Productive, busy, or fruitful?

June 14, 2022
De Goede

Before the pandemic I would have said that we are not very conscious of the way we spend our allotted hours during the day – with multiple hours being spent in traffic, more hours spent at work than with family and then all the other aspects of life filling the gaps.

Post-lockdown, although the pandemic is still very real, we seem to have grown in our awareness and mindfulness of how our days are spent. It is almost as though there has been a mindset shift from selflessness to self-preservation. I choose this term intentionally as many may be tempted to give in to feelings of guilt or listen to peers who would say it is selfish to have this outlook.

Is it selfish or is it what is needed in today's society?

I came across a post on LinkedIn that spoke to the conundrum many CEOs are facing at this time: CEOs are generally seen as more extroverted than the rest of us and they thrive off interacting with employees, having brainstorming sessions, and just generally connecting.  Many of us, although not all, are on the other side - we may not mind the odd interruption to our workflow but we find purpose and value in being able to cocoon ourselves in a quiet space and get on with our work until it is done so that we can spend time doing the things we love/enjoy (not that work can’t be enjoyable but you get what I mean).

The post goes on to say CEOs are faced with this new, post-lockdown world where they would be tempted to rush back to the office but many of their employees may feel conflicted at this idea because they have found productivity and freedom in their quiet spaces. (Writing this blog, I cannot find the LinkedIn post anywhere!)

As we consider working remotely, going back to the office or adopting a more hybrid structure we can probably all agree that it would be beneficial to equip ourselves with practical tools to keep organised and on top of our work in a way that doesn't stifle creativity.  This brings me to something that could probably be another blog post all on its own: finding tools that are both helpful and healthy.

Helpful or Healthy?

I have a theory that there are strategies we can use in life that can be helpful but not necessarily healthy, in other words, they might make us feel less stressed by they are not good for us health-wise (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.).

Busyness is one of these things, in my opinion.  I know I can often do so many things when I am feeling overwhelmed with work, and I will look extremely busy and feel extremely busy but when taking a step back I will notice that I am just avoiding the real task that is bringing pressure! This is often referred to as procrastination and we will have a blog post dedicated to this topic later in the year.

There are two main aims of this blog post: number 1, to give you some top tips for productivity and number 2, to normalize fruitfulness.

My top tips for productivity are:

Tidy up
  • Having a clear desk/workspace means there are fewer things to distract and suck us into the realm of procrastination.
Write a list
  • It can be helpful to write up a list of what needs to be done before the end of the day (emphasis on before the end of the day! Don’t clutter your to-do list with bigger projects).
  • Write on paper/Google Tasks/Asana, etc. I prefer pen and paper but it isn’t always practical.
  • Try stick to today’s tasks (urgent vs important)
  • Some people find it helpful to start with the biggest task, others find it helps to start with a smaller task and build some momentum – find what works for you!
  • There are two types of lists you can write up:
  • A to-do list that details everything you would like to accomplish today
  • A don’t list of the things you should stay away from today
  • As you go through the list scratch off what has been done – it brings a great feeling of accomplishment.
Make a cuppa
  • I find it helpful that once I have written up my list to then make a cup of coffee/tea
  • It helps in avoiding that 15-minute slump and feeling the need to get up halfway through the task to get something to drink
Stick to consistent break times
  • Example: work with 50 minutes then take 10 minutes to stretch your legs, have a bathroom break, get some water.
Stick to your boundaries
  • If you are working and someone asks if you have time to chat, then feel free to say no and ask if you can chat at a time that suits you.

What is the difference between productivity and fruitfulness?

I was at a conference recently and one of the speakers said, “it is okay for something to be fruitful but not productive”.  They were making reference to people who like to have everything under control (like me!) and it challenged me so much!  Can we start to normalize something, whether it is a conversation, a brainstorming session, a day, being fruitful without it having been productive?  A productive day may look like scratching everything off your to-do list but what about a day where thought-provoking conversations were had, or you made a massive breakthrough in your design but weren’t able to tick it off because it isn’t complete. That day should be viewed as just as much a success as your day where you ticked everything off your list.

Don’t dread the upcoming changes to your work environment, rather embrace the challenges they may bring.  Embrace the old familiarity or the newness of it all.Don’t forget, you’ve got this!

Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on the topic of productivity versus busyness.

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