We read endless lists, books and articles for tips on how to be more productive! But what does productivity mean? And more specifically, what does it mean to you?
Productivity is generally understood as ‘efficiently completing the required tasks’, which means good quality work in the allotted time, and most of us associate productivity with work tasks, like replying to emails, writing reports, etc. But we can feel productive with regard to other tasks too, like being able to get all the housework done in the morning, or going to the gym or even finishing tasks that are merely a hobby like reading a book or a craft project, etc.
So, why are we talking about this? Because we want to remind you that you are allowed to define your productivity on your own terms. We all can have differences in what we consider important, what we consider being productive & the extent of how productive we can be.
For example, you & your colleagues prioritise different tasks, work at separate paces, and in spite of the fact that you both finished the tasks on time, you might consider yourself less productive than your colleague or vice versa.
This all seems obvious though, doesn't it? But most of us fall into this spiral of how others are getting more accomplished than we are, when we have the same number of hours in the day as them. Sometimes, seeing other people accomplishing more motivates us, but this comparison is not always healthy, because it can also make us feel inferior & underachieving even when we are doing everything in our power to utilise our time well.
Hence, It is important to be aware of how we are making ourselves feel with regard to the productivity of others. Sure your friend was able to finish 5 chapters in a day & you could only do 3, but instead of focusing on their work, we need to focus on the fact that we did manage to do 3 as well. It’s okay if it’s taking you a little bit longer than everyone else.
Over time, this unhealthy comparison can be very detrimental to our mental health and self-esteem, leading us to feel not good enough or even worthless.
Keeping that in mind, if you still feel the need to be more productive, we have some ideas that could help.
Make a list of everything you want to accomplish either the night before or first thing in the morning. Categorise into the following:
High Priority: Tasks that need to be accomplished that day without fail, like submitting an assignment or paying a bill.
Low Priority: Tasks that can be moved around either throughout the day or throughout the week.
You can also club activities together by “Place”, for example, you can go to the market to pick up groceries, give clothes for dry cleaning & pay bills, etc, in one trip.
Time Management is a very important element in productivity.
Try to schedule your activities in advance, but make sure to give yourself a 15-20 minute buffer, incase it takes you longer to finish a task. If you finish early, you can always take a short break, but overshooting the dedicated time would mean that you might have to schedule the rest of the day.
Be more mindful & try to monitor and get a better idea of how long tasks take you, in general, so that you can schedule more effectively.
You can also use Apps using the Pomodoro method, which require you to work for certain lengths of time, with scheduled breaks.
Put away or switch off devices (if possible) while you work. We’ve all ended up on some social media app after 15 minutes of trying to focus! Some of the time management applications even restrict you from using other apps on your phone while you are working. If you tend to get easily distracted, these might be the apps for you.
Take breaks & get proper rest. Resting does not only mean mindless TV watching or scrolling through social media for hours! Take a proper break, away from your devices like going for a walk (even if it’s around your house/office), do some stretching, maybe meditate, read a physical book, take a nap or take up a hobby which does not require long chunks of focused time like coloring, knitting, etc.
Just make sure to remember to redefine your productivity on your terms & pick methods that work best for your skills & capabilities! Make sure you don’t undermine the importance of taking time off, if you are overworked or overwhelmed, even the schedules are lists won’t help. You don’t have to be productive all day everyday to feel valued. There’s more to you than that.