The concept of being productive is meaningless without a good understanding of your values or what is important to you personally. Being productive isn’t just a matter of being busy. It isn’t a matter of doing a lot of things. Productivity is accomplishing important things.
Many people try to get organized so they can do more, but really they are just trying to fit a bunch more unimportant things into their day. Until they define what is really important to them, just scheduling a bunch of tasks won’t help them really accomplish more.
Sometimes being productive doesn’t mean doing more. In fact, sometimes it can mean doing fewer tasks each day. When these tasks are carefully chosen to align with your values, they can have a much bigger impact on your overall accomplishments.
For example, lets say one of my values is life long learning and one of the areas I want to learn about is economics. Here are a list of tasks that might help me accomplish this:
- Spend one hour per day browsing the web for information about economics.
- Read two books per month on economics written by established economics professors.
- Sign up for an internet based class on economics.
- Sign up for a night class at the local university.
All of these are good things toward my goal, but trying to do all of them would be less effective than picking one. The “right” one is the one that best meets my needs. The first task probably isn’t going to be the most effective way to learn. The third and fourth tasks are good ideas, but might not fit into the time I have available. The second task might not work if I don’t learn very well from reading.
The point is to choose the best option that maximizes my time investment and do that task well. By focusing, I’ll have more time to spend on the other areas of my life. Carefully deciding what to do can
mean doing less, but accomplishing more. But this is only possible if you first decide what is really important to you.
Originally posted on December 3, 2005.