We all struggle with feeling like we’re not as productive as we should be. But really, any discussion of productivity must begin with a definition. You see, productivity isn’t necessarily about doing more, working more, or spending more energy. Productivity is really about accomplishing what’s necessary and doing it as efficiently as possible.
So productivity isn’t about working longer or harder. It’s about working better, working smarter. So how do you go about it? Let’s take a look at eight traits that super productive people all share.
1. Make lists.
I have a pretty good memory. I used to pride myself on the amount of information I could recall. But then I realized that I was spending way more energy than I should have been on remembering important stuff. It turns out that productive people don’t waste brainpower on remembering stuff. They write it down so they can use that energy elsewhere. Old school list making frees your brain up for more important work. And it also ensures you won’t forget things.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Multitasking is a myth. We think we’re so clever, juggling twelve tasks at once, but productive people know better. Switching from task to task requires refocusing, and it takes time. In many cases, you’re better off clearing your desk, computer, and mind of competing work and focusing on doing one thing at a time. Set aside periodic breaks in which you can manage email and demands for your attention, and when you get back to work, shut down your notifications.
3. Eliminate bottlenecks.
When you’re feeling frustrated by your difficulty in accomplishing as much as you’d like, sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at your workflow. Identifying the steps in your company’s processes where work gets hung up can clue you in to the changes you need to make to make work flow more smoothly. Identify the causes of your bottlenecks and eradicate them.
4. Don’t get hung up on perfection.
Yes, there are times when only flawless work will do, but in most cases, doing a really good job is sufficient. If you’re insisting on polishing absolutely everything to perfection, you’re wasting time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere. Know when good enough is good enough.
5. Work to your strengths.
Yes, I know most of us think we’re superheroes. But let’s face it…we can’t do everything equally well. Identifying your weaknesses (hint – it’s usually the things you hate to do or that take you forever) and hiring staff who have strengths that complement yours can let you delegate tasks and get back to doing what you’re good at.
6. Listen to criticism.
When my wife called me a workaholic, it took me a while to realize that she didn’t mean it as a compliment. She saw me slaving away, working way too many hours, and she recognized that I needed to make some changes or risk burning out. When I looked at the big picture, I realized how right she was. Hearing her criticism forced me to confront the ways in which I wasn’t working as smart as I should.
7. Cross that finish line.
Over and over, I see capable people who work hard only to slack off once they near their deadline. Resolve to finish strong, and you may even find yourself beating deadlines and producing work of better quality.
I encourage you to look around you. Find the productive people in your life and see what you can learn from their habits.
Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-KAL-o-wits) started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford – a retirement building. With no experience, no contacts and no savings he systematically bootstrapped a multi-million dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. Now he is doing it for other entrepreneurs. Mike is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued; is a former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal; is MSNBC’s business make-over expert; is a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship; and is the author of the cult classic book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. His newest book, The Pumpkin Plan has already been called “the next E-myth!”