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Principles of Productivity

The hours of every work day always seem to fly by. There is never enough time in the day to complete the endless list of tasks bouncing around in your head, and even those prioritized duties often get pushed aside for the unexpected, metaphorical fires that arise and must be immediately extinguished. You’re always busy and working hard, but are you working effectively? Incessant time spent working does not necessarily equate to time well spent.

Measuring productivity can be accomplished by determining the amount of time taken to achieve a goal or desired result, where optimum productivity yields the greatest amount of output within the fewest units of time. While logically we understand the importance of being productive, and we begin each day with the best intentions for accomplishing this objective, having to navigate the reality of distraction often inhibits our ability to actually put this seemingly simple equation into practice.

A strong resolve is required to remain focused on the finish line, however, churning out high volume in record time can actually be counterproductive if the race against the clock results in sacrificed quality. Manufacturing of a sub-par commodity in the interest of saving time is the epitome of inefficiency. The key to successful productivity is identifying the appropriate balance of maximizing time without compromising precision.

Armed with awareness of these pitfalls to productivity, how do we then develop the most effectual method for ensuring commensurate proficiency in the workplace?

“All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.”


Learning to apply these Principles of Productivity as we approach each work day will set the stage for an amicable truce in the time vs. results tug-of-war.

Trim Your To-Do List

Your list of daily goals should contain a maximum of three prioritized tasks. There will be other items that demand your attention throughout the day, but by narrowing your list to the most crucial tasks for that day, and remaining committed to completing them, you will be able to cross these goals off your list and be prepared to tackle a new list tomorrow. Too many tasks will leave you scattered, overwhelmed, and ultimately with a series of projects that remain incomplete and still positioned on your ever-growing slate of daunting responsibilities.

The Worst Should be First

Our natural inclination toward procrastination often leaves cringe-worthy tasks continually pushed to the bottom of our to-do lists. Knocking out these dreaded duties at the start of each day will pave the way for enhanced productivity in the day’s remaining hours and will instill a rewarding sense of accomplishment. Any residual assignments will be more easily initiated and completed.


You can’t do it all! Relinquish that need for control and appropriately disburse tasks to the competent team you have assembled. Trust in their abilities and their desire to achieve the same overarching goals you have for the success of your business.

Knowing When to Say “No”

Whether you are inclined to please or guided by intimidation, learning when you’ve reached your intake threshold, and firmly closing the door on new requests or assignments, is crucial to managing your time and others’ expectations. Offering to schedule the task for a later date that is agreed upon, or recommending a fellow team member to assist or serve as a valuable resource are reasonable ways to ensure the project will not end up buried and unaddressed.


Prioritization and productive execution cannot take place in the absence of organization. The best intentions can be quickly derailed without easy accessibility to critical resources and a comprehensive understanding of immediate company objectives and your role in achieving these. Once these are identified, you can tackle your daily to-dos without wasting precious time digging for data or painstakingly categorizing the tasks at hand.

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Removing or isolating yourself from the bevy of distractions encountered each day is a non-negotiable factor when establishing productivity. This can be as simple as closing a door, declining participation in non-critical meetings or eliminating time-wasters that unwittingly pull you away from the task at hand. Be committed to your prioritized projects and then bask in the triumph of your dedicated efforts — a direct correlation to your ability to stay focused — as your daily to-do list becomes increasingly smaller.

Productivity is a fundamental pillar in achieving the goals that cumulatively build a successful organization. While not exhaustive, arming yourself with the guidelines in this list, along with a healthy dose of self-discipline, can mean the difference between measurable, positive results and an aimless spinning of wheels.

— Jenny Catalano