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The 5 Biggest Productivity Questions Answered…by You

The 5 Biggest Productivity Questions Answered…by You

    You’re here because you want to get tips, tricks and insights on how to amp up your productivity or discover how you can “hack” your life. The things you’re looking for can vary from business needs to lifestyle changes, from software recommendations to quick and easy recipes that make your busy life just a little less busy.

    But before you dive into all of that, before you dive into what could very well be a wellspring (or overload) of information, I’d ask you to look deeper than the surface reasons of why you’re here. In fact, you need to ask yourself some of the biggest questions you can about productivity in order to really get the best from what we’re offering – and from yourself.

    The reasons these questions are big is because of the sheer honesty with which you need to answer them. They’re not about the little things you want to life hack; they’re about the life you want to lead as a whole. If you don’t answer them with brutal honesty in mind, you really aren’t answering them at all.

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    So here goes…the 5 biggest questions about productivity you need to ask yourself…

    What Are You Being Productive For?

    What are you doing that requires you to be more productive? What are the reasons behind it? Furthermore, is the “what” really worth being more productive for? Is it what you really want to be doing?

    This doesn’t have to be applied to anything huge…but it often leads to it. It can be about a task you keep trying to become more efficient and effective at, but it’s not something you’re really getting much out of. It can also be a job you’re doing that you’re not happy doing. The “what” is the first thing you need to look at, because once you’ve done that then you can move on to the other questions with a lot more clarity.

    Who Are You Being Productive For?

    Who are you trying to get better for? You shouldn’t have to think too hard about this. Because if that first person isn’t you, then you’re doing it wrong.

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    Without making these efforts for yourself, they won’t have a lasting or genuine impact. They are based on not what you want, but the wants of others. You need to put your own self first when shooting for improved productivity. Otherwise, those that you are doing it for won’t get the full force of what you really are capable of.

    When Are You Being Productive For?

    Are you thinking long term with your productivity tweaks? Or are you just trying to get better at the day-to-day?

    I’m not suggesting that daily tasks aren’t important, but if you don’t make the “when” have some longer term aspirations in mind then you’re really not making progress. When driving a car, we’re taught to look far ahead down the road so that we can react better should something unexpected come into our path. But how many of us who have been driving for years have allowed that scope to shrink? I know that I have from time to time, and when you think about that from a safety perspective, it’s kind of scary.

    Make sure you have more than just today as your “when”, or else you won’t be able to avoid the obstacles that may impede you tomorrow.

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    Why Are You Being Productive?

    Why do you want to level up? Is it for a promotion? For a better family life? For both?

    This is perhaps the biggest of the questions because it has multiple answers. The thing is that all of the answers had better align with each other in some form or another and yet not interfere with each other as well. It’s a delicate balance, but if you are really honest with yourself and are willing to take the risks necessary to better align yourself then it can also be the biggest contributor to enhanced productivity.

    The Big Follow Up Question…

    After each of these questions, you need to ask yourself this question: How come?

    How come you’re only looking at a daily to do list instead of setting goals for the future? How come you’re taking on improving your productivity for other people before yourself? How come you’re doing a “what” that you’re really not enjoying?

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    With some honest answers to the follow-up question, you’ll find that you’ll also start looking at how you can change things for the better.

    And that’s why you’re really here…isn’t it?

    (Photo credit: Businessman Standing Alone via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

    4. Get up and Move

    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

    The Bottom Line

    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

    More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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