work tasks to accomplish each day. My pay comes from doing things – not simply contemplating them.

The same holds true for you. Perhaps you’re working in a traditional 9 – 5, or as a contractor or freelancer – or you might be a full-time student. Whatever the exact structure of your professional life, you’ve got specific things to get done and goals to achieve in order to keep moving forwards.

In your personal life, though, things aren’t generally so clear-cut. Sure, you can make to-do lists (“clean the kitchen” or “do the laundry”). You can measure certain things (like your weight, or your bank balance). But often, personal productivity looks a bit different.

It Isn’t All About Numbers

If you’ve been a long-time Constructively Productive reader, you’ll know that Thursday and I have always been keen to get away from a numbers-focused approach to productivity. And when it comes to your personal life, this is particularly crucial – especially when friends or family are involved.

As Stephen Covey puts it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

You simply can’t think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.

Sometimes, you might face a seemingly “unproductive” personal situation: perhaps you’re spending time looking after small children or an elderly relative, or you’re struggling with a difficult situation in an important relationship. The situation may well take up a lot of time and energy – but it’s important to remember that this is not wasted.

In your personal life, don’t think about numbers – think about the quality of what you’re doing:

  • The number of friends you have doesn’t really matter – but the strength of those friendships does
  • The exact figure in your bank account isn’t too important – instead, focus on whether you’re spending your money well

Switching From “Should” to “Want”

In your professional life, there’s a fair chance that you have to do certain things in order to reach your goals. For instance, you might require a particular qualification – which involves taking certain classes, whether you want them or not.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in a “doing things” mentality in our personal lives. Perhaps you’ve got a whole list of improving books that you want to read, or you feel that you “should” keep your house spotless. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that a lot of these “should” tasks keep getting put off – and when you do struggle through them, they drain your energy.

Instead, look for things that you really want to do in your personal life. By all means make them into a specific goal, if this helps you stay focused and feel good about what you’re doing. (One of the goals that my husband and I have is to see every Shakespeare play live – nerdy, I know, but we’re excited about it!)

We’d love to hear about your personal or professional goals and dreams – in particular, how they interact with one another. Drop us a comment below!

Post image from Flickr by Acutance

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