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Hard work and productivity

The day that I discovered the pivot table function in Microsoft Excel changed my life forever. Prior to being introduced to this marvel of modern intention, I was collating large numbers of data manually. Yes, manually.  It was arduous but surprisingly fulfilling. Was I working hard? Of course I was, but I could hardly say I was being particularly productive or making the most of my time. Focusing on productivity instead of hard work is difficult. It requires you to be honest with yourself and to do the one thing that many of us hate the most…change (gasp!). While change doesn’t seem great at first, it can be in the long run given the right investments.

Why is change necessary?

Simply put, Hard work has no intrinsic value. The true value lies in being productive, in achieving your goals and becoming happy. Hard work in and of itself bears no reward unless of course you’re lifting weights and that is a subject that is wildly outside of my expertise. This means that if there is an easier or more efficient way to work, then hard work may simply not be necessary.

So what are some tips to shift the focus from hard work to productivity?

  1. Outsourcing can be your best friend: ‘Head cook and bottle washer’ may feel like a noble title, but it is a recipe for a nervous breakdown. Why do it all yourself when you can have experts do a much better job in the areas that you’re not good at? Once the experts are busy doing the peripheral tasks, you can focus on the nucleus of the work and be home in time to have dinner with your family. That doesn’t sound so bad does it?  (Outsource it)
  2. Hard work can be the enemy of consistency: While hard work is admirable it’s not sustainable. Once burnout sets in, it will become painfully obvious that something has to change. Since success is built on consistency, hard work must give way to systems and efficiency. Start by thinking of tasks that can be automated. Do a little research, It may be simpler than you think. (Automate it)
  3. You’re not working hard, you just lack structure: Many of us toil away for hours on what should really be a one hour task. Why? Because we lack the training or organization skills to cut down our actual work time. If you find yourself in this scenario, get trained by the expert. If that is not an option, then make notes of the most effective way to do the task and then follow this road map each time. It may not get you down to one hour right away but it will certainly shave a considerable amount of time off your activity.  (Organize it)
  4. Work does not have to be hard to be valuable: A skillful worker does not have to work hard to be productive. They simply have to be very good at what they do. Once you’ve mastered a skill you’ll find that it becomes much easier over time. The trick to this one is that your work will become harder before it becomes easier. You may have to take a course, read a book, leave a job (I know, scary but sometimes necessary). Shake what’s holding you back from being a more skillful you. Once you’ve become a master, you will forever be a student as you’ll have to keep learning to maintain mastery but it’s worth it. (Master it)
  5. Some tasks aren’t even necessary: Take a close look at all the things that you do in a day. Are you spending most of your time on most important tasks? An easy way to spot an important task is if it adds value or revenue to your business. If you are spending time writing a newsletter for instance that no one actually reads, is it really worth the time and energy just to be able to say you wrote it? If it’s time you could have spent on more productive tasks then get rid of it. Your time is too valuable. (Trash it!)

Capstone: While hard work is quite often necessary it isn’t as indispensable as we might think. Start identifying the areas where you think your effort may be wasted. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Just tackle one task at a time until you’ve done a complete productivity overhaul. Good luck on your road to success!

Picture Source:

Marsha Dawkins

Learning and Development Consultant


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