Productivity in simple terms is getting significant things done. The key word in that definition is “significant”. We often mistake productivity to just getting things done and that’s not a good way to look at it. Productivity is a measure of a person’s efficiency and shouldn’t be calculated only through the number of tasks you get done with in a day, they should be measured by the number of important and significant tasks you get done with. It’s still better to complete one long and important task than to (proudly) “complete” 10 irrelevant things in a day. Here the worth of each task outstands the amount of tasks. Or simply: quality over quantity.
Let’s take for sake of example again: the 10 irrelevant tasks and the one very significant task. When we do the 10 tasks that are unimportant, we get done with them but we waste a lot of time doing them. More important than that we exhaust all our energy into them. After doing so many different things, we never get into the “flow state” that an activity—to be done healthily—requires and inevitably at the end of the day, we don’t have any time, yes, but more noteworthy, we have no physical or creative energy to do the important tasks that we really needed to do. Instead if we only focused on one of the important tasks on that day, it’s likely we would have done that task faster than usual, gotten into that “flow state” and completed the task still fueled with energy.
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and “one of the most successful investors in the world” has a great strategy for this. The Avoid-At-All-Cost list. Buffett was helping his airplane pilot Mike figure out his career priorities.
(1) Buffett asked Mike to write down his top 25 career goals
(2) Buffett asked Mike to review his list and circle his top 5 goals.
(3) After he had done that, the pilot pointed out, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
We can do the same with our monthly, weekly or even daily goals and tasks needed to accomplish, with some adjustments.
Simply: It’s important to do the important stuff. And it’s more important not to do the less important stuff. We never want the unimportant things to meet with the important things. Keep the important goals your primary focus and don’t let any secondary goals or back-ups consume your time or energy.
And it’s much more important to finish the work and never keep any half work. There are two kinds of people in the world according to a YouTube vlog by Casey Neistat (which I find to be brilliant)—Losers and closers. Closers finish and close deals. Losers leave work unfinished. Those who start something and don’t finish it, they’re “Losers” but those who start something and always finish it, they’re “Closers” A.B.C.—Always Be Closing.
Never leave work unfinished. Do it while you’re in the “flow state”.
Time, productivity and energy are closely linked and it’s important to think of all three matters and the significance of the task when “getting things done”.
Credits and footnotes:
– Warren Buffett: Avoid-At-All-Cost list—James Clear: Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities
– Losers and Closers: Casey Neistat—YouTube