productivity killer

The Real Productivity Killer (It’s not what you think it is.)

By Bryan Orr

You may be working long hours and mentally maxing out, but things just aren’t coming together for you. What is it about productivity that is so difficult to maintain?

The Path to Productivity

We want an ear tickling revelation to that question, but the truth is, the pathway to productivity is quite unglamorous and simplistic. Before talking about productivity killers, here are three key elements that promote productivity:

  • Vision
  • Doggedness
  • Flexibility

Vision

We all understand the importance of making a goal so that we have something to work towards; it is a key element to productivity, because without a clear vision and goal, what on earth are our tasks supposed to be, and why would we want to do them?
So yes, first step towards greater productivity is to have clarity of where you’re headed.

Doggedness

It’s time to take your ideas and put them to work. I cannot stress enough the importance of doggedness when it comes to productivity. When I imagine what a dogged person is I think of an individual that has been inspired and has the knowledge that in order to get to the end she must be willing to stay on one task until it’s complete and then move to the next task.

Every now and then she lifts her head to remember the goal, but doesn’t stop to look around at all that has to be done, because she might be overwhelmed by all of the work remaining; her current task may suddenly seem pointless.

Flexibility

It’s important to remember that real life is not a video game world where you can control everything that is going to happen, both good and bad. When you are on a task and other things that you’re responsible for go awry, it’s not an option to stick to the plan and ignore the new problem. Be willing to adjust the plan instead of “doggedly” working on a task that may no longer be relevant.

No, you have to plan for life around you. When you have something specific to work towards, it’s vital to realize that you may come across setbacks. It doesn’t mean that you give up; it just means that you learn to progress forward with the setbacks. Deal with the inconvenience and then get back on task.

The REAL Productivity Killer…

One of the largest factors to killing your productivity is simply this:

Getting distracted by the finished picture while in the middle of the picture.

You may say, “But we agreed that a goal and vision are key to productivity!” While that is true, too much focus on the end result can draw you away from the very things that will bring you to the place you desire to be.

For example, say you have to organize an entire warehouse that is a complete wreck. You step inside and look around you. You draw a mental picture of what it should look like when you’re done. You write down the steps on how to accomplish it and then you get to work. That’s all good.

Well, if you’re anything like me, you start getting a bit bored after you’ve been at a minuscule task, and you just want the warehouse organized and finished. You lift your head, and instead of a quick remembrance of what your end goal is, you focus entirely on the end goal and grow impatient about what the current situation is.

You start the mental process of giving up. It’s too much and you second guess that you’ll ever be able to complete it. The end has become a mountain that is unattainable because you’ve gotten too distracted by the finished picture while in the middle of the picture.

When in reality, if you had remembered where you were headed and simply reminded yourself that the ONLY way to get there is to embrace exactly what you’re doing NOW and keep at it,  there is nothing that will stop you from getting that warehouse organized.

Whatever career you’ve embarked on, albeit a programmer, tradesman, teacher, parent, coach, salesman, or painter — they all require the proper amount of focus and the recognition that you have opportunities right now in your hand that will get you moving forward and bring you a greater level of productivity.

Is there are project you are working on where you are
focusing too much on the end result and it’s slowing down your productivity?

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Bryan Orr
Bryan Orr is a blue collar business owner who helps executives and business owners use storytelling to communicate powerfully with customers and staff. Bryan is a founder of an award-winning small business in Orlando, Fl as well as sought after podcast producer and consultant. Get to know him at Bryanorr.com.

2 comments

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  1. There’s a discipline that I’ve come to appreciate that has helped me tremendously on maximizing the productiveness of my time. I’ll say right now it isn’t an easy discipline, but with practice it really does help. I’ll break it down into two parts using the example of cleaning the house.

    First, I want to identify what my goal is, which is to have a clean house obviously. If your household is like mine, there are a lot of different opinions on what clean looks like. So, spend some time identifying what that goal is. Not in terms of making a to-do list, but instead identify the conditions needed for that goal to be satisfied. So maybe you wind up with a list that has all of the rooms cleaned, or maybe it’s that the carpets are clean, the laundry put away, the dishes cleaned, etc. Doesn’t really matter. Just know enough so that you can say that you’ve reached the goal or not.

    Now that you know what the goal is, you need to start actually making progress towards it. This is where people will start making a task list. Don’t jump to that. Instead you want to ask yourself, “Whats the simplest thing I can do that might move me closer to the goal?” Do that thing, and see if it moved you a tiny step in the right direction.

    This little tiny feedback loop of determining the simplest thing that could work and checking on it is powerful. Instead of creating an overwhelming plan of tasks that may not actually work, you are continually making tiny steps towards your goal and checking the progress. This also, with practice, lets you begin to come up with alternative ways of achieving your goal. You don’t have to assume that the way you’ve always folded the laundry is the best anymore. It keeps you focused on something small, simple, and is worth the effort of trying.

    Finally, if you find focus is hard, I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro Technique.

    • I like your process, Ryan, but for someone like me (a Type-A perfectionist), it would never work. In order for me to take a step forward, I need to see what the end goal is, then break it down into a detailed step-by-step list. This not only allows me to determine the feasibility of the goal, but also gives me insight into timing and resources it will take to reach that goal. Without the details and confirmation that doing A, B and C will get me to D, it’s hard for me to commit to that goal.

      I do love the idea of baby steps, though. I do the same thing — start small and easy to build momentum. The only difference is that even the small and simple things make it onto my massive list. :)

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