Your Productivity Prescription

Your Productivity Prescription

This is a guest post by Haider Al-Mosawi

Productivity is a hot topic in personal growth literature. But with all the resources and tips out there, we don’t seem to be getting more productive. In fact, we’re spending too much time trying to digest productivity resources that we could’ve spent actually being productive!

The productivity tips we read can have short-term effects, but we tend to return to our old, unproductive routines. This leads us to consider the following conclusions:

  1. There’s something wrong with us: We don’t have the productivity gene some people seem to have
  2. Productivity tips and tricks simply don’t work: We’re being lied to about how to be productive
  3. We need more tips and tricks: What we’ve come across isn’t enough, or isn’t right for us

The third conclusion leads us to continue our pursuit of productivity tips that work, only to continue the cycle of unproductive behavior.

So what is the problem? Why can’t we seem to be productive?

To answer these questions, we need to change the way we look at productivity and, therefore, the approach we take dealing with it.

Unproductive Behavior As A Symptom

The biggest mistake we make in trying to be productive is assuming that lack of productivity (usually in the form of procrastination) is the problem, when it is, in fact, the symptom of a deeper problem. And in the same way that symptoms can be caused by a number of possible problems (a.k.a. diseases), we must first understand the root cause of our unproductive behavior.

Diagnose The Problem

Now that we know that our lack of productivity isn’t the problem (but a symptom of our problem), we can begin our search to find the underlying productivity problem.

At times we procrastinate because we don’t want to do a task, and other times we don’t know how to do it (and so end up putting it off!). We can be gripped by the fear of failure, or we might even be held back by the fear of success. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the load of work you have to do and ended up not doing anything? Or how about not knowing what you’re meant to be doing in the first place?

Your productivity can suffer if your energy level is low, or if you’re slow when working.

All these different types of productivity problems have different causes, which cannot be overcome with the same generic solution. There’s no Panadol to remedy our lack of productivity! We need to use the right cure for the right productivity disease.

Getting The Right Prescription

By having the right understanding of our productivity problem, we can look for the right prescription to effectively cure it.

  • What can we do to enjoy a task we’ve been dreading or loathing?
  • What can we do to find out how a task is to be carried out?
  • How can we overcome the fear of failure or the fear of success?
  • How can we boost our energy level?
  • How can we develop our skills and speed up our work?
  • How can we reduce distractions and find focus?

Answers to these specific questions will help us find the right prescriptions, rather than posing the vague question of: How do we become more productive?

Taking Our Medication

It’s very easy to read advice, but reading doesn’t change our situation, in the same way that having a prescription slip doesn’t cure us from illness. We need to take our medication and put the productivity tips into use. This may seem obvious, but our obsession with productivity tips can be all-consuming, that we no longer realize why we were searching for productivity tips in the first place!

Stocking Our Medicine Cabinet

Productivity tips can be immensely useful, but they must be used to treat the right productivity problem. In order to effectively tackle any and every productivity problem we face, we need to stock our “medicine cabinets” with these productivity tips, and use them when necessary.

We must also get rid of the tips that have never been effective, regardless of the productivity problem we’ve faced. Some tips simply don’t work. There’s no use trying them out again and again.

With that you’re now equipped with the right approach to lead a great and productive life.

So what’s stopping you?

That’s what you have to find out!

Haider Al-Mosawi writes about leading a balanced life and making the most out of personal growth resources (without being consumed by them) over at his blog:

Posted by in Productivity | October 15, 2009 | Digg | | Stumble | Print | 7 comments

  • Gordie Rogers

    Getting rid of unnecessary tasks is a start. Outsourcing others can also help. Then, follow your suggestions above. Doing all of these should greatly increase our productivity.

  • Alex Shalman

    Very energizing post Haider – really makes me want to crushit!!

  • fas

    Lazyness and procrastination is the foremost in stopping people.

  • Haider

    @Gordie: Thank you for your input. I believe your two suggestions can be arrived at during the diagnostic test. Why am I unproductive?

    – I’m wasting my time on unnecessary tasks

    – I’m trying to do everything myself

    Then ask yourself the specific questions:

    – How can I get rid of unnecessary tasks?

    – How can I delegate to others?

    Then search for specific actions to take to rid yourself of these problems.

    @Alex: I’m glad you like it! I had to add a medical twist to the article now that you’re in dental school! 😉

    And, once again, thank you for the opportunity to write for your blog.

    @fas: Laziness and procrastination are also symptoms of deeper problems. There’s not one reason for why these obstacles to productivity arise. For example, laziness can be due to inactivity or poor nutrition. You need to identify the specific cause of laziness and procrastination in order to defeat them!

  • Stephen – Rat Race Trap

    Hi Haider. Yes we really have to take our medicine (actually do something) and not just read the prescription. I was more or less a professional at “We need more tips and tricks: What we’ve come across isn’t enough, or isn’t right for us” for a long time. I finally realized I actually need to practice some of what I had learned.

  • Haider

    Hi Stephen,

    I totally agree with you. It’s amazing how much anxiety and fear we can build up simply trying to resist taking our medicine!

    Having said that, the anxiety is caused by doubt. We’re not sure whether the medicine is the right kind of medicine for our situation, which is why a clear diagnosis and hopefully an “aha!” moment would make the medicine much easier to swallow!

  • Haider

    Eh? Sorry, I meant the anxiety is *sometimes* caused by doubt!

    That sounded a bit funny.. 😛