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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The 2 Questions to Answer Before You Read Yet Another Productivity Article

With the new year, I’ve been seeing a ton of articles along the lines of “How to Make 2015 The Most Productive Year Ever” and “14 Best Productivity Tips from 2014” making the rounds.

And while I’ll certainly click on them (unsurprisingly), I’m also acutely aware that there’s nothing productive about reading them; it’s just another form of procrastination. And what’s more, they seem to be hailing productivity as the ultimate goal, no matter what, and no matter who is reading.

The truth is that, yes, every adult could benefit from being more productive in some part of his or her life, but not everyone needs to choose to make that their goal, nor does that apply blindly to every situation.

Before downloading another app, trying another shortcut, or reading yet another productivity article, take a moment to ask yourself the two following questions:

1. Why Do You Want to Be More Productive?

Yes, yes, I know you want to be productive, but why? A key differentiation to make is whether you want to do the same amount of work in less time or more work in the same amount of time.

It’s incredibly common for professionals to want to do the former (a.k.a., leave the office sooner, having done the work they needed to do) and end up doing the latter (leaving at the same time as always, just having done more). As a result, we set the bar ever higher for ourselves to accomplish more than what is possible in a normal workday, and we end up burning out. In many cases, the true purpose of a quest for productivity is to have more time for another part of one’s life, like family, friends, or hobbies. Without a regular reminder and good self-awareness, it’s easy to get into the groove of getting things done and forget to take the time for what inspired you to become a work-crushing machine to begin with.

So, as you start 2015, think about why you want to be more productive, and set a monthly reminder to make sure you’re using your time the way you set out to.

2. What Parts of Your Life Do You Not Want to Make More Productive?

This question is seldom asked, because it is assumed that more productive equals better, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’d like to be more productive when it comes to scheduling things (don’t we all), but the time I spend with friends and family doesn’t need to be more productive—it needs to be better spent and more often. And the time I spend being creative, designing mock-ups for new features on the site, isn’t time during which I’d like to be more productive. My goal for that time is to be more creative and to design better features. So, I’d rather take twice as long and have a killer design!

So, make sure to keep a mental or written list of the parts of your life that are exempt from your quest for productivity, and spend your efforts on the rest.

As one blogger recently put it, “the things I am most proud of have nothing to do with my productivity and everything to do with my presence.” Keep that in mind as you start tackling your 2015 to-do list. Happy new year!

Photo of laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.