If You’ve Been Wanting To Be More Productive In Your Life, You Need To Read This

Photo: getty
Time Management Skills To Learn How To Be Productive, Stay Focused, & Prioritize

Being productive in your business and personal life is important, but if you're like many people, you struggle with time management to get everything done. 

If you want to know how to be more productive, then it's important to learn how to prioritize time management skills and strategies so that your workflow and productivity levels are at their best.

Learning some productive hobbies is also a helpful activity when you're discovering the best time management tips to help you learn how to be productive in your career.

RELATED: How To Get More Done, Be Less Distracted, And Finally Feel Productive

What’s your situation? To be more productive, let’s start with what you want to be more productive about. Add to or adapt the following possibilities:

  • Increasing quantity of your work outcomes
  • Improving quality of your career progress
  • Deepening your creativity in inspired storytelling, expressed dreams, and problem-solving

For clearer focus, specify what being productive actually means to you. That will help you make improved choices about effective action or postponement. The more concrete you can be, the easier it is to follow through, and stay motivated and know what to let slide.

If you’re a bit unsure about your situation and use words such as “more” in this title, you may feel overwhelmed by too much to do or vagueness of boundaries. Knowing what is “enough” is elusive.

Instead, carve out the most valuable focus for productivity in your life in order to use your time and energy well. Does it relate to a particular project, objective, or hope? To lasso your possibly rambunctious choice, try describing what it is and what you plan to accomplish in fewer than several sentences. To assist yourself, perhaps explore Daniel Goleman’s book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Now that you’ve expressed what you want to accomplish, think about why you want to do it ─ the meaning it has for you. Sometimes naming associated emotions provides additional insight. So, just name a few such as excited or joyful. If what comes up is neutral or negative, that can help you figure out whatever resistance you may have.

To further support your understanding of what you want to be productive about, consider your level of ambition related to what you want to do. Is it high, moderate, or low? Also consider how viable your choice is. Are the aims you seek probable, possible or uncertain?

With the clarifications you’ve made in mind, I hope this general guidance from Wharton management professor Adam Grant is beneficial. An expert practitioner of productivity, Grant says “To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.” Although this makes great sense, unfortunately not everyone’s situation can support his strategy.

Whatever you decide to do, and can do, you may find reassurance from this quote by educator and political scientist, Herbert Kaufman: “Failure is only postponed success as long as courage 'coaches' ambition. ... Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

How do other people’s expectations connect with what you’ve described for improved productivity? The more in sync your approach with others’ relevant interests, the better your experience and results could be. That also promises greater pleasure in the process of what you are producing as well.

If there’s a gulf between their and your expectations, try negotiating to close it insofar as possible. Easier said than done, I know, but at least you’ll have a realistic sense of what may help you or get in the way of meeting your goals. If not already familiar with Getting to Yes, listen to William Ury’s nineteen-minute TED talk. His book on Getting Together is also useful.

Once you select and adapt any suggestions above that work for you and take some, practical small steps, you’ll be positioning yourself to strengthen your productivity. Avoid the distraction of “more,” in favor of being focused enough to identify what you truly want to do, levels of ambition and related expectations. The clarifications you’ve made and related actions will combine to smooth your path forward.

Being clear about what improved productivity specifically means to you, will clarify why you want to do something. That awareness could help you figure out what to let slide.

Do I hear you saying, “But there’s so much important stuff to do! What could I possibly let slide?” That’s the point. You do have some ways to decide that. To start, base your choice on the importance and appeal of the one particular matter you’ve just chosen for focus.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Balance Your Love Life And Career Without Killing Yourself

To choose your priorities about letting things slide, this list may help you decide. Anything under the first bullet can be “slideable.”

  • Crucial to do now for a work product, professional goal, or creative outcome.
  • Crucial, but can be postponed until ______________.
  • Good to do now; I will postpone it until ___________ (within a few months).
  • Nice to do now so can put it on hold until __________.
  • Nice to do, whenever

After using the bullets above to decide what you want to let slide, another possible strategy for letting anything go is to untangle your thinking. As you can, squelch habits such as overthinking the choices, catastrophizing about what may happen, or berating yourself over what you’ll let slide ─ or not. Maybe the following suggestion will also enrich your repertoire and options.

A productive alternative when you let something slide is to not let it go entirely. Delegate the matter to your dreaming time, to your unconscious mind. Briefly capture in writing key words of ideas and ahas as they float up. Perhaps entice an interested colleague to engage with aspects of what you’re decided to let slide.

Little would be lost by staying open to and curious about related possibilities. Your very receptivity could invite some unexpected small, related adventures. Then you won’t have to start from scratch if you want to return to what you let slide.

For example, I’ve succumbed again to one of my bad habits by starting a pile of paper related to a new book idea. Not entirely smart, I’ll still have to eventually organize it. But it’s better than facing an empty screen when I’m ready to write on the topic.

For additional sources about being productive at the level you choose as well as deciding what to let slide, pick just one of the following books to at least skim. That could help keep the ideas in this article and your own active and productive:

RELATED: How To Change Your Life For The Better (& Why Your Brain Tries To Stop You)

Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future on the Books page at her website, where you’ll also find your invitation for a free consultation.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.