This post could come across as anti-productivity. To be clear, I’m all for productivity. I think my team and I have amazing skills that we can and should optimize this week.
What I am not for is haphazard productivity – the pursuit of crossing something off a todo list as fast as possible (just because it’s there) to get to the next item (just because it’s there).
If we have a limited amount of mental and physical energy each day, I want my team working on the right tasks and some meaningful end goal. I want our productivity to be purpose-driven.
What most posts don’t mention
But most productivity posts I read don’t focus on why we should be productive. They’re full of 12 secrets or 7 steps or 5 ways to squeeze every minute of a work day. And while many of these articles actually are full of very good and helpful tips, they don’t hone in on the purpose of our productivity. They don’t start with why.
Instead, they make a handful of assumptions.
Most authors assume your answer to “why should I be productive?” is one of the following:
- You’d like a raise. “Do more, make more” is an unwritten mantra in your company so you hustle to do more.
- You enjoy the feeling of being productive. Completing tasks boosts your self-esteem so you check off every box you can find.
- There’s something else you’d rather be doing. You’re in it to win it…just not at your day job. You knock work out fast so you can spend more time elsewhere.
- You crave control. Sure, you’d like to be more productive, but what you’re really after here is controlling your time as much as possible.
- You’d like relief. Your work day feels something like drowning and if someone could just throw you a life ring, that’d be great.
I don’t think many of these reasons, these whys, are inherently awful, but a lot of them look like they have bad side effects. For example, burnout seems imminent with the first two whys. And the third and fourth? They don’t necessarily lead to better work, just to treading water.
Is that where we want all this cultivated time and energy to lead – to burnouts or treading water, just-barely-surviving?
The big what-if
What if we started with more meaningful, more purposeful whys?
What if our productivity hinged on these kind of whys:
- Our work has a significant and positive impact on our teams, and we want to optimize that.
- Our efforts are part of a larger, meaningful company vision and we care to advance it.
- The things we create impact society in a good way and we want to spread good influence.
- What we produce paves the way for others to succeed and we want to construct a clear and helpful path.
What might we produce if we did more for these kind of reasons as opposed to crossing off to-dos for the first kind of reasons? Where might our work lead us?
Give a purpose-driven approach a try. Identify a distinct purpose for your efforts, put all those good tips to work, and see if you and your team can’t accomplish some seriously meaningful goals.