What does the word productive mean to you? Most people get it quite wrong. They think the more things they do (the number of tasks done in a day) equals ultimate productivity. Now, that's not necessarily true.
I would define being productive as achieving your desired outcome or result as quickly as possible by doing the most important things first!
How often have you done 101 things in your day but when you sit down with a cup of tea in the evening you feel guilty because you feel that you have not accomplished much and there's so much more you should and could have done?
This is a common mistake that people make every day! They make themselves busy trying to tick as many tasks as possible of their list- but they are not actually getting any closer to their desired outcome- they choose to do the easy, unimportant tasks (the fluff I like to call it).
Achieving genuine productivity is differentiating which tasks you need to complete and which ones can wait. True productivity means accomplishing the things that matter the most—the tasks that work towards your goals. It is a small but crucial detail, but one that allows us to be productive rather than just busy.
The other thing that separates the busy from the productive is mindfulness. The more mindful one is, the more productive one becomes. Mindful people focus on the present moment and what is important. If you are calm and present it is far easier for you to distinguish the things that deliver the important results, than when you are rushed and stressed. Whereas busy people just try to get things off their plate.
So how do we become mindfully productive? Here are four simple and easy ways to get started:
1. Manage your emotions.
Believe it or not, your mood affects your productivity. It affects your ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. Several studies have shown that a positive mood improves work productivity. How many times have you read, happy workers are productive workers?
Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment and acknowledging how we feel without judgment. It does not mean sweeping our anger or sadness under the rug so that we can focus on our tasks. What it means is we acknowledge how we feel and at the same time understand that these emotions are negatively impacting how we work. We should instead focus on the things we can change to manage how we feel.
If you find yourself anxious, overwhelmed or agitated, it may be best to take a step back for a few minutes. Take deep breaths. Take a walk. Maybe you should even take a short break. Meditate or exercise if you can. Journaling and writing down our thoughts can really help too. The key is to try to calm yourself down before you get back to your task.
2. Focus on what you can control.
Worrying does not do anyone any good. Like the saying goes, “Worrying is like rocking a chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Worrying gets you busy, but it does not make you productive. What it does is waste your time, effort and energy on something that will not help you in the long-run. It distracts you from doing what is important, from making the right decision and prevents you from getting results.
Instead of worrying, focus your attention on the things that you have control over—these are the things that you can change. Worried about how other people may be delaying the project? Do not focus on what others are doing—focus on what you can do to help the situation. Who can you help? What else can you do or contribute? Worrying about what other people are not doing will not get things done—but if you focus on what you can do, then you have a better chance at delivering results. Re-focus your attention on the things that you can change to help your situation at that moment.
3. Focus on what is important.
Here is where many falter: not making a distinction between what is important and what is urgent. What is urgent to other people is not always urgent and important to you.
This is why emails, answering them to be exact, are considered time suckers. Some emails appear important because the sender makes it appear that the issue at hand is urgent. But who is the issue urgent to? Is it urgent and important to you—or just to them?
Mindfulness helps us differentiate between what is important to us and what is not. Mindfulness brings to focus our goals and it helps make it clear to us what we can do to achieve these goals. Taking time to be present allows us to become consciously aware of what is distracting us and what is moving us away from our goals.
4. Take care of your mental health and well being
Mental health and well being significantly affects our ability to concentrate and our ability to work. It is difficult to produce at 100% if our physical and mental health are not at 100%. We are not robots—and besides, even machines require downtimes for check-up and maintenance. So take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Practice mindfulness.
Experts also believe that journaling is a great avenue for managing your thoughts and emotions. It’s a great outlet for your frustrations and anger and anything else you are feeling. It’s a helpful tool to help you work through your personal issues. A planner/journal is also a great productivity tool because it allows you to plan for your future! It certainly helps me remember important things—dates, events, and tasks. And this is one of the reasons why I designed the MYndMap MY Journal. I wanted a tool to help me become mindful and productive throughout the entire day—and at the same time, help me work on my goals for the future.