Being Productive Starts With Knowing Your Limits

The only way to be consistently productive is to be honest with yourself

Courtesy of wk1003mike/Shutterstock
Courtesy of wk1003mike/Shutterstock

Everyone has a built-in limitation — these limitations are physical, mental, social, and chronological. Until you recognize those limitations, you can’t demand the best of yourself or deliver your very best every day.

The first step to being truly productive is to be honest with yourself — have an honest assessment of what you are realistically capable of doing. Our brains have limitations.

Just like the rest of the body, the brain isn’t meant to work for hours on end; it requires breaks, variety, rest, and maintenance. Accepting your mental limitations means acknowledging that you have a limit on how much mental work you can do in a day or week.

More often than not, our ability to do more great work is more limited than we realize, not because of any intrinsic deficiency, but because we may be locked into other unconscious patterns (habits and distractions) to which we have a stronger allegiance than we realize.

We are currently exposed to an unprecedented flood of information and requests than ever before. And we feel compelled to read and respond at all hours of the day and night. Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need for deep work.

“We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive,” explains Nicholas Carr explains in his book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.”

In our natural state, most people are reactive —things happen around them and they react to it by instinct or emotion. “Our failure to adequately appreciate the strength of our shadow commitments’ grip can leave us angry at ourselves for not ‘doing what I know I should do,” explained Linda and Charlie Bloom in Psychology Today.

You will never feel like a productive person until you accept the limits of productivity

For most of humanity’s existence, ‘work’ has meant relying on our body and mind working together. But there are limits to what your body is capable of doing–both in working on your daily tasks and getting your annual goals achieved.

Feeling under pressure to deliver? It’s the same old problems for everyone. People have struggled with getting things done going back to ancient civilizations. It’s easy to make plans and throw dates on your calendar, and yet it’s practically inevitable that you’ll let some deadlines fly whilst you still have some tasks unfinished.

A productivity strategy will only work for you if you know how to make it work with your current habits, routines, mental strength. People have the mental capacities to make ambitious plans, yet struggle to act on them.

Our society today focuses much on doing more and getting more done. The bitter truth is, you will never be able to do it all — do one thing well, not three things badly! What are the 20% high-impact tasks on your list, and how can you get working on them?

Many people have good intentions. And they want to make the most of their skills but they can’t balance their time and energy to get things done. What they choose to do maybe a good use of their time but they probably won’t be able to show a lot for that time and energy spend.

You won’t be able to do everything this week or this month. And that’s okay. As long as you are consistent and stick to your personal productivity process, you will be okay. Sometimes priorities change. That’s part of the journey. It’s better to be clear about what you want to get done at any moment in time than combining multiple tasks.

It’s so easy to get seduced into the importance of a task, project or job and drive yourself insane to over-deliver or impress. But it’s always important to take time out and ask: What can I mentally demand of myself? What could I have done differently to achieve the same results? At the end of the day, is that the best use of my time?

As social human beings, we have limits — people who work with instead of against their bodies and minds perform better. Organise your day around your physical and mental energy. And do more of what works for you.

Originally published on Medium.

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