How to Be More Productive
What to do when you’re stuck.
A simple way to see what moves you is to revise your biggest accomplishments. Why were they so great? I’m sure that whatever you did, it was great because it mattered. Work that matters and moves you has two secret ingredients: you enjoy doing it, and it contributes to the world. Sometimes though, it’s hard to visualize your contribution. This is especially true in the corporate world—behind the cubicle with a bunch of papers often filled with meaningless metrics. Your computer desktop flooded with unused files. To uncover how to be more productive find out what moves you.
What makes your work concrete? What exactly do you do that contributes to the end user? Visualize the concrete like cold-pressed olives in olive oil. Imagine yourself as an artisan in your craft. Which unique tasks do you perform that makes you feel proud of you work? Movement stems from need and want.
In Lean Manufacturing, there’s a push and pull strategy where pull means you limit the amount of work-in-progress you have at any given time because the amount of work you’re producing is probably connected with either customer orders or a manufacturing goal. In a push system you’re producing in scale. What you want is to find your pull, not push.
To find out how to be more productive, in an ever-growing environment behind screens, clarify how you personally contribute:
- How is my work real?
- What tasks are you proud to perform?
- What value do I specifically deliver?
- How can I enjoy the process (artisan) more than just the results (factory worker)?
For something to matter and to be of substance, is has to be real. It provides value that impacts people. Some management practices waste too much time designing never ending metrics that do not align to what matters and are fake like high-fructose corn syrup. Why? Because you seldom ask your team what they think is important and what they enjoy doing the most (whether or not it is challenging).
When time management gets confused as a tool to keep teams efficient and busy, they become fire-fighters. True time management comes from making room for work that moves us because it feels important and because it’s meaningful to you.
But what if you work independently? What if you feel stuck? Often times moving forward is not about finding how to be more productive, but how you can move at all. Not finding what you are passionate about but figuring out what you can do today passionately. Not planning, but rather preparing. To get unstuck, simply start moving. Not the quality of the move, but a move. Doing and then learning. Move and then figure out the next step!
If you focus your attention to tasks that are not just busy work, then it becomes meaningful—and the process of cold-pressing olives begins. Once you let go of excessive metrics or expectations, you can focus on moving and this is when you reconnect with the joy of doing work, your best work. Try to remember everyday what your olive oil is and enjoy the process itself. That will give you a sense of purpose and energy. So keep moving!
Juan F. Diaz
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