Have you ever asked someone if they were too productive to talk right now? Have you ever called someone only to hear, “I’m sorry, I’m too productive to chat”? Chances are that you haven’t, and that’s for a very good reason. Being busy and being productive are two separate things despite the fact that we continue to witness how people mistake one for another. It’s quite common, for example, to hear managers tell their subordinates to “look busy” or to see co-workers shuffle around with “busy work.”
In order to become productive, you not only have to understand the difference between productivity and busy work, you have to put that difference into practice as well. Here are three key steps you can do to become productive in its most literal sense.
Have Clear Goals and Accompanying Tasks
What often determines the success in business is how well defined its goals are. Goals are designated end-points used to declare a complete intention. A cook’s goal, for instance, might be to win first place in an international cooking contest. An artist’s goal may be to sell out in a local gallery show. In both instances, the goal is a clear-cut destination. What isn’t clear is how the goal will be accomplished.
That’s when tasks come into play. Every goal needs a series of tasks for completion. Tasks answer the question, “Okay, so how am I going to achieve this?” And when addressed with a final goal in mind, they become critical steps. The entire collection of them, in fact, becomes a list of instructions that make the prospect of reaching a goal pretty darn feasible.
Remove Distractions To Get Productive
We wrote “pretty feasible” for a reason. One of the main causes of project failure is distraction. Distractions prolong goal achievement, introduce new and unnecessary problems, or, worse, veer people so off track, an end-goal is no longer in sight. In the contracting community, this is called scope creep. Scope creep occurs when a project’s requirements suffer from multiple changes or continuous additions (i.e. distractions) and risks being incomplete.
Your project won’t suffer from scope creep if you’re careful to remove distractions. You’ll need to consider which tasks are critical to a project’s completion and then perform those tasks exclusively. Anything else is a distraction regardless of what your peers might think or say, and the sooner it’s removed from your attention, the better.
Beware the Lure of Multitasking
The concept of multitasking has always been around; however, it wasn’t until the personal computer industry managed to capture it and convert it into a binary phenomenon that everyone decided it was necessary in every aspect of life. That might not seem like a bad thing, but if you take a look at what’s going on around you at this very moment, chances are you’ll see an instance of multitasking gone amok.
Is your web browser full of tabs that you opened hours ago? Is your television on while you’re reading this article? How about your mobile phone? Is it beeping and tooting from tweets or text messages that you’re not even paying attention to anymore? This is just a small sample of what we’ve surrounded ourselves with now all for the sake of multitasking.
The problem is that the human brain is limited in what it can consciously receive. It’s even more limited in what it can comprehend, so why not give it and yourself a break, and leave all this stuff for the devices that this kind of “busy” work is programmed for.
Have goals and perform the tasks that will achieve those goals without distraction and unnecessary multitasking. For many of us, that’s the only way we’ll ever experience any real success in business.