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What Is Productivity?

There's only so much time in a day, a year, or a life. Productivity generally refers to the ability of an individual, team, or organization to work efficiently within that time in order to maximize output.

High productivity results from a mix of factors: motivation, personality, natural talent, training or education, environment, support from others, time management, and even luck. Physical elements also play a role in fostering productivity: Exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep can boost efficiency both in the short- and long-term. Some people seem to be natural super-producers; others struggle to become more productive and may look to daily exercises and better habits to help them get things done.

An individual's productivity hinges on mental energy and a sense of internal and external motivation. It often emerges naturally from work that they find inherently meaningful or valuable. And while not everything one must do each day can hold deep personal meaning, researchers find that maintaining a focus on a larger long-term goal can help activate the drive and energy to push through more tedious day-to-day tasks.

Unfortunately, there are countless ways for productivity to be derailed. For example, it takes time for the brain to disengage from one set of tasks and to commit to another, so switching between many tasks at once will slow overall productivity. Technology poses an endless supply of immediate distractions as well; avoiding them as much as possible should help fuel productivity.

How Can You Increase Productivity?


Productivity relies on mental energy, physical energy, and motivation derived from meaningful work. Simple strategies can support these primary needs, prevent procrastination, and boost efficiency.

Identifying one's priorities, and completing projects or tasks that are most important or meaningful, can lead to a productive period. Creating a schedule for decisions that need to be made and jobs that need to be completed is also useful.

When one faces responsibilities that seem particularly onerous, breaking them into small, incremental steps tends to be beneficial. This can help alleviate feelings of stress and inspire a sense of fulfillment that enables one to take on the next task.

Perhaps most important is focusing intently for a period of time and then taking a break. People typically focus best for periods of 90 to 120 minutes. After that window, a short respite, such as taking a walk or chatting with a colleague, can deliver another spurt of productivity.

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