Over the past three years, I have been balancing multiple responsibilities and projects.
These include working as a nursing science educator, writing a non-fiction book, learning website development from scratch to create a website, coaching, and publishing a weekly article.
Recently, I have also added a weekly newsletter and a podcast to my list of projects.
On a note: I sleep for eight hours every night, go for a 5-mile walk every day, and have a family that I spend a lot of uninterrupted time with my phone on airplane mode.
In this article, I will to share with you how I get things done without being a slave to a to-do list or on being on the brink of burnout.
What We Get Wrong About Productivity
We focus on speed and quantity, and often forget that all good work and living comes from the quality of our thinking, rather than the effectiveness of our actions.
By being intentional and strategic in your approach, you optimize your productivity, but not in the way you might think.
The ultimate illusion is that productivity is about getting more done.
Yes, scrolling social media every 6 minutes is not productive, but if you are here reading this article, my guess is that you’re not on that level.
Productivity as I live it is about getting the right things done, in the right way, at the right time.
There is a concept in economics called “the point of diminishing returns.”
This refers to where each additional unit of production does not yield the same output as the previous units.
More does not equal better output.
Your first book on productivity will provide you with a lot of valuable insights, but after the tenth book, you find that most of the advice is not translating into new insights.
I often find that the initial stages of brainstorming and outlining are incredibly productive.
Ideas flow easily, and the words effortlessly fill the page.
But I notice a diminishing return if I don’t respect my energy and mind as I go through the writing process and keep pushing myself.
Exhaustion sets in, creativity wanes, and the output becomes less impactful.
There is one more concept in economics worth mentioning beyond the point of diminishing returns known as “the point of negative returns”.
Each additional production unit not only brings lower returns than the previous unit, but results in negative returns.
Imagine you have been working on a project and have already accomplished a significant amount of work.
However, feeling the pressure to meet a tight deadline, you decide to push yourself even harder and increase your workload.
Instead of taking breaks and pacing yourself, you work non-stop for hours on end.
Initially, you experience a burst of productivity and make considerable progress.
But as time goes on, exhaustion and sleep deprivation set in, and your concentration and creativity diminish.
You make more mistakes and have to redo tasks or start over, and your output starts to look like your worst work.
Ultimately, the extra time and effort you put in will cause a negative return.
The quality of your work suffers and your overall output is significantly reduced.
So, how do we recognize the point of diminishing returns and understanding that pushing ourselves beyond our limits can be counterproductive?
Let’s explore different methods to discover a more effective approach. and sustainable approach.
The Shree Stages of Productivity
Energy management refers to effectively managing and optimizing your energy levels throughout the day to maximize productivity.
This, of course, starts with renouncing your membership in the toxic working culture.
Sleeping only 5 hours for your entire work life is not an accomplishment; it’s a loss, and one that you will regret.
Energy management is you understanding your personal energy patterns and taking steps to maintain or enhance your energy levels.
It your ability to recognize when you are most energized and focused.
It is about scheduling your most important tasks, not the urgent ones, during those hours.
Take regular breaks, practice self-care, and engage in activities that recharge and replenish your energy.
You can’t reload without ammunition.
By paying attention to your energy levels and managing them effectively, you can ensure that you have the necessary mental and physical resources to tackle your tasks efficiently and avoid burnout.
“Mind Management” refers to the practice of effectively managing and organizing your thoughts, mindset, and mental state.
The quality of your ideas will determine whether what you produce is extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad.
Having an idea takes no time at all. However, that idea is built on the quality of prior thinking, how you managed your mind long before that idea came to you.
That is why you can get an awesome idea while in the shower, on a walk, or on vacation.
Don’t you believe me?
I wrote this entire article while walking, using speech-to-text.
Most of the text on this page is a direct result of my ability to organize my thoughts, ideas and mental models – not productivity.
Not being able to put yourself in the right state of mind is what makes things difficult, not the process of creating them.
This not only applies to work, but also relationships.
