Focus on Productivity, Not Perfection

Have you ever wondered how someone with more responsibilities or demands is able to achieve more than you? No, they are not perfect, alien, or some breed of human meets robot. They are not special. It’s possible that they have just learned how to focus on productivity and efficiency.

Let’s get one thing clear before we move any further: A happy life does not mean a “perfect” life. So, be careful not to strive for a one-sided picture of someone else’s life as your measure of success.

Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries define perfection as:

  • “having no mistakes or flaws”
  • “completely correct or accurate”
  • “having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.”
  • “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”
  • “free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone that’s flawless and perfect. If this is how you are defining our success, then you are already headed down the wrong path.

Striving for Perfection is Problematic

Although we logically know that no one person is perfect, we still have this idea of perfection planted somewhere in our heads. The idea of perfection alone is not the problem. Rather, the problem lies in what happens to us emotionally when we consider ourselves a failure if we are not attaining perfection.

For the sake of discussion, let’s just hypothetically consider that we have achieved perfection. Yay! Pat yourself on the back. Well, not for too long because as we grow, change, and learn, that personal definition of perfection will change. It is like a never-ending race that can become overwhelming, stressful, discouraging, depressing, and anxiety-producing. And that’s precisely one of the reasons it’s so problematic.

It’s great to have ambitious goals (we should), but it’s problematic to believe we are overall failures if we don’t reach the stars. For most of us, happiness is connected to being as close to perfection as possible. We assume that if we can complete everything on our life’s wish list then life will be complete and happy. But, feeling whole is not based on external perfection or material things and the road to success is never perfect.

In the past, I would get down on myself when I would make long to-do lists only to not get everything done. Before implementing new strategies, I would feel so emotionally defeated at the fact that I was not accomplishing everything, every day, every month as I wanted.

Through some planning and reflection, I figured out a way to minimize that poor cycle of thinking. I started to learn that it’s more important to focus on productivity and efficiency as opposed to having a “perfect” day.

For me, productivity and efficiency is my new idea of success—a slight adjustment that has made a huge mental and emotional difference. It has re-framed how I feel about my days, the intention I set at the beginning of each day, and how I focus on things throughout my day. The good part: It has helped me actually accomplish more than I thought I could.

Here are some questions I now ask myself:
  1. What will productivity look like today?
  2. What are the most important things I need to accomplish today?
  3. Are there things I can do now to set myself up for a productive day?

My goals haven’t changed; however, the approach has.

Stay Flexible

If you adopt this mindset just know that there will be things that you cannot completely control through a pre-planned list and vision for the day. There are constantly things, such as work, family, friends, life, biological factors (sleep, health, nutrition), and weather, that impact our daily “productivity list” or interfere with our ability to completely focus on the things we have set as priorities. And, that’s OK; it’s life.

If and when these matters arise, we can quickly recalculate how to handle them by determining when and how handling them would be the most efficient and effective. Some matters can wait, so give yourself permission to say no if necessary. Other times, you might need to shift some of your priorities to quickly handle life. Again, that’s OK. Be flexible and adjust.

Every day will never be perfect and accepting that is the first step to being more productive and happy. Say this to yourself: If I am being highly productive, using my time effectively, and placing optimal focus on the steps that bring me closer to my goals, then I am having the perfect day.

Some of us are still holding out hope that a magical unicorn will fall from the sky and reveal the secret to perpetual perfection and happiness. Until that happens, we can all strive for greater productivity. Before you know it each day of action will add up and you will start to see that you’re even closer to your goal(s)!

Questions to ask yourself:
  1. Am I being as productive as I can with my day?
  2. To what extent am I focused on actions that bring me closer to my goals versus those that pull me away from them?
  3. Am I wasting time on things that are not necessary?
  4. Am I spending too much time on things or people that will not increase my chances of achieving the vision of life I want to live?
  5. How am I making time to take care of myself as I work towards my goals?

(Note: Productive days should include time to manage stress and take care of your health. A healthy body and mind increases productivity!)

Remember, success comes one deliberate step at a time and one productive day at a time. Ditch perfection, it’s draining your productivity. 

What are some tips and tricks you use to focus on productivity? How do you protect your productivity?

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