Productivity makes a chart-topping FAQ flooded with plenty of useful prescriptions. I know it’s a hackneyed plot. Still, for the sake of the beginners, let me apply my ‘beginner’s mind’ to bring productivity once more under the knife. Productivity, speaking mathematically, is a rate – a quotient of dividing a volume (denoting total output) by total input (efforts spent). In a typical division problem e.g. to enhance a rate, we increase the numerator i.e. produce more (AND/OR) decrease the denominator i.e. work less.

Produce more

As capability puts a constraint on each of our output volume, on how much we can stretch ourselves up, it’d be harsh to expect miracles here. If you’re running full steam, you’re already at your performance limit.

Work less

At your given innate pace of executing the task, shrinking down the effort yet achieving same level of output is theoretically not possible.

The caveat

We are thankfully practical. We don’t exactly conform to theories in our daily practices. Nor do we completely stick to how we are designed to behave. The buzz around the ‘cult of productivity’ usually affiliates itself with an empirical interpretation instead of its strict definition. We, the machines with a mind, may always improve.

Note: Productivity is NOT about quality, skill or integrity.

  1. Feel the urge: The two main factors that help drive us to work harder: passion (“I die if I don’t”) and desperation (“I get killed if I don’t”). At least one of these can push us to excel; in other words, make us feel the need to be more productive. This is the first step towards increased productivity.
  2. Cut the flab: The breaks you enjoy during work often pose them as a welcome relief. Some may rather be sources of stress who kill time and bog you down. Mobiles, small talks start as breathers from work but end up being involuntary habits often repeated every few minutes. A sincere scan of your daily routines can easily help reduce these bad fats and keep you sharper. That doesn’t mean complete elimination of fun or being inhuman or unsocial. It’s recommended to replenish your batteries – but a bit of trimming can do you good.
  3. Avoid fragmentation: Once you have the limited but necessary breaks identified, it’s time to assess the work vs the non-work items schedule. Instead of too many smaller breaks interleaving with actual work, try to collate a few non-work items together. Frequent breaks affect attention span due to switching of contexts and dampen efficiency in the real workspace. Besides, multitasking benefits can be sought; it doesn’t harm as precision matters less for having lunch, chatting with coworkers and checking social networking updates on the mobile phone, all dared in parallel.
  4. Automate: Wherever applicable, the repetitive portions of your activities can be left on its own or offloaded to someone else, in order to achieve a bit of parallelism. Having said that, it may be difficult to devise such a strategy in many cases.
  5. Performance enhancing drugs: No, that’s not an option in my book!