Why Productivity is More Than a Buzzword to Me

I’m a sucker for productivity articles. Put the word “productivity” in an article title, and I will almost always click. “21 Productivity Hacks Every Slack User Should Know.” Click. “Ten Minute Rule for Increased Productivity.” Click. “Having a Drink or Two at Work Could Boost Your Productivity.” Definitely click.

But for all the productivity fanatics out there like me, it seems there are an equal number of people who roll their eyes when they see that word. For those people, “productivity,” at best, is a buzzword that emphasizes a high quantity of work over a high quality of work. At worst, it equates a person’s value to their work output, which is just dehumanizing.

I get why people find productivity tips annoying. Many articles I read about productivity ring hollow. They recommend rigid structures and routines that limit creativity and flexibility (like eating the same thing every day), or tips that seem impossible to integrate into my life at work and beyond (like tools that block internet access). They’re focused on helping me check more things off my to-do list instead of helping me figure out how to accomplish what matters.

The productivity tips I’ve learned the most from prioritize the whole person, not just the person I am at work. They have taught me how to clarify what the most important things I need to get done are, and have given me the tools to thoughtfully plan when I’ll do them.

Productivity matters to me because See3 only works with nonprofits and social causes, which means every client we work with is another opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. At See3, our number one goal is to help our clients make an impact, and making an impact is hard work, both for us and for our clients. This can mean late nights, working on weekends, or postponing internal projects to make time for client work.

But in order to continuously do great work for our clients, I need to take care of myself first. My metaphorical oxygen mask needs to be secured in place before I can assist others.

For me, my productivity tactics are that oxygen mask. When I started at See3 a year ago, I was constantly gasping for air. There was so much to work on and it was all so exciting and everything I was doing felt very, very important. I had trouble clarifying what really needed to be prioritized on a daily and weekly basis. A lot of weeks ended with me feeling more disappointed about all of the things I did not get done rather than proud of what I had accomplished.

I started seeking out articles and blogs on productivity to learn how other people manage their time, and started embracing the tactics that resonated with me. One of the first articles I read that stuck with me was Joelle Steineger’s “3 Ways to Squash Burnout and Increase Productivity.” She designed a really great diagram that broke my to do list down into four quadrants based on the impact each task had on my organization’s biggest goal, measured against the effort it would take to complete those tasks.

productivity diagram

“Revenue” is the goal listed here, but for nonprofits, that goal might be something bigger and more impact-focused “ending homelessness” or “increasing clean energy adoption.”

Thinking about this chart as I worked through my to do list had a huge impact on how I felt at the end of the week. I learned to accept that not everything on my list had to be done that week, especially if it didn’t have a big impact on See3’s goals or the goals of our clients. I set better expectations for myself on what I could accomplish in a day, and made sure I did the important things first. Now when I close my laptop on Fridays and head out for the weekend, I feel accomplished, not disappointed.

Over the past few months, I’ve discovered more productivity tips that I’ve started using regularly that help me feel proud of the work I get done. I wrote about a lot of them on my personal blog, and I’d like to share them with nonprofit professionals who are working to make the world a better place every day, and who might also be struggling to figure out what work will make the biggest impact.

Interested? Then join me for the webinar Nonprofit Productivity: How to Get Sh*t Done While Wearing Many Hats, this Thursday from 3-4pm CT. Even if you can’t make it, sign up and you’ll get the slides and a recording of the presentation after.

What productivity tips help you make a big impact in the work that you do? Let me know, I’m always looking for more.

Author: Bridgett Colling
  • Productivity
  • Burnout
  • Employee wellness
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