Productivity is a measure of one’s output given a set period of time but it doesn’t mean quality or doing it right.
That’s my understanding of what it means when someone mention productivity these days.
Our modern economy places a high emphasis on this metric. With the advancement of technology, it is expected that everyone output 10x, 100x or even 1000x of what someone could output for the same amount of time and resource several years ago.
On a personal level, it’s suggested one sleep early and wake up early, exercise more, and maybe throw in some meditation to improve your energy level so that you can do more and faster in a short amount of time.
The 80/20 rule also applies here. One should only spent the least amount of effort to achieve the greatest result.
I for one don’t disagree with all those advices because they do help.
However, I have come to recognize that there are two more things that one should also acquire to be highly productive.
The first is mastery.
When you master something, be it copywriting, write codes, or draw art, you will find yourself doing a lot of things effortlessly because whatever it is you are doing is like muscle memory. This determine how much actual effort is spent to create something. Thus, it could take you as little as 15 minutes to do something that would taken you an hour or two when you were a novice.
I know because I have gone through that many times in my software development work. I can deliver way more than what my colleagues or friends could even when they are copying and pasting code within a set period of time. And with quality I might add.
What I did was by picking a specific area in software development and then focus all my attention on it.
For example, I picked UX/UI design and implementation for my current job and then spent weeks after weeks doing that. Right now, you can get the best possible UI (compared to my colleagues on the team and possibly my current division) from me using just the UI controls provided by Microsoft’s WPF and Telerik. I even took care of a lot of detailed stuff that help ensure a smooth and great user experience when they use the application. Something that I know for a fact my colleagues can’t do.
And I’m not boasting…Ok, maybe a little. I’m proud of what I have achieved.
My team lead saw it with his own eyes over the past year. And even my colleagues also recognize some of the stuff I have done that are better than their work. Even the customer, despite not knowing who done what, knows which part of the user interface they love the most and commented how good it was, which was done by me.
What I have realized too was you don’t need to reach 100% mastery (which is quite impossible) in something. All you need is to reach roughly 60% to 70% mastery in something and you can quite easily do anything that require you to use that skillset. Anything more than that will probably see diminishing returns and not worth your time to pursue.
The second thing to boost your productivity is being inspired.
Being a master at something isn’t enough to improve your productivity when you are completely drained and uninspired. In fact, being uninspired can reduce your productivity by some 50% or maybe more (not scientifically correct, just a gut feeling).
I have gone through days feeling depressed or uninspired. Even the thing I could have easily finished in less than an hour took me half the day and sometime, the whole day.
To feel inspired, sometime you just need to reframe your mind.
You can try to think of the problem you are trying to solve from a new perspective. This is where you need to figure out your WHY. You need to have an honest conversation with yourself about WHY you are doing what you are doing now. Once you do that, you could find the spark that you need to drive you forward.
And if that doesn’t help much, sometimes, you really do need to move around. Go for a walk or a run. Even step out of office and sit at the pantry or cafeteria can help.
Please don’t take my word at face value. Go and try the two suggestions out and see if it helps with making you more productive at work. So far, it has helped me in delivering more with quality over the last few months.