The problem with productivity

Wooden figure climbing wooden blocks to reach productivity block.

Image source: Adobe stock.

In 2020, the world has fundamentally changed in just a few months — and so has our concept of productivity.

Productivity used to feel very straightforward. Way back in 2019, higher productivity was relatively easy. At least, it felt that way. But our former view of productivity does not work anymore. Times have changed. The concept of productivity has fundamentally evolved.

Before the pandemic struck, we made some informed predictions about how productivity was already primed for a paradigm shift. And in many instances, we were right — the meaning of productivity really has changed. If anything, we underestimated the full extent of the changes.

Back in April, we said productivity boils down to intentionality. Instead of just racking up emails sent, meetings attended, and deliverables delivered, we suggested taking a step back to discover and identify the true intent behind everything you do to drive true advancement.

It is a smart approach that is even more relevant today. Whether it is condensing an hour-long meeting into a focused, 15-minute session, or by strategically unplugging to bringing your full presence and awareness into whatever you have right in front of you, productivity is intertwined with your approach to work.

The premise is as simple as thinking before you dive in. Start by being clear with yourself and others about the results you expect. Set a specific focus and intent for every block of time on your calendar, every email response, and every meeting you accept.

Take time for yourself, your friends and your family. Decide what is truly important — and focus on that. It can be a morning mediation or dinner prep or a designated exercise time. You will quickly find the productivity means a lot more than just checking boxes on a to-do list or clearing out your inbox. It is connected to every aspect of your whole life.

Back in January, before terms like self-quarantine and social distancing became part of the daily conversation, we suggested an even more radical approach to productivity. Our proposal? Dump productivity already. There is no real point in today’s digital-first world.

At the time, we said the future of productivity is not about being more productive, but about becoming more creative — with an assist from technology innovations like big data, machine learning and AI.

And we were definitely gazing into a power crystal ball on this one. This realization rings truer than ever as we converted our homes into home offices. With countless powerful digital tools automating many of most mundane aspects of productivity, the very idea of productivity has rapidly changed.

Human productivity has become a measure of creative expression and happiness instead of a pristine inbox or an exhaustive list of scheduled virtual meetings. So, schedule that walk. Set parameters around each and every meeting. Make having a clear intent and your passions your top priorities. This new lens of productivity is a transformative and welcome leap from simply doing and making things faster. It is about thinking smarter and increasing joy whenever we can find it.