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Ditch the Checklist, Productivity is Not About Numbers

Ditch the Checklist, Productivity is Not About Numbers
image credit: Shutterstock

In your quest to become a successful entrepreneur, you’ve no doubt tried to implement productivity hacks. You’ve made lists and then crossed items off said lists. You’ve even rocked the Inbox Zero method.

I hate to tell you this, but you’ve been cheated.

Think about it, how many hours did you lose trying to implement all these hacks? While you’re focused on the instant gratification of crossing things off, how much of your focus is on the quality of work you’re producing? Your strikethroughs are impeccable, but your work is maybe mediocre at best.

That glow from your empty inbox won’t help you there.

These hacker-style tips make you believe that it’s all about the numbers, but doesn’t take into account your performance. It’s like finishing a marathon using a scooter -- sure, those miles are behind you, but no one will commend you on your hard work. The same goes for your task list. Everything is checked off, but you end up feeling guilty because you didn’t put forth your best effort.

Related: Your Time Is Money, So Stop Wasting It

Instead of lists and numbers, productivity should be about focusing on one thing and doing it well.

Have you ever heard of flow psychology? It’s when you’re entirely absorbed on one task at a time. You’re not distracted by anything else and you’re eager to work on whatever’s in front of you.

Scheduling your “flow” can be tough. It tends to happen naturally, especially during that specific time of day where you feel most creative and ready to conquer the world. Once you are in it though, you crank out high-quality work, something even the world’s best productivity hacker would be impressed by.

Focus can be daunting and exhausting, but when your attention is undivided, your work is often better and you are much more productive. You don’t half-heartedly work on your tasks, or dread starting them. You are on top of it all and feeling confident.

You eat, sleep, and work on a relatively set schedule. But how you focus during your waking hours is unpredictable. A bad night's sleep can throw off your whole day, but because routine is manageable, your productivity can be too. It’s about using the time you have wisely and with great discipline.

Try getting up early tomorrow to create a daily plan. Experiment with scheduling your day in 30 to 60 minute intervals and see what happens. Note what works and what doesn’t and adjust your routine over the course of the week.

Related: The 80/20 Rule and Listening to Your Inner Procrastinator

Some people work better without routines, but those are rare situations. Most people need a routine to avoid distraction and to keep themselves accountable. Achieving focus can feel like magic, but creating a routine ensures your productivity is not just an illusion.

The last step to achieving real productivity? Results. After you’ve worked on your task at the right time (your flow) at the designated time (your routine), you’ll marvel in the quality of your results. It’s this quality that you should always expect when you’re being truly productive.

Ultimately, productivity can be described as using your time wisely. Working smart instead of just throwing hours aimlessly at your to-do list.

Focus, routine and results are the key ingredients for getting you to this point.  

That said: everyone works differently. You may not be productive even with the help of a routine, but there is always a way to get high-quality work done. You just need to identify the triggers that distract you and eliminate them altogether.  Then make use of a solid routine and fully embrace the power of flow.

Validate your productivity system today by evaluating the outcome. Productivity and pride in your work should always happen in tandem.

Related: A Structured Day Can Keep Wasted Time at Bay

Renée Warren is co-founder of Onboardly, a company focused on helping funded technology startups and mid-sized entrepreneurial minded companies be more visible and acquire more customers. It does this through content marketing, startup PR and social media. Subscribe to its blog here.

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