How To Supercharge Your Productivity—And Keep it High

You have many goals and dreams to accomplish, but you realize that to accomplish them, you must become more productive. In your day-to-day, you spend your time and energy performing many activities, but you recognize you might not be as productive as you can be.

Being productive is really about two things: performing the right activities and performing them efficiently. That is, you get the right things done efficiently. The keywords here are “right” and “efficiently”.

If you’re doing the “wrong” activities, it doesn’t matter that you’re efficient—at least as it relates to boosting your productivity. Likewise, if you’re performing the “right” activities but it takes you forever to get the simplest step done, you’ll be as productive as deadwood.

Increasing Your Efficiency

Your efficiency is grossly dependent on your skill level (i.e. how good you are at performing the activity), your ability to take focused action (i.e. avoiding procrastination and distractions), and sticking to it until you get the task or activity done. If any of these things is missing, your productivity goes down.

In fact, if your skill level is low, if you procrastinate, if you allow yourself to get distracted and sidetracked constantly, or if you give up before getting the task or activity done, it’ll hinder your efficiency and thus, your productivity.

When you sharpen your skill, you increase your productivity. When you overcome procrastination, you increase your productivity. When you steer clear from distractions, you increase your productivity. When you push through and get the job done, you increase your productivity.

Finding the “Right” Activities

Here’s an important question: How do you know which activities should get your time and energy? At the simplest level, you must “sift” through your activities and evaluate which ones yield the highest return—and, as much as possible, put your efforts on those.

All activities aren’t equal. Some activities are more valuable than others. Of course, the value of an activity is closely related to your goals. If you aim to be fit, working out has way more value than playing Candy Crush. If your goal is to graduate from college with honors, spending time studying has way more value than scrolling through your Facebook feed.

Thus, the first elements to consider when determining which activity you should focus on is this: the value of the activity. Does the activity have a high value or a low value?

The second element you should consider is the level of urgency of the activity. All activities don’t have the same level of urgency. Some activities have a tight deadline: they’re urgent activities. Others have a”loose” deadline or no deadline at all: they’re not urgent.

Of course, the urgency of an activity depends on the activity itself. For instance, 3 months to write a book is tight, and thus, urgent; whereas 3 months to write a poem isn’t.

These two elements (i.e. value and urgency) give you what you need to determine which activities you put most of your energy on (and in which order you should perform them).

Putting Together the Value and Urgency of Your Activities

When you combine the value and urgency of your activities, you get a clear picture of the sequence in which you should perform your activities.

Your activities range from high value to low value. Similarly, they range from a high level of urgency to a low level of urgency (or no urgency at all). When you put the extremes together, you get the following 4 categories of activities:

  • High Value and High Urgency Activities: These are critical activities that you should handle immediately. For example, your boss needs important statistics from you for a report she’ll be presenting to important clients in 1 hour. You leave everything aside and do it now.
  • High Value and Low Urgency Activities: These are important activities, but because they’re not urgent, they’re easy to neglect (i.e. easy to procrastinate on). You should not; they bring great value to your life. In that category, you have activities such as exercising and working on your book project (a dream you’ve had for years).
  • Low Value and High Urgency Activities: These are activities that usually come out of left field. These are often other people’s priorities. They may be important to someone else, but they’re not from your point of view. You should seek to delegate these if you can.
  • Low Value and Low Urgency Activities: These are activities that occupy time. They are often maintenance activities such as cleaning up your email inbox or your desk or shredding all your paper. Again, if you can delegate these, it’s great. Otherwise, find a time, where your energy level is too low to tackle your high-value activities and go “hard” on these maintenance activities.

When you put your efforts on the right activities and you perform them efficiently, you’ll supercharge productivity—and keep it high.