“Is there a holy grail to increased personal productivity?”

There is a way to become more effective – though it is much more practical than it is sacred.

It starts with refreshing your definition of productivity.  Many people (and cultures) still subtly regard productivity as working harder, doing a lot, putting in extra time, or multi-tasking more efficiently.

Productivity is not about harder work.  You are productive when you achieve more of the right output in an ongoing way, without an equivalent additional expense, whether in the form of capital, time, labour or any other resource.  In other words, you become more productive when you increase your effect/cost ratio – in a way that lasts – in a relevant area.

Productivity is furthermore based on three values.  Firstly, a deep-seated respect for resources; productive people aren’t wasteful.  Secondly, regard for your personal potential – and a commitment to make most of your life.  Thirdly, consideration for priorities, putting first things first.

Against this background, you then have to empower yourself with a few real-world rules of thumb, to act as guiding stars in shaping a more effective life.  You can add the following five to your list:

  • Never do something twice that can be done once.
  • Don’t guess what you can know.
  • Don’t pay for what can be free.
  • Standardise the simple, repetitive tasks.
  • Don’t do the work of a machine.