I spend a lot of time sharing productivity tips with my students. I’m definitely “the productivity girl.” I am far from the most productive person, but I do feel very passionate about maximizing my productivity and using my time valuably.
Even if I’m not always perfect, there are some things I strive not to do.
I spend a lot of time telling people what they can do to be more productive. But I think it would be worthwhile to share the five things that I’ve found, in general, productive people do not do.
1 – Productive people don’t prioritize other peoples’ agendas over their own.
I was listening to The Strategy Hour Podcast the other day and was totally struck by this seemingly obvious reminder. (If you haven’t ever listened to this podcast, by the way, it is CHOCK FULL of great productivity tips and other general advice.)
But anyway: How do you spend your first few hours of the day? If you spend your most productive hours of the day answering emails and getting your inbox under control, you are spending your brightest, most alert, most awake hours of your workday focusing on someone else’s agenda.
How absolutely bonkers is that?
Don’t spend your best hours focusing on someone else’s agenda. Don’t put someone else’s goals or priorities for their job over your goals or priorities for your job. Be a good team player and a good coworker and employee, but respect yourself and treat yourself well.
With my staff, I encourage people to bring me their great ideas but to always take initiative with them. I ask them to draft a memo, present their findings and get as far on the idea as they can with my support. It builds independence and lets them learn new skills, without taking me away from priorities I have always identified.
2 – Productive people don’t attend every meeting or event they’re invited to.
If you are a great person to have in meetings, then people will want you to be in more meetings. The more meetings you attend, the less time you have to focus on things that matter to you.
Don’t accept every invitation that is sent your way, and minimize how many meetings you suggest, too. Only suggest a meeting when a conversation really needs to be had, and minimize the attendees. Smaller meetings will be more productive every time – not to mention shorter.
3 – Productive people don’t always say yes.
“No” is your best friend if you’re a productive person. Maybe it’s not always a straight up no, but try it on for size once in a while. Maybe it’s a “One day, but not right now” or a “I wish, but I am not the right person for this.”
Think about what other people are asking you to do and be honest. Does this request align with your priorities? Do you feel enthusiastic about the ask? Can you respond “Yes” without any hesitation, or are you skeptical?
You can say no. In fact, I encourage it sometimes.
4 – Productive people don’t shy away from accountability.
If you want to be a truly productive person, you need to be aware of external and internal forces holding you accountable. You can’t avoid accountability! If a coworker or supervisor asks for something of you and you do say yes, you need to deliver – or be honest why you can’t. If you promise yourself that you will go to the gym, you need to stay true to yourself and do it.
Be aware of the things that motivate you and the forces in your life, and let yourself open up to the accountability. Own up when you can’t do something you said you would. You’ll learn from the experience and it will benefit you in the long run.
5 – Productive people don’t multitask.
I do say there are two kinds of multitasking – safe multitasking and dangerous multitasking. Safe multitasking is something like listening to a podcast or an audiobook while you fold laundry, or calling your mom (on speakerphone!) during your commute from work.
Dangerous multitasking is the kind productive people do not do. That’s working on two important tasks at the same time that both deserve your full focus, or trying to work on homework while listening to your professor talk. You are doing a half-ass job on both tasks, instead of a full-ass job on one. Stop the multitasking.