Throughout my entire life, I’ve been trying to find the ultimate productivity formula.

When I was a student, I strived to be the best one I could possibly be. So, I went to classes during the days, worked during the afternoons, and studied during the nights. I managed to submit all papers on time and I never failed an exam.

I thought I was productive.

When I started my work as a freelancer, productivity meant more money. This is not a job that comes with a fixed paycheck. The volume of work you do determines the amount you earn. So I worked more. I was seeking for new productivity tips and tools all the time, trying different techniques when I wanted to produce more work in a shorter period of time.

For all this time, I failed to understand: what is productivity, exactly?

Really… What is productivity?

In its simplest explanation, productivity on a personal level means to achieve more within the same period of time and with the same resources. It doesn’t mean to work more to achieve more. That’s not productivity; it’s just more of the same work you’ve been doing. That was my main mistake.

When trying to increase productivity at work, it doesn’t mean you should add more working hours in a day. That’s what I did. It didn’t work.

Let me tell you a little story, so we’ll understand what productivity is NOT.

During my first two years as a freelancer, I spent 12+ hours a day in front of the computer. No kidding! I was amazed to see that writing was making me more money than my previous job and I was happy about it. I thought was productive.

What else did I do during a working day?

I took a small break to prepare lunch and eat. Then I went back to work and went on, well into the night.

During weekends, I had all the time in the world to walk by the lake, meet friends, and enjoy life. But I didn’t do any of that. I had to clean the apartment on Saturday and I was too tired to do anything on Sunday, waiting for the new session of exhaustion to begin on Monday.

Of course, I hit the point of burnout. Several times! I kept picking myself up and moving on with the same pace.

What is productivity? NOT THAT! Productivity is not exhaustion. It doesn’t mean more work, more hours, more effort. It simply means being more effective within your normal working hours.

Do you know how I realized that I misunderstood the concept of work productivity? I no longer talked to my friends and cousins. I quit yoga. I was in a teacher’s training program but I realized I didn’t have time for that. It affected my so-called productivity formula. My partner and I were getting distant. My life was boring.

It took me a lot of thinking and some time to reduce the work volume and focus on actual productivity tips. I’m making a bit less money now. But I cut back on more than half of my working hours and the difference in income is not that drastic. At this point, I’m more productive than I’ve ever been.

5 Productivity Tips that Worked for Me

1. Balance Is Essential

Work productivity is not proportional to the number of working hours. It’s proportional to your satisfaction with the work and life in general.

“Work on your willpower” is one of the most common productivity tips I ran into when I was trying to become more effective. But willpower is a limited resource. The more you force it, the more it gives up on you. That’s called ego depletion and it’s a real thing. If you use your entire energy to reach a particular goal, you reach the state of ego depletion. You’re tired and you can’t force your willpower no matter how hard you try.

Balance between work and life is the only thing that can restore your enthusiasm to work. When I went back to yoga and reestablished the connections with the people I love, I started liking my job again. So, I was able to do it better.

2. Think of a Reasonable Productivity Formula

  • First, set your goals. What exactly do you want to achieve?
  • Set a deadline for reaching a goal. How much time do you have by that date?
  • Plan what steps you’ll make towards that deadline. Work on the goal every single day, but do it within a reasonable timeframe. You cannot work for the entire day. It’s possible, but it’s a strategy that leads you to a burnout.
  • If you realize that this goal requires too much work, find a way to complete the same volume of work within a shorter period of time. That will be your productivity formula. You can do it by outsourcing, using the right tools, and limiting distractions.

3. Outsource!

When I wanted to keep doing the same volume of work but increase my work productivity, do you know what I did? I hired an editor. That eliminated at least half an hour of work per article, so I was done with my tasks way sooner. I also outsourced preparing lunch. I started buying it.

Think: is there an aspect of your work and daily responsibilities that you can outsource? If you realize that there’s no such an opportunity, maybe it’s time to hire an assistant. You can do that if you’re the boss. If not, it’s time to talk to your boss and explain that you can’t handle the same workload alone any longer.

4. Use the Right Tools

Have you heard of the “tech productivity” concept? It means using technology that makes you more productive.

Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, Todoist… whatever planning app you like, use it. I found that planning and note-taking apps have huge power to increase productivity at work.

When I write my plan for the day, it keeps me responsible. Since I got serious about daily to-dos, I cut down on working hours. With time, I also realized I was accepting too much work, since it was hard for me to fit it within a daily plan.

5. Limit Distractions

I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I love it because my feed is too pretty. I follow all the yoga influencers and I love looking at their photos. But I also hate Instagram because it’s distracting. I can spend 30 minutes watching stories like my life depends on it.

So I started using distraction-blocking extensions on Google Chrome. I also leave my phone and tablet in the other room during working hours. When social media is blocked from all sources, I have no other choice but to work.

Find Your Strength!

What is productivity for you? Do you have the right understanding of the concept?

I didn’t. I was completely wrong about the ways to get more productive and I pushed myself at the edge.

We can all become more efficient, we just need to balance out the work with things that make us happy.

James Dorian is a technical copywriter. He is a tech geek who knows a lot about modern apps that will make your work more productive. James reads tons of online blogs on technology, business, and ways to become a real pro in our modern world of innovations. Read his another productivity article on how to uninstall apps on Mac.



Image courtesy of Bench Accounting.