Before investing in productivity, know what you value

Productivity
Takeaway: We’re productive when we accomplish what we intend to do. By knowing what you value and keeping these values in mind as you go through life and work, you can live in a way that’s more true to what you value—and your actions become more meaningful over time.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 40s.

If you’re a regular reader of this [“blog”/”newsletter”], here’s a question: What drives you to consume productivity advice in the first place?

One thing that bothers me about traditional productivity advice is how so much of it assumes the purpose of productivity is ever-greater accomplishment. As I wrote about a couple of weeks back, [achievement is a basic value]. But that doesn’t mean it’s one we all share. Productivity advice that focuses on “hustling” and “grinding” in service of accomplishing more rarely leads to a more meaningful life. Accomplishment is not a worthwhile goal in and of itself. There needs to be a point to any sort of striving—some tangible impact your efforts will have on your life or on the lives of others.

My take on productivity advice is straightforward, and it’s probably one regular readers have heard me recite before. After defining productivity a few different ways over the years, I’ve zeroed in on a definition I love: We’re perfectly productive when we accomplish what we intend to do. (I write about this in Hyperfocus if you want to explore the idea further.)

In my opinion, productivity should begin and end with intention. By becoming more intentional, we deliberately spend our time in a way that’s more true to who we are and what we value. In this way, our actions become more aligned with who we are—and who we want to become—over time. For example, I personally value things like calm, curiosity, depth, and relaxation, all of which stem from the [10 basic values]. Greater intention means I can live out these values through my daily actions. How I spend my time becomes more meaningful as a result.

In pursuit of greater productivity, keep in mind the purpose of productivity. If you deeply value accomplishment and that’s what you want productivity advice to help you obtain, that’s obviously more than okay. But keep in mind that you likely have a whole host of other values you might also want to live out.

The ideas on this website will work regardless of what you intend to do—everything from unlocking more moments of relaxation to achieving financial freedom to carving out time for the people you care about.

At its best, productivity advice helps us live in a way that aligns with who we are. The key, I’ve found, is to know what you value, and to think about productivity as a means through which to live with greater intention.

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