Jul 25, 2020

Thoughts on productivity


On days I don't feel "productive", I get quite annoyed. One such day happened this week but instead of getting annoyed, I accepted it and even wrote a short post about the same. 

Later in the day, I asked myself - What is productivity? When do I find myself "productive"?

The dictionary definition of the word might be different but the answer I have come up with is


I feel productive when my thoughts, words and actions are in alignment.

Let me explain with the help of a flow diagram. Being a computer engineer, a flowchart will find its way in my thought process 😉


Our thoughts lead to words; words that we tell ourselves as well as words that we tell our family/friends/social media. These words lead us toward action. When we act upon these words, we feel productive and experience a sense of accomplishment.

When the thought/word doesn't convert to the intended action, that's when the misalignment happens and we end up feeling unproductive.

Most of the productivity books focus too much on how we can optimize the Action - making todo lists, grouping or organizing the todo lists, time blocking, prioritizing top 3 tasks to complete etc.

Instead of adding more and more things to be actioned, let's pause for a moment and think about the precursor/trigger to action - thoughts and words.

A few questions to ponder before adding a new task to our to-do list:
  1. What is the source of this task? Where does it stem from?
  2. Why do I want to add this task?
  3. How would I feel when I check this item off?
  4. What are the consequences if I don't work on this task now?
A conscious decision of not taking up a task gives contentment and peace. It inculcates the practice of Saying No to the many different tasks and triggers that come our way. We can merely observe, maybe jot it down somewhere and not make it a current priority.

For example, we might think of meal planning as a task to solve a problem we face. We can either make it a priority OR decide whether it is feasible to focus on it this week. I have walked through the process using the same flow diagram.   



There were times when I used to feel happy about having long to-do lists but not anymore. Given the current situation, I'm feeling content if I can accomplish fewer planned tasks in a day. Moreover, as I'm shifting towards mindful content consumption, I do notice that the number of thoughts that would get added as to-do tasks has gone down. 

The more our thoughts, words and actions are aligned, the more productive and content we feel. But for the alignment to happen, we need to become more aware of the thoughts and words that precede action. The next time you feel inclined to add a task to your to-do list, take a pause, understand the trigger (s) and decide whether it is worth adding to your list.

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