Productivity Is Overrated When You Possess These 5 Traits
What if aiming for productivity was… counterproductive? By definition, productivity is “the rate at which a person, company, or country does useful work,” according to Cambridge Dictionary. So the goal is to do useful work at a higher rate, which tends to happen organically when you possess certain attributes.
From being an amazing decision-maker to having an insightful nature, the five traits below might just get you further than adopting all the productivity advice in the world.
1. Strong decision-making
“The most important trait you can have when it comes to offsetting the productivity-over-everything mindset is the ability to make good, fast decisions,” says shares Nell Wulfhart, a decision coach who helps people move forward and get things done.
“People spend too much time stressing and debating over decisions at work because they’re afraid to make the ‘wrong’ decision. But the quality of most decisions doesn’t actually improve in proportion with time spent!”
According to Wulfhart, the more efficiently you can make decisions, the less time you spend spinning your wheels. She suggests taking the amount of time you think you need for any given decision and cutting it in half. You can also train yourself to make faster decisions by practicing in low-stake settings such as what you want to eat for dinner (set a timer if you have to).
“At work, especially when it comes to workplaces that love to hold endless meetings to make decisions communally, you actually get less done when you put so much time into the process. When you can make fast, clean decisions, you get all that time back. You can invest it in the quality of the thing you’re doing instead, which also increases the chances that it will succeed,” she says.”
2. Effective prioritization
Productivity doesn’t matter if people are producing things that don’t matter, says Diane Gayeski, Ph.D., Professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications and performance consultant.
“For example, as a professor, I might be very productive in publishing many articles and books – but if this behavior doesn’t make a difference in the important metrics or success factors of my college, then it is not worthy performance,” she shares.
“In some universities where getting grants or recruiting more doctoral students is the goal, then this kind of publishing is an accomplishment. But if I’m in a college and focused on teaching undergraduate students who will never read these kinds of publications, it’s not of value.”
So focusing on high-impact activities is key, and what constitutes a high-impact activity is relative. Also, you can’t always quantify the impact, which matters if you focus on increasing metrics at the detriment of other results.
“Many managers focus too much on quantitative productivity and thereby inadvertently stifling creativity. For many companies, a breakthrough insight or innovation can be much more valuable than merely producing more of the same thing,” adds Gayeski.
At the end of the day, if you are great at aligning your efforts with the things that are most important for an organization, you are the epitome of productivity.
“What’s more important is aligning time and attention to the elements that can most impact an organization, and this can shift over time and is also dependent on leaders actually sharing those goals clearly and continuously.”
You might wonder how resilience and productivity are related. Marie-Helene Pelletier, Ph.D., MBA, a professional speaker, coach, and psychologist specialized in leadership resilience and workplace mental health, explains that resilience is a state that you have control over that directly impacts how you function.
“It influences all aspects of your life, including your productivity. So if you focus on just this one aspect, resilience, many other parts of your functioning will improve, and it does include your focus and memory, as well as your ability to keep perfectionism in check,” she says.
It makes sense: Your focus and memory will help you get more done in less time. And those perfectionist tendencies will have you taking slow decisions or working on a project forever, which is bad news for your productivity. To boost your resilience and mental health, Pelletier recommends implementing four habits on a weekly and daily basis: exercising, eating healthy, getting proper sleep and nurturing relationships.
4. A focus on simplicity and systems
“Some qualities that would help someone be more impactful without focusing on productivity is the natural desire to systematize things. For example, creating email templates or leveraging technology,” shares L’areal Lipkins, a speaker, corporate trainer and author who specializes in helping women elevate their mindset so they can achieve their goals.
“Another quality is someone who is lazy, but not in a bad, cutting corners way. Rather someone who says, what is the easiest and most efficient way to get this done? I find really educated or hardworking people actually can make tasks harder than they need to be.”
5. Insight and discernment
“Insight and discernment are some of the most important traits to be naturally impactful without needing to focus on productivity,” according to Shirani M. Pathak, a licensed therapist, consultant, and author
So if you tend to glean thoughtful insights that most people don’t even notice, you could be a productive powerhouse without ever picking up a single productivity book. It’s all about a heightened awareness of yourself, others and the world. And when you use the power of awareness to take action, you end up being more impactful.
“Through insight and discernment, you learn to tune in to the signals your brain, your body, and your nervous system are giving you, which will allow you to know exactly what to do, how to do it, and what might be getting in the way of getting it done,” says Pathak.
“From there you can make empowered, rather than fear-based or urgency based decisions, which allows your nervous system to settle down enough to work in collaboration with you, rather than putting you in a state of fight, flight, or freeze (which ultimately makes anything we produce subpar to what it could be).”