Conflicts are not the real challenge. It is how we perceive them, and how we choose to deal with them that is challenging.
In other words, it is we who are the mountain.
Our state of mind plays a crucial role in how we navigate and resolve conflicts.
Words matter. What you say or write now can have dire consequences later.
By practicing mind management, you cultivate mental clarity, reduce stress, enhance concentration, and improve decision-making skills.
It allows you to better align your thoughts and emotions with your goals and tasks, enabling you to work more effectively and efficiently.
In essence, mind management is about harnessing the power of your mind to enhance productivity and achieve your desired outcomes.
Time management is the final stage of productivity. I have placed it last because without energy, organizing your thoughts, mindset, and mental state, time won’t make a difference.
For many of us who are overly productive, our use of time management has surpassed the point of diminishing returns and reached the point of negative returns.
When you treat time as money and view each hour as a production unit, you miss the fact that we are all different, and the rhythms within our bodies and the world around us make each hour distinct from the next.
Some hours are better for analytical thinking, while others are better for creative thinking.
And there are also hours that are more suitable for doing boring work on an Excel sheet.
Remember, not all hours are created equal.
The truth is that the twenty-four hours in a day are separate units of time, making one unit of time significantly different from another.
All writing happens one sentence at a time. Thinking one concept at the time. Great quality products one part at the time.
The impact of what you produce in one minute greatly vary compared to the impact of what you produce in the next minute.
And than you have the compound effect of your thinking.
This applies to all great products and services.
What always makes me laugh is that when we have more time, we tend to squander it by filling it with even more activities, completely missing the point of being productive.
Effectively allocating and utilizing your time to accomplish tasks and goals is important, but make sure you save time instead of cramming in more on your to-do list.
This means making time to think and be creative, rather than just focusing on prioritising tasks, setting deadlines and organising your schedule.
Managing your time well is mostly about better thinking. If your thinking today is not better than it was yesterday, maybe it’s time to start focusing on the right tasks at the right time, and in the right way.
- Identify your most energized and focused hours of the day
- Schedule important tasks during these periods
- Practice mind management
- Organize your thoughts
- Cultivate mental clarity
- Align your mindset with your goals and tasks
- Allocate dedicated time for better thinking and creativity
- Prioritize the quality of your thinking over the quantity of your actions
- Optimise productivity by better managing your energy, mind and time
In industries such as manufacturing or customer service, the ability to complete tasks quickly and efficiently directly affect the productivity.
The question is: at what cost?
We have different approaches to productivity, and what works for one person may not work for another.
The idea of scheduling important tasks during your most energized hours assumes that you have control over your schedule and can align your energy patterns with your work demands.
However, external factors such as work schedules or family obligations may limit your ability to do so.
The framework presented should be seen as a potential guide, rather than an absolute truth applicable in all circumstances.
Flexibility in understanding what drives your personal productivity is key in finding strategies that work best for your unique needs and circumstances.
Imagine you want to work on a project or write a book.
Instead of solely focusing on checking off tasks on a to-do list or writing a specific number of pages each day, prioritize identifying when you have the most energy and when and where you do your best thinking.
These resources are far more valuable than time.
Effective time management involves allocating dedicated time for better thinking and creativity.
After all, when you do your best work, you don’t check off things on a list – you create.
You brainstorm ideas, find real-life practical applications in the things you do, resulting in a more impactful and engaging way of life.
“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown
This book explores the concept of essentialism, which is about focusing on the few things that really matter and eliminating the non-essentials. It provides insights and strategies for prioritising your time and energy on what really matters, leading to greater productivity and fulfilment.
“The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss
This book challenges traditional notions of work and productivity by advocating a lifestyle design that emphasises efficiency and output. It offers practical tips and strategies for automating tasks, outsourcing work and maximising productivity while minimising time spent working.
“Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen
This book presents a comprehensive system for organising and managing tasks and projects. It provides practical techniques for recording and clarifying your commitments, organising information and making effective decisions, resulting in increased productivity and reduced stress.