Increasing Productivity: Minding the Big Picture AND the Little Picture
Most people would love to boost their productivity, and the management at your organization wouldn’t mind that at all either. Why does it seem so difficult? A main reason why many people fail to see results is because they don’t realize there are two different levels that need attention. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other will usually result in only short-lived gains if not outright failure. As the title of this article suggests there is big-picture productivity and little-picture productivity. This article will explain both and give you strategies for boosting each of them.
Big-picture productivity involves stepping back and taking a look at yourself from a bird’s eye view. These are larger basic traits and characteristics about yourself that you need to keep an eye on or develop. The following are 5 dimensions of big-picture productivity that can keep you heading in a solid, forward-moving, and very productive direction:
- Taking initiative. If you have developed a pattern of merely reacting to situations, circumstances and other people, you need to start looking for opportunities to take the initiative. You can’t just wait for things to get better, you need to actively start making it happen. As Gandhi famously said, be the change you seek. Just keep taking initiative until it becomes a habit.
- Envisioning your future. You need to have a destination in mind or the journey doesn’t make much sense, however enjoyable aimless wandering may be. Where do you want your career to go? What level within an organization do you want to be in after 5 years? When you answer questions like those, then you can map out goals and objectives and an action plan for getting there.
- Saying no. Another critical thing to develop is the power to say no to those things that aren’t helping you be more productive. Maybe that means spending less time with negative people that bring you down rather than build you up. Maybe that means stopping unhealthy eating habits or not getting enough sleep. When you say no to the things that hold you down, you’re automatically saying yes to a whole new world of possibilities.
- Seeking common ground. It’s easy to be combative and confrontational, but where does it get you in the end? Nowhere. To keep yourself moving in a positive and productive direction, you need to cooperate with others as much as possible. By emphasizing what you have in common with others, the differences and disagreements that remain won’t hold both parties hostage.
- Building personal capacity. Productivity is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, it will become flabby and useless. Building up and maintaining your productive capacity means paying attention to four dimensions that add up into your overall health: Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When any of these start slipping, productivity declines.
Now that you know what to pay attention to in the big picture, there are also all kinds of things you can do to be more productive when you actually start working on any given task or project. Things to try at this level include the following:
- Monitor your activities. Just keep asking yourself this question: Is what I’m doing right now the best way to move this project or task closer to completion?
- Eliminate distractions. This can be tough in the digital age when various social media, websites, and email keep demanding your attention. Turn them off and get to work. This also means making sure you’re working in a physical environment that helps you be productive.
- Get the tools you need. A cook that doesn’t have any pots, pans, utensils or raw ingredients is going to have a tough time preparing a meal. If you don’t have what you need for a task or project, re-schedule it until you do, otherwise you’re wasting valuable time.
- Work on the tough stuff first. It can really help to start tackling the thorniest problems when you’re at your freshest. When your energy starts to flag, take a break or switch to another task that’s less difficult. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean first thing in the morning, it means figuring out your most productive times of day.
- Get organized and stay that way. Clutter in your workspace can kill productivity. If you take the time to get your physical space organized for maximum productivity, then you’ll only need to spend a few minutes at regular intervals to maintain it.
- Delegate. Anything that you can have other people do for you is a great way to free yourself up for getting other important things done.
Just remember that in order to boost and maintain higher levels of productivity, you need to pay attention to both the big-picture dimensions and the little-picture tools and tricks. When you learn how to balance your productivity efforts between these two different but essential levels, you’ll be well on your way to greater productivity.
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