There has been an exponential explosion of information available for increasing personal productivity, so much so that it’s become known as productivity porn (or, for those active on the Net and looking to avoid spam blockers, productivity pr0n). Productivity Pr0n consists of those techniques, tools, and all-out systems for getting more organized and maximizing personal productivity.

This full-fledged industry has given rise to Productivity Nirvana, Productivity Gurus, an army of Life Hackers (those who provide productivity tips), and Life Optimizers.

But something’s missing here. If virtually everybody is doing these things, where’s the edge? How can you find out what works for you? Where can you bring your unique strengths and values to the value proposition?

The problem with productivity, as it’s come to be known, is that it doesn’t go far enough. Productivity is a nebulous concept. Its objectives are limited, if not vague.

David Allen, THE Productivity Guru, said: “You don’t have time to do any project, because you actually can’t do a project – you can only do action steps.”

Productivity is about doing things and that simply isn’t enough. It’s a good place to start, but you’ll need to move on from there.

You need to take things to the next level, so you focus on efficiency.

Arnold Bennett said: “A sense of the value of time–that is, of the best way to divide ones time into ones various activities–is an essential preliminary to efficient work; it is the only method of avoiding hurry.”

In other words, efficiency is about doing things right. Becoming more efficient allows you to accomplish specific tasks in the most proficient and cost-effective (in terms of time and money), as well as least wasteful, ways possible.

Being productive and efficient together isn’t sufficient, though. Doing many things proficiently that wind up taking a lot of your time doesn’t help if you aren’t able to choose the best and most important things to focus on.

That’s where effectiveness comes in. Simply put, effectiveness is doing the right things. It means possessing the ability to direct your energies toward and accomplish those things that bring you nearer to your goals and objectives.

Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends. “

Being effective essentially eliminates the human drive to be busy for the sake of being busy, procrastinating, and becoming diverted by focusing on the unimportant. Effectiveness is where we all want to operate.
It all makes sense and sounds simple, right?

But wait a minute …. Now you ask: “Of all the things in front of me that are available and that I’m fully capable of doing, how do I determine the “right things” to do first – to do NOW?”

Congratulations! You’ve hit the nail on the head. You’ve uncovered THE secret to “productivity” that you don’t commonly read about.

The key to being productive, efficient, and effective is simply to do the next right thing.

Walter Savage Landor said: “People, like nails, lose their effectiveness when they lose direction and begin to bend.”

How do you figure out what the next right thing is?

The best way I know to describe this is to suggest that you become apperceptive. It’s about being focused, centered, and engaged. To strive to do the next right thing, you want to:

  • You want to be introspective, constantly examining your thoughts, beliefs, and values to relate what you’re experiencing – what’s directly in front of you that you want to accomplish – to what you’ve experienced in the past.
  • You want to bring all your creative talents to bear upon the moment at hand to look at opportunities and challenges from all angles, considering the alternatives, and opening your mind to the new possibilities.
  • You want to take the time to stop and think about what you’re doing and where you’re going – to have a sense of direction.
  • You want to operate on instinct. You want to be able to know and act without having to undergo the process of examination at every turn.
  • You want to reorder your life so that all the extraneous clutter is removed from your thought process.

Remove the distractions – it’s fairly straightforward to figure out what they are –and you’ll find yourself more alert, awake, aware, and alive. You’ll find that you’ll be clearer and more focused about doing the next right thing.

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