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Before You Accept Any Productivity Advice

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Before You Accept Any Productivity Advice

If you run a business or work as an employee and care about your job and your clients, you most likely want to do what you do easier, faster, and with ever improving quality.

So you’re probably keeping your eyes open to new ideas that might make your work more efficient and effective, and there’s no shortage of information on this subject. But can you find what you really need?

The evolution of productivity.

Almost a hundred years ago, experts were already studying how to improve productivity. At that time they focused on factories and identified methods for getting workers to assemble more products in less time.

Later in the 20th century, experts turned their attention to office staff whose productivity was closely related to their typing speed and accuracy. So the primary goal of these efforts was to help workers type faster and without errors.

These traditional definitions of productivity are hardly relevant to today’s entrepreneurs and their teams. And thankfully, strategies to measure and improve work performance have evolved substantially since those days when typing speed was, in fact, the main bottleneck when completing jobs in an office.

We now know more and more about enhancing communication, creativity and problem solving, for example, thanks to numerous studies. But the issue is that businesses are changing and diversifying so fast that science has no way of keeping up. So whenever you hear about the ‘latest productivity hacks’, chances are that the advice is already somewhat dated or only marginally relevant to your speciality.

A million different forms.

I must admit, there was a time when I believed that ‘evidence’ was the answer to pretty much all questions around improving work performance. But then I found it difficult to find well-researched productivity strategies that could actually help with some of the aspects of my work that were most important to me as a workplace consultant.

In order to do my job more effectively, I needed to be able to have more engaged conversations with clients, ask better questions, develop a sharper perception for reading between the lines, discover more meaningful patterns in large volumes of data, develop more customised design solutions, and write articles and reports which were easy to read and act upon faster.

Being unable to find useful advice, many years ago, I decided to do my own personal research and develop my own productivity strategies, and I haven’t stopped doing this since. Productive work, especially in service-based businesses, can take a million different forms.

The only person who can figure out how you can work faster and better is someone who knows you and your business extremely well.

Four questions.

While I can’t answer all your questions about your productivity, I’ll gladly guide you to find your own.

As a starting point, I suggest that you answer a couple of simple questions, in this order:

1. What are the main reasons you’re in business?

2. What products or services do you offer, and what systems and strategies do you have in place for delivering these?

3. What are the measures which tell you that you’re on track with achieving your business goals effectively and efficiently (think perhaps of sales, cash flow, feedback, recognition, as well as work hours, timeframes, speed of delivering results, etc.)?

If you’re not quite sure what the best answers are, many great business professionals will be able to help you. But here’s the fourth question, something I’m personally most excited about.

4. What kinds of thoughts do you have, and what feelings and sensations do you experience when you’re the best version of yourself, doing your most valuable work?

There are no right or wrong answers here.

When I’m in my flow, ideas surface in my head that inspire me, coming seemingly from nowhere. I have an optimistic view of the future, and I have the courage to do things that I feel fearful of at other times. When I’m in touch with my inner wisdom, my heart beats faster and on occasion become a bit teary.

In my most productive state, work is often easy and truly enjoyable but not always. For example, at times I’m fuelled by frustration, so much so, that I choose to put my inhibitions aside and say directly what I feel I need to say, even if this might attract criticism. But either way, I find it easier to resist the temptation to procrastinate, because I sense that if I succeed, I’ll create something truly worthwhile.

Theory and practice.

So, here is my two cents’ worth:

Before you accept any productivity advice, think about what productivity actually means to your business, the people you work with and yourself.

It can be a good idea to test new strategies you hear about, but be aware that you might not be able to measure the results.

If a strategy sounds wonderful on paper but triggers nothing inside you when you try it out, chances are that this is not the best solution for you. So just keep searching.

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