Have you been chasing the elusive rabbit of productivity for too long?
We all know how important it is to constantly improve both our work and workflow to thrive on the highly competitive market. It’s no wonder “productivity” has become such a buzzword. After all, it only takes one look at social media or publishing platforms like Medium to get overwhelmed by how busy and industrious everybody seem to be.
But are they really?
The Internet is packed to the rafters with quick fixes and life-changing solutions on how to be better, faster and more efficient in business and personal life. Sure, it’s safe to take a bite once in a while. You may even learn a thing or two! But do you know how much is too much?
The problem with “productivity” is that it’s very easy to overdo it. It’s equally easy to fall into a vicious circle of focusing too much on the process instead of the actual work. Productivity has transformed from a buzzword into a global obsession.
If you’re obsessing about productivity but not actually being productive the following tips will help you to get unstuck and make an attitude adjustment.
1. You Don’t Think Before Taking Action
No matter how trivial and dusty the maxim “measure twice and cut once” may seem, it’s sorely needed.
It’s difficult to fight the urge to jump for “immediate” action or introduce “radical” changes. Who would care about making plans when time is of the essence? Sadly, that’s the mode of thinking we’re being sold these days.
Considering how fast-paced our personal and professional lives already are, it may be a good idea to slow down and ask yourself simple questions before trying out a new, exciting productivity hack — “Will it really affect my work?”, “Is this worth my time?”, “Is this the work I should be doing now?”
There are many promising business opportunities you may want to explore, but not all of them are necessarily a good match for your business model. If you run a successful e-commerce business specializing in handcrafted wooden toys, you probably won’t gain much from attending a seminar on industrial automation.
Even though productivity experts advise to leave no stones unturned, you should not rush into action without considering WHY you’re doing so in the first place.
Bonus tip: While we’re on the topic of making decisions, I recommend that you watch on the importance of asking the right questions before approaching any type of work.
2. You Try to Improve What Already Works
The popular belief fuelled by productivity zealots is that everything is subject to improvement. As much as I believe this, there’s another popular maxim: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Whenever you feel like beefing up some of your business strategies, you should make sure that you first address those areas which don’t yield expected results.
For example, you’re probably already prospecting for clients using social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. If you’re fairly successful in finding prospects with those tools, it’s only natural that you’ll want to improve the process at some point.
It may seem reasonable that the next step would be to tap into as many channels as possible, like Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, to maximize exposure. The thing is, your prospects may not be hanging around those platforms and you end up spending precious time you could’ve invested in maintaining steady growth elsewhere.
According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of the effort or resources you invest yields 80% of the total results. Following the 80/20 rule, you can pinpoint the top 20% of your most effective activities and tend to the remaining 80%.
3. You Focus on Too Many Strategies at Once
In case you haven’t tried that already, type the phrase “productivity tips” in Google and look at the number of results. How many did you get? Do you think it would be even remotely possible to read through all that stuff, not to mention apply it? How much of this content is really valuable?
Just like in personal life, the fear of missing out (FoMo) is real and applies to business too.
It’s tempting to pick every self-improvement book out there, listen to as many podcasts as possible and chain-attend seminars to get an edge over the competition. But having a finger in every pie is not a sound tactic if you want to deliver quality.
Instead of trying to introduce negligible improvements across as many areas as possible, try to focus on one core area at a time and apply small but consistent changes.
4. You Don’t Finish What You Started
What would happen to your business if you constantly jumped from one project to another, without crossing the finish line on any of them? You would probably see your clients bid a quick farewell, never to return.
The modern productivity obsession feeds on a want for instant gratification and immediate results: “How to Become a Millionaire (Quickly)”, “5 Easy Ways to Increase Your Profit by 300%”, “How to Read a Book in 2 Hours” — you get the idea. It’s not surprising that very few of those “successful” people ever mention perseverance and consistency as elements of their master strategies.
Nowadays, the simple ability to wrap things up is in short supply. That’s why you should make sure that everything you do has a proper closure.
5. Your Tools Are Using You
Let’s say you’re interested in carpentry. It’s just a hobby thing, but you are serious about it and spend all your free time learning the craft. You even have a mentor who’s willing to share the secrets of the trade. When you’re finally ready to tackle a small project of your own, do you drop by a hardware store and pick up every carpentry tool they have?
I sometimes find myself struggling to start a project only because I can’t decide whether to use a tool A or a tool B. Spend too much time on trifles, and you’re soon stuck in a limbo of petty dilemmas. Such moments call for a quick reality check: “Do I really need this to do my work properly?” It doesn’t take more than that to get back on track.
Just like a homebred carpenter would be perfectly happy to start with a handsaw, a hammer and a handful of nails, you should choose your tools wisely and make sure that you don’t put them before the work at hand.
Bonus tip: Even though I rely on tools like time trackers, to-do lists and digital calendars to manage my workflow, using multiple solutions that serve a similar purpose does more harm than good. If you feel that researching and comparing productivity software has become your little hobby, have a look at this article.
The Bottom Line
Chasing the rabbit of productivity has become an international sport. Nobody knows exactly what the rules are, but since the game is afoot we feel compelled to participate.
Just like the snake oil peddlers of the “Old West”, productivity gurus go to great lengths to sell the “best”, “fastest” and “easiest” methods that will allow you to excel in business and personal life. But sometimes it just pays off to flex the muscle of skepticism a bit.
The purpose of this article is not to portray productivity as something negative but rather to show that it’s really easy to lose heading and go in the wrong direction.
about the author
Dawid is a freelance copywriter and blogger at where he helps B2B tech companies talk human instead of code. When he's not writing about tech, he's enjoying the simplicity of analog photography and daring bike trips with his wife.