Do you have friends who never seem to run out of work? Those who always refuse to hang out with you because their plates are so full.
If you live in a fast-paced, bustling city, chances are you’ve got plenty of such friends.
The competitive and innovative nature of the modern world has forced people to work harder and go faster to achieve more and create more.
Everyone functions on to-do lists and calendars, keeping their nose to the grindstone and staying as busy as possible.
Some see this way of life as productive living. But to me, it’s more like fake productivity ‒ the kind of productivity that makes you chase life instead of living and enjoying it.
Three signs of a fake productivist
Symptom #1: Think in terms of quantity not quality.
A telltale sign of a fake productivist is the overwhelming amount of tasks he takes on each day.
Fake productivists are habitual multitaskers who like to operate on lengthy to-do lists. They tend to switch between tasks, trying to cross as many items off their to-do list as possible.
Their goal is to get more things done, not necessarily the most important things. The more tasks get completed, the more accomplished they feel.
What they fail to realize that hustling actually diminishes their productivity instead of enhancing it.
When putting quantity first, they get distracted by trashy activities and thus can’t give the most important tasks fullest attention. The result is low quality of high-value tasks and lots of time wasted.
Multitasking also leaves them with pressure, frustration and emotional breakdown.
More isn’t necessarily better. Who can say a coder who produces 1000 lines of code per day is better than a coder who writes 100 lines of cleaner, shorter codes that solve the same problem?
Thus working on fewer but higher-impact tasks is better than trying to squeeze in hundreds of different tasks during the day.
Symptom #2 Focus on the wrong thing
Another symptom of fake productivity is mistaking working for productivity.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. You could be working on multiple projects, yet still remain unproductive. Especially when the tasks you’re working on aren’t aligned with your goals.
If you want to become an email marketer but spend most of your day learning about social media marketing, creating Facebook ads, or building an awesome web page, then you’re not doing what contributes to your success. Chances are you’ll never become good enough at writing emails to take on any worthwhile client.
This is a mistake many freelance writers tend to make. Under the pressure of making ends meet, they get caught in the content mills, accepting projects out of their fields of expertise. This steals their time to focus on projects that can help them build up the portfolio and land better-paying jobs in the future.
Focusing on the wrong thing only takes away your precious time and exhausts your creativity flow. It also distracts you from your goal and prevents you from achieving the kind of success that you deserve.
Symptom #3: Always snowed under with work
Fake productivists are irritated by not having anything to do. So they keep themselves around the clock. Switching from one task to another. Get offended if someone disturbs their workflow.
But constantly fliting tasks is more of a byproduct of your ego than being productive. You may not be aware of it but many of your actions are driven by fear and desire of your little self.
You read countless blog posts and sign up to hundreds of newsletters for fear of missing out.
You try to adopt a new skill or learn a language because you see another friend doing so.
You enrol in many online courses out of the desire of getting better at what you do and becoming more successful.
As you let your ego lead the way, you get caught on the hamster wheel of work. But this only pushes you further away from what truly matters. At one point, you will realize reading so many blogs, signing up to tons of newsletters, learning multiple skills aren’t that necessary.
How to truly be productive?
1. Change your mindset.
The first step to becoming truly productive is to change your mindset.
Understand that productivity isn’t getting more stuff done but getting the right things done in the most efficient way.
It means prioritizing important tasks while delegating the rest so that you can reach your goals faster.
2. Make a cleanse of the unnecessary
Take a sincere look at your life: your current goals, your daily tasks, projects you’re working on, how you spend your day. See what activities bring value to your life and what doesn’t.
Is there any blog, course, newsletter, books, Facebook group, forum, etc. that you follow but rarely read or visit? Are you engaged in any low-value and time-consuming projects?
Make a courageous decision to get rid of those.
3. Identify your value-added task
Now decide on what you want to focus on – activities that contribute that adds value to your life professionally and personally.
It can be working on a project, learning a skill, writing, meditating, playing with your kids, drawing, walking, exercising, learning to make a new dish, etc.
4. Create distraction-free environment to work on these tasks
Here are some ways to keep distractions at a distance while working:
- Be aware of distracting activities
- Make a to-do list first thing in the morning.
- Cut your to-do list to half (3, 4 items are more than enough)
- Try to get your most important task done before midday
- Block out time to work on these tasks without distractions (emails, phones, messages, etc.)
- Set a deadline for your task, after which stop working altogether