Lessons from a year-long quest to master productivity

Upon graduation from university, Chris Bailey was faced with the sort of choice that, in a perfect world, waits for many worthy grads: which “incredible” full-time job offer did he want to accept?

He chose option C: taking a year to study the art of productivity from just about every angle imaginable – reading books, interviewing experts and using himself as a guinea pig in numerous experiments. He chronicled his progress on A Year of Productivity – and now that he’s reached the end of the long road, he’s compiled his favorite productivity lessons. In an effort to spread the word and help people take back some time for themselves – with no strings attached – he’s even made his posts available for copying and redistribution via Creative Commons.

Given the scope of Bailey’s quest, and his generous approach to sharing his experiences, I thought it was worthier of a bigger spotlight than a mere retweet. Boosting your productivity, after all, only stands to make you a better collaborator.

A few key points from Bailey:

6. There are three ingredients you combine on a daily basis to be productive: time, energy, and attention

Toward the end of my project, I realized that every single article I wrote could be classified into one (or more) of three categories: how to better manage your time, how to better manage your energy, and how to better manage your attention.

I think all three ingredients are absolutely essential if you want to be productive on a daily basis. Some people have an amazing amount of energy and focus, but they’re not good at managing their time, so they don’t work on the right things and don’t get a lot done. Some people are great at managing their time and have a lot of energy, but they’re constantly distracted so they procrastinate and don’t get a lot done. Some people have laser-like focus and they know how to manage their time well, but they’re not good at managing their energy so they drag their feet and don’t get a lot done.

Productive people know how to effectively manage all three.

And good news for the friendly skeptics in our workplaces…

3. The best way to feel motivated is to know why you want to get something done

The most motivated (and productive) people are the ones who constantly question why they’re doing what they are doing.

When you focus on doing more things, as opposed to doing things that are aligned to your values and what you believe in, you may be able to push yourself to be productive in the short run, but in the long run you’re going to be a lot less satisfied and productive. The key is to determine what you value and what motivates you the most, and then take on tasks and responsibilities that fit with your values.

Just because you’re constantly busy and you produce a lot doesn’t mean you’re productive—in fact, I’d argue that the opposite is the case. Productivity isn’t about how much you do, it’s about whether you achieve the outcomes that are the most important to you.

When you always know why you’re doing something, you’re going to be a lot more motivated and productive.

Check out the full post, along with an introductory video. I’d also recommend checking out Bailey’s compilation of 100 productivity hacks. I can personally endorse a number of them, like learning how to tame your email inbox and refusing to romanticize multitaskers and workaholics, and there are lots of others I’d like to try. The list is also a good gateway into the site’s deep content.

For more on productivity, take a look at the 12 biggest productivity killers (it involves a squirrel wearing hats) and the top 5 productivity mistakes you’re probably making.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.