Everybody knows we live in an age of distraction. We have so many different things vying for our attention that it’s hard to focus on any one thing, let alone make progress on the multitude of tasks we have on our plates.
A lot of productivity advice would tell you that you need to cut out the distractions. If email or social media are distracting you, simply get away from them or use a program to block them for the amount of time you need to complete a task.
Here’s the problem: Being distraction-free doesn’t equal productivity. I’m a writer, and as a writer, I’m always working on building my platform and trying to connect with potential readers on social media. But there are times when I need to disconnect and just write.
How to Adopt A Productive Mindset
But just because you get away from the distractions doesn’t mean you’ll be productive with the time you have. As a writer, for example, it’s easy to justify doing anything other than writing as research or creative thinking.
We start to think that if we’re doing something, then we’re being productive. But you can work really hard at the wrong things, fooling yourself into thinking that you’re moving forward when you’re really just spinning your wheels.
The key to productivity is adopting a productive mindset and learning how to focus your creative energy on the things that matter.
1. Know Your Why
Leadership expert Simon Sinek says in his book Start with Why that “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s book is all about discovering the why that drives productivity and effectiveness.
There’s a why behind everything that we do, but it’s not always a conscious why. We eat breakfast in the morning probably because we’re hungry, but we don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the purpose behind our desire to eat breakfast.
Having a productive mindset starts with identifying why you do the things you do.
Questions like these force you to do some serious evaluation of your priorities because you’ll discover that the reason why you do some things isn’t a good enough reason to continue doing those things.
Knowing your why involves looking at your productivity strategy and identifying exactly what you hope to accomplish with all that you do and what motivates you to do it.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to move into the next step, which requires you to eliminate some of the things you do that aren’t aiding in your productivi
2. Identify the Tasks that Make You the Most Productive
Any productivity system inevitably includes making a list at some point of all the tasks you have to do. This is good practice because it allows you to see on paper what you’re spending your creative energies on.
It also forces you to see obvious disconnects between the more important things you do and the less important.
What are the tasks that make you the most productive?
Working hard isn’t enough to be successful at doing what you love because you can work hard at things that are only drying up your creative energy instead of creating results.
You have to identify the things that are most worth your time because they’re the most rewarding in terms of productivity.
If you’re a teacher and you want to learn how to better engage students in your class, researching engagement methods can be good, but there can also be a point when researching is only a practice in inactivity.
You have to identify what is going to be most productive for your context, which will likely include identifying the needs and interests of your students rather than reading about the strategies other teachers have used on their students.
Whatever it is you do for a living, identify the tasks that will make you the most productive in your professional arena.
3. Focus Your Creative Energy by Challenging Yourself
Once you have a list of the tasks that will make you the most productive, you need a strategy for actually completing those tasks. This is where going above and beyond the simple elimination of distractions is vital.
If you really want to get tasks completed, you have to challenge yourself. Tap into your naturally competitive nature and use it to your advantage.
Set a timer for a specific amount of time and challenge yourself to complete as much of a task as you can within that time frame. Of course, you want to complete the task well, so avoid using the timer as an excuse to do mediocre work.
Challenging yourself to complete a task in a certain amount of time assumes that you’ll be free of distractions.
Distractions would get in the way of reaching your goal.
A timed runner doesn’t stop to play a game or send a text message in the middle of a race because she realizes those distractions would only hinder her ability to reach her goal.
For a specific timing strategy, you might want to check out the Pomodoro Technique, which involves alternating between timed working on a task followed by a short break before the next dive back into the task.
“Challenge yourself everyday to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.” – Robert Tew
4. Be Passionate About Results
A productive mindset requires a high degree of commitment to getting the job done. When the process makes you weary, it’s the results and your why that will drive you to keep going.
As a writer, it can be really easy to give up in the middle of a story because the process is starting to feel slow and unrewarding. But the story isn’t finished, and the only way I can see the result of a finished story is to keep going.
If you’re lucky, you’ll love what you do, but don’t focus too much on loving what you do because on some days, you won’t.
On those days, you still need to be productive, so when you’re not passionate about the process, at least be passionate about the results so that you’ll keep going to see the results in the end.
If you want to be more productive, you have to start with adopting a productive mindset. You’ll only make things happen when you begin to focus your creative energy on the things that matter.
How did you adopt a productive mindset?