The First Step to Productivity

Productivity is a popular but often misunderstood topic in business and personal development. Here’s a question for you before we start.

What does productivity mean to you? How do you define it?

Take a moment to reflect on this question and come up with an answer before you move on.

The Definition of Productivity

To me, productivity is the ratio of results to the resources used to create those results.

Maximizing my productivity means creating the most results with the least amount of resources. By resources, I mean time, money, energy, and anything I spend while working toward the results.

You might have a similar definition, and you might be satisfied with that definition. If you disagree with that definition and you have a different one, please let me know in the comments.

A Context Is Needed for Productivity

Productivity is an empty concept unless it is used in a meaningful context. That meaning comes from how well you define the results you’re aiming for.

You might aim for a bunch of papers with a dot on them. In that case, being productive would mean being efficient at placing a dot on a paper. But why would you do that in the first place?

You might be trying to improve your productivity, but did you define the results that you’re aiming for? If not, you might be optimizing your workflow to achieve nothing. You might as well put dots on papers.

Define the Results You’re Aiming For

The first step to improve your productivity is to define the results you’re aiming for.

What do you want to accomplish?

If you answer that question, then you can reflect on the related productivity question.

How can you accomplish it with fewer resources?

Let Go of the Inessentials

When I bought my first smartphone, I downloaded a bunch of apps to increase my productivity. After a while, I realized that my smartphone decreased my productivity instead of increasing it.

I was spending more time on “working” on the productivity apps compared to working toward my goals. As soon as I realized that, I quit using those apps and started to use only Evernote for that purpose.

Whenever you come up with an idea or whenever you come across a task, ask yourself the following question.

Does this idea or task serve the results that I’m aiming for?

If it doesn’t, it is inessential. Let it go. Or do it in your spare time for fun, because it isn’t a part of your work.

Letting go of the inessentials is one of the fundamentals of productivity.


Unless you define the results you’re aiming for, any effort spent on improving your productivity will be futile.