How to Increase Your Productivity

Chief Happiness Officer recently had an interesting post in which he talks about increasing productivity. He begins by explaining:

There’s just one problem: Most people’s view of productivity comes from an industrial age view of work. This leads to some fundamental misconceptions about work, including some of these:

  • If you work more hours, you get more work done.
  • Adding more people to a team means you can finish sooner.
  • Productivity is more or less constant and can be easily scheduled.

For knowledge workers, i.e. anyone who works with information rather than physically producing stuff, these notions are not only wrong, they’re actively harmful.

He goes on to suggest 5 new rules of productivity. As a knowledge worker, I found his rules interesting and applicable to myself as a knowledge worker.

His five tips are:

  • Your productivity will vary wildly from day to day. This is normal.
  • Working more hours means getting less done.
  • Working harder means getting less done.
  • Procrastination can be good for you.
  • Happiness is the ultimate productivity enhancer.

My suggestion is that you hop over to his post and read the entire post. However, I did want to highlight a couple things.

In his discussion, he has a great graph that shows how productivity is affected if you work 60 hours a week for several weeks in a row. In the beginning, productivity is high. By week two, your productivity begins declining and by week four it’s less productive than working only 40 hours a week.

As attorneys there are times, of course, where we will have to work more hours. That is the nature of the business. However, as the author points out, don’t get trapped in the manufacturing thought pattern that more work equals more productivity. Yes, a widget maker that runs 16 hours a day can produce twice as many widgets as one that runs 8 hours a day.

However, we are not creating widgets. We are using our knowledge and experience to help our clients solve their legal problems. Our work is not a commodity. Do not treat it as one.

In talking about procrastination, the author points out that we view tasks differently at different times. He explains:

Sometimes you’re in the mood for task X and doing X is ridiculously easy and a lot of fun. Sometimes doing X feels worse than walking barefoot over burning-hot, acid-covered, broken glass and forcing yourself to do it anyway is a frustrating exercise in futility.

Certainly there are times when we have something that must be done at a certain time. Most of the time, however, we can structure our tasks to work on them when we want. Don’t forget that fact. If you are more productive at a certain time, plan to work then. If you always start to drift off in the afternoon, schedule a break then, or make that your surf the internet time. Think about how and when you best work and try to match your tasks to that.

Like I said, you should read the entire post and think about how you can apply it to your work life..