Why Are You Being Productive, Anyway?

I’m not good at sitting still. I like to be doing stuff. I like the buzz of achievement that comes from being productive. But in recent months, I’ve been trying to take a mental step back and get some perspective once in a while.

After all, productivity is not an end in itself.

Most days, I spend several hours sitting at a desk, pressing little black keys on a keyboard and watching little black marks appear on the screen. A monkey could do this. (No unflattering comparisons, please…)

The point, of course, is to create words, sentences, paragraphs. Those build into blog posts, novel chapters, emails, ebooks, reviews. The end result is what matters – a coherent and hopefully engaging piece of writing. The number of times I hit the keys in a minute is not the point.

However … we’re very prone to confusing our efficiency with our effectiveness. As a writer, I’m all to aware of the ever-present wordcount, of how much I’ve written in how short a space of time. When I turn to emails, my first thought is not usually about establishing a genuine connection with another person … it’s about clearing messages out of my inbox as swiftly as possible.

I’d urge you to take a few minutes today to think about why productivity matters to you. What result are you aiming for? What goal are you trying to reach? What life do you want to live?

Your Values

A great place to start is with your values. Tim Brownson has an awesome series of posts about values, but if you want my rough-and-ready version…

Your values are the things which really matter to you. They win out in a crisis. They push you to face fears. You get angry when they’re threatened. They’re the why behind the what of your daily life.

These are my top ones (discovered via Tim’s excellent life coaching):

  • Significance
  • Family
  • Growth
  • Freedom
  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Fairness
  • Knowledge

In a nutshell, the reason I want to be productive – to write, to build my business, to do things – is because I want to accomplish something significant. I want to make a difference, leave the world a better place for me being in it. Like the Ballet Shoes sisters, I’d like to have my name in the history books…

Your values might be totally different. Perhaps “Knowledge” tops the list for you, and so you’re in academia. Maybe “Money” is high up there, so your productivity focuses on the bottom line. Perhaps “Contribution” matters to you … it doesn’t matter if you’re making money, but it does matter that you’re making a difference.

If you’re feeling rather uncertain right now – if you’re really not sure why you’re running your business or doing your job – then I’d urge you to set aside some time in the next three days to put some serious thought into this. All the productivity in the world won’t bring you happiness if you’ve got no purpose for it.

Productivity With a Point

Hopefully, you do have some idea of why your productivity matters. Perhaps it’s to support your family, to grow as a person, so you can travel the world, or so you can make a difference. Whatever the reason, it’s worth keeping it in front of you.

In my work, I try to spend my best hours (my morning) on something significant to me. That means avoiding emails or minor blog tweaks or all sorts of little odds and ends – and concentrating on writing another scene of my novel, or a chapter of my current ebook, or a post for my blog.

Your “point” might be completely different. Maybe you’re in business because you want to make a lot of money – but you keep getting bogged down in all sorts of additional activities which people tell you that you “should” do. Perhaps what you really want to do is focus on your bottom line and look at where the next check is coming from.

“Doing stuff” is not the point. You can get terribly efficient at racing through work … whilst being horribly ineffective at living a life which really engages with what matters to you.

This is a big topic … one which a single blog post can only scratch the surface of. We’d love to hear your thoughts and your take on this in the comments!

(Image from Flickr by Ingorr)

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2 Responses to “ Why Are You Being Productive, Anyway? ”

  1. Adarsh says:

    Nice Post. Productivity for me comes in two forms

    1. Contribution
    2. Money

    I contribute articles to my blog or other blogs as a means of contributing or sharing my knowledge with others. The idea might seem silly as the internet is clogged with information and each day we are adding more and more information. Yet blogs start up each day thinking they will become the next Darren Rowse or Brian Clarke.

    Contribution, in any way, can be beneficial to the reader and the writer. if you post a guest blog you contribute by providing the blog owner with a new idea, the reader with new information and yourself with a link or two.

    When it comes to making money, everyone will have different point of view. Although I do advocate that you need to make money (as well all run a business), it must not be the only productivity goal. When you place money over value your readers will get, you are in for a setback.

  2. Andy Hayes says:

    *Intentionally avoiding said references to monkeys*

    I do take special care to formulate my to do list against my known energy flows, because some parts of my work require a lot of creative lifting, and it is a waste of my time to try to do them on low energy.

    I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of defining my values, though. I’ve been in this new lifestyle for over a year now, so I think it’s time to do that. Thanks for the advice!

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