One of the things that I personally believe people admire athletes for is their ability to get things done at any cost. Whenever I see an athlete set a goal — in sports, business, health or just in life in general – they are laser-focused and diligent when it comes to reaching that outcome.
It doesn’t matter what the goal is or when it has to be completed, putting an athlete on the job almost 100% guarantees that goal will get accomplished. I’ve also noticed that this is one of the main reasons why employers like to hire athletes.
Employers know that athletes have had to maximize and manage their time effectively throughout their athletic career. That particular skill alone can equal a high level of productivity in the workplace.
But at the same time, it’s common nowadays for all of us to confuse being busy with being productive. Companies, teams, and organizations can misinterpret or become uncertain about what their desired outcomes should be which essentially trickles down to their employees and/or other team members.
When you have no clear direction, then people start doing things without understanding the significance behind it. So, it leads people to subconsciously look at busy work and productivity as one and the same.
Busy work vs. Productivity
Before we go any further, let’s clear up the difference between the two. When it comes down to it, busy work is simply doing work that keeps you occupied. Ultimately, it’s just work that wastes time and doesn’t equal up to accomplishing your desired outcome.
Productivity is doing work that requires your immediate attention and focus and will help you move towards whatever it is you’re trying to get done. The number one key is knowing exactly what you’re trying to get done as I will continue to reiterate throughout this article because it’s that important.
To further drill it home, here are a few specific examples between the two: Busy work can include writing a huge list of sales prospects, reading urgent but unimportant emails, and coming up with an article title and inserting a picture on the post.
An example of productive work would be making 50 sales calls, responding to important and urgent emails, and writing and posting an article or blog post. When I think of being productive, I think about when I was a student-athlete.
During my time being a collegiate athlete; I had a lot on my plate.
Between class, homework, study hall, practice, games and trying to maintain somewhat of a “social life,” while attending mandatory team activities, put a lot of pressure on me. I had to really know how to manage my time if I wanted to make it through those four years successfully.
This in itself taught me a lot about how to be productive with the time I had. Here are the top three things being a student-athlete taught me about how to maximize productivity:
1. Be specific and have a clear focus on what you’re trying to get done
You can’t be productive without first knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Your objectives have to not only be clear, but they also have to be attainable, measurable and specific.
When I had a study hall, I would focus on getting two assignments done that were due that week instead of just one. Or when I would go to the weight room, I would have a clear, well-thought-out plan for my weightlifting lift routine. Same thing when I did a workout on the court.
I would set a goal for the number of shots I wanted to make that day. You have to be ruthlessly intentional and deliberate with your productivity if you plan on maximizing it.
2. Completely master the time that you do have
I get that we all have obligations and things that we’re trying to balance in life; therefore, it’s important to eliminate any distractions that might prevent you from getting what you need to do done.
It’s said that people perform to the expectations that are set. For example, if I give you an hour to write an 800-word article, you’d use that entire hour to do so. Whereas, if I gave you 30 minutes, it would take you the same amount of time to accomplish that article. Nothing has changed except for the expectations that were created.
So it’s not about how much time you have to work. It’s about what you’re doing with the time that you do have.
3. Don’t judge yourself too much
There will absolutely be times when things don’t get accomplished as effectively as you want them to. Don’t beat yourself up for having off days. In the past, if I didn’t perform up to the high standards or expectations that I set for myself, I would be overly critical and judgemental.
It would bother me for days. I started to realize that wasn’t healthy and what’s done is done and in the past. If you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and honestly say that you gave your maximum effort, then that’s all you can ask for. Be kind to your future self.
The first step to becoming more productive and getting more things done is always knowing what you want and where you’re trying to go. Because as easy as it is to do busy work disguised as productive work, it’s just as easy to do productive work that can lead you in the wrong direction.
Maximizing productivity is like having a destination for your GPS. If you want to get to your desired destination efficiently and within a reasonable timeframe, you have to start with the end in mind.
Otherwise, you could be going in the right direction, but it might take you longer, you might make a wrong turn or you could even end up down to the street if you’re not careful enough.
Be extremely clear. Be specific. And lastly, understand that maximizing productivity is a constant work in progress.