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How to Become More Productive

A personal perspective on how to build a life around your individual priorities.

Key points

  • Valuing high productivity is a prerequisite to being productive.
  • It's easier to be productive if you look to tasks that accentuate your strengths and skirt your weaknesses.
  • Working long hours isn't stressful if you're using your abilities, don't rush, and have some control over your tasks.
  • Establishing, using, and refining routines are key to saving time, lowering stress, and being productive.
 Geralt/PxHere/Public Domain
Source: Geralt/PxHere/Public Domain

I was interviewed last week, and off the air, the host asked, "How the hell are you so productive?"

Even though you well may not want to focus so much on productivity, perhaps my answer will be of some value to you. I said somethling like:

I value productivity above all.

I spend as many moments as possible using my best abilities to make the biggest difference I can.

I maximize the use of my strengths and skirt my weaknesses.

My best strengths are thinking and working quickly, but only verbally and in writing—I’m terrible at fixing or building anything, and although I'm a pianist, I can't draw more than stick figures. I’m a self-starter but do poorly on teams, where I'm torn between saying too much and putting duct tape over my mouth. I’m judgmental but try to remember that verbalizing my judgments is often not a good use of my time—engendering more heat than light. Alas, I too often forget that.

I work solo.

I believe Rudyard Kipling’s assertion, “He travels fastest who travels alone.”

I work long hours.

As long as I’m using my best abilities, don't rush, and am not unduly harsh on myself, work isn't stressful to me. Actually, working is the only thing that distracts me from my worry-wart personality. Although I’m a sample of only one, I’ve worked 60-70 hours a week my entire life, and I’ll be 72 in June and am grateful that, to this point, I am in fine health.

I avoid time sucks.

I take lots of short breaks: for example, to call my wife, play with the dog, or hike to the supermarket, but I take very few long breaks, let alone long vacations or other unnecessary trips. I watch little TV and don't play time-consuming sports, such as golf. I love reading but don’t let it suck up much time: In non-fiction, I mainly read Google-found articles. With fiction, I listen to audiobooks when in the car, and I read for a few minutes on my Kindle before going to sleep.

I establish and tweak routines and stay with them.

For example, I have my morning, writing, cooking, exercising, and bedtime routines.

I am grateful for my roots.

While I was born into true poverty in a Bronx, NY, tenement, good genes compensated. I give much credit to that. I am my dad. At his funeral, people were amazed at how like him I am. One said, "You even walk like him, breathe like him!" I certainly work like him.

The takeaway

The podcast host then asked me if I'm happy being so work-centered. My response: Like my dad, I don't think I'm hard-wired to be happy, but my working a lot while using my best abilities makes me feel worthy while distracting me from my woes. In short, work makes me feel content.

Of course, as you craft your approach to productivity and to work-life balance, I wish you contentment.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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