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Proactivity and Productivity

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, but better known as a Nazi concentration camp survivor, analyzed in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, humans’ ability to transcend their difficulties. He said that all human beings are aware of themselves and have the ability to act on that awareness. This makes us able to respond to a stimulus in a completely different way from animals, or the way our instincts direct, or from the one we have been taught.This principle of human nature shows that our power as individuals lies in our freedom of choice. Based on that principle, Stephen Covey says that proactivity is the most basic habit we must develop to be efficient and productive. This habit develops when we accept responsibility to make things happen and then take the initiative. We often blame our circumstances, the conditions of our environment, or other people for our problems, but ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives.Excessive amounts of caffeine and endless lists won’t make you more productive, Productivity is more than energy and more than checking items off your to-do list. Truly productive people understand it’s not about doing more things. It’s about purpose and planning and proactivity,Project management and productivity expert Tony Wong has some very practical advice for upping your productivity:Cut your to-do list in half.Don’t try to fit as much as possible in the sanctioned eight hours. Do you really need those 30 tasks on your to-do list? Take a less-is-more approach. Focus on accomplishing things that matter.Take more breaks. Your brain uses up its glucose during hard work. Give yourself a moment to refresh by going for a walk, grabbing lunch or a snack, or just meditating. It will recharge and energize you for greater efficiency.Follow the 80/20 rule. 20 percent of what you do produces 80 percent of your results. Eliminate the things that don’t matter and have a minimal effect on your overall productivity. For example, break your next project down into steps and systematically remove unnecessary tasks until you end up with the 20 percent that gets the 80 percent of results.Use every morning to focus on yourself. It’s a big productivity killer to start your mornings by checking your email and your calendar. This allows others to dictate what you accomplish. Start your day out right by ignoring your emails in the morning and getting in a good breakfast, reading the news, meditating, or working out. This will ensure you’ve got the necessary fuel for a productive day. (Wow. For me this is a game-changer.)Tackle your most challenging tasks before lunch. Knock out your most challenging work when your brain is fresh. Save busy work and meetings for the afternoon. This gives everyone the ability to create a new and more productive way to manage time.Improve your email etiquette. Email is a productivity killer and usually a distraction from tasks that actually matter. Copying multiple people on emails distracts everyone else by creating noise against the tasks they’re trying to accomplish. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, it’s time to pick up the phone.Create a system. Manage your distracting ways by creating a system. Plan a morning, afternoon, and evening time slot to manage your inbox. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted from accomplishing more important goals throughout the day.Stop confusing productivity with laziness. While no one likes admitting it, plain old laziness is the No. 1 contributor to lost productivity. Sometimes meetings and emails are just ways to get out of doing real work. Place your focus on doing the things that matter most as efficiently and effectively as possible.Stop multi-tasking. Stop trying to do 10 things at once! Changing tasks more than 10 times a day drops your IQ an average of 10 points. (What?? There are days my IQ must have dropped below zero! 😊) Get things done more effectively and efficiently by focusing on one task at a time.Tony’s suggestions are so very helpful. Here are a couple more things I have personally learned are helpful to my own productivity:

  • Stepping back to look at the big picture. When I find my productivity waning, I need to look at what I am trying to achieve in the long run and what matters most. That shows me the things to do that matter most. I get clarity and motivation, and the big picture raises my productivity quickly.

  • Delaying gratification. Sometimes my productivity can drop off because the task is just not fun right then, and I would rather do something else that’s more enjoyable but not nearly as valuable. It helps me to forbid myself to do the more enjoyable thing until I have taken care of the valuable business. That helps me get highly motivated to get the task done.

  • Watching what I eat. I have noticed what I eat affects my productivity. If I eat in a hurry, eat lots of sugar, unhealthy carbs, and low nutritional food, my energy dies. Shortly after eating, I am lethargic and exhausted. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats boost my energy, makes me feel good, and boost my productivity. Guess Mom was right after all.

  • Breaking it down. Overwhelming tasks will shut me down unless I break them down. I break big tasks into a couple smaller tasks, and this keeps me going strong.

Productivity is very important. It means being able to achieve more than usual or expected within the same amount of time. You will squeeze the most out of life and enjoy it more. Productive people understand they have the ability to direct their lives.Let’s be proactive and productive.

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