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4 ideas to transform how you see productivity

“Productivity” has become quite the business buzzword. Maybe just reading it makes you picture all of the blog posts you’ve seen, touting tricks to clear your inbox faster or recommending the latest, snazzy to-do list apps to install on your phone or tablet.

Sure, those things are fun, but there’s a deeper meaning to productivity, too. And unless you’re taking this big-picture view, all the tips and tools out there won’t make a big difference in your life.

Ready to shift your thinking? Here are three unconventional ideas about productivity to take to heart.

“Busy” doesn’t equal “productive.” Have you ever noticed that everyone seems to love talking about — and sometimes even bragging about — how busy they are? But being busy doesn’t mean a whole lot in itself. Think about those days when you’ve powered through tons of tasks, only to realize you didn’t get anything done that was truly important to you. Let’s go back to the dictionary for the old-school, pre-buzzword meaning of productivity: “achieving or producing a significant result.” Significant results don’t have anything to do with how busy you are. And they don’t have to be huge, life-changing or a big deal to anybody else but you. The only criterion is that the results you achieve are significant to you, whether that means finishing a proposal, making a phone call that’s been weighing on you or finding time to work out.

Days are building blocks. Productivity tips often deal with meetings, emails, planning and other everyday tasks that, admittedly, can be kind of dull. It helps to remember why you want to manage your email and your schedule better in the first place: Those hours you lose when you don’t manage them, or when you feel like you’re achieving everyone else’s goals but your own, add up. Missed moments become unproductive days. And unproductive days build into years where you don’t make headway on your goals or your “bucket list.”

Change starts with control. So how do you instead create days that build up to a life of significant results? Control where your attention goes. You have a finite amount of attention to give, and it’s up to you to decide how to invest it. Don’t allow distractions to hijack your day. If you manage your attention and what it produces each day, then you can orient your productivity toward the larger, and more rewarding, goals of your life. You’ll be more hireable — the ability to focus is shaping up to be one of the top job skills of the 21st century — and you’ll be happier. That’s the heart of productivity, and what makes it more than the latest buzzword.

Think of productivity like golf. If you invested in exactly the same set of clubs that Tiger Woods plays with, you wouldn’t magically start to play like a PGA pro, right? And if Tiger Woods grabbed any random club out of your bag, and used it to play the whole round, his game likely wouldn’t be up to “Tiger” standards. The point of this analogy is that even if you have every new app and shiny gadget, if you don’t have the “methodology,” (the “Tiger Woods know-how), the tools won’t matter. But without the right tools, even the best methodology won’t serve you as well as it could.

Would you like to delve more deeply into these ideas about productivity? Here’s some recommended reading:

Why multitasking isn’t really productive
What should be part of your productivity process
The relationship between productivity and happiness
The secret to productivity is continuous improvement

Are you making your employees less productive?

[Tweet “4 ideas to transform how you see productivity via @mnthomas #BusinessTips”]

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About Maura Thomas

Maura Thomas is a 20-year veteran of the productivity industry, and founded Regain Your Time in 2003. As a national expert and thought-leader, she developed a workflow management process for getting things done called the Empowered Productivity(TM) System. Her success with this System led one of the largest publishers in the world, John Wiley &…