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What Productive People Do Differently 

Reading the article ‘What Super Productive People Do Differently’ by Amantha Imber in the Harvard Business Review, had me thinking of my own productivity, as well as that of my peers and colleagues. 

I consider myself to be a relatively productive person, able to manage my time and tasks well, with avenues to perform other meaningful activities. But I shall leave final judgement to my colleagues and family. I do believe that many people are busy, but not necessarily productive. In my opinion, periods of productivity in general, are about as frequent as the appearance of a comet or meteor shower (Yes, I know that may seem to be too long of a duration between occurrences 😊).  

In order to work efficiently and effectively, one has to have a balance. If we cannot manage ourselves, how are we supposed to manage tasks, a team, a company, our families and so on? 

Productivity must not be at the expense of empathy toward the needs and feelings of the people around us. I would not want to be sitting in an ivory tower all alone or returning to an empty home after a successful day at work, unable to share my joy and success with co-workers, friends and family.

It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that productivity is the same as being busy. It is not. Holding on to a couple of mottos/reminders and asking myself the right questions, helps me remain productive and yet empathetic: 

  • Am I doing things right or doing the right things? 
  • Am I engaging in Convergent or Divergent thinking?
  • Which category does this task belong to i.e. Urgent/Important; Urgent/Not Important; Not Urgent/Important; Not Urgent/Not Important
  • Remembrance of the Other; Others-help rather than Self-help.

I believe in self-regulation and self-management by managing my energy levels more than my time. We need to be aware of ‘energy vampires’ and avoid them. During tough times like these, living with the Covid-19 pandemic, we can be quickly bombarded with alarming, negative, frustrating and sad news both on mainstream and social media. This can be draining if we are not careful to monitor our consumption. 

Appreciating our own worth and frequently conducting self-analysis, are essential tools. For example, before we start our day, while looking in the mirror, we can ask ourselves how we want the day to unfold or not unfold. We decide, not anyone else.

I refer to a quote from Sadguru, an author and Indian Yogi: ‘What the world throws at us may not be 100% within our control, but how we react to it is 100% within our control.”

Having a powerful, empowering, soothing, attractive screensaver on our computer helps. It can be anything, i.e. positive quotes, pictures, photos, etc. that remind us to be the best we can be and remind us of the best we are.  

I recall the Flow concept by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a concept which describes moments when someone is completely absorbed in a challenging but doable task. Csikszentmihalyi identifies one characteristic of the Flow concept as having an ideal balance between challenge and skills. For me, it is not my goal to move in and out of this ideal zone, rather to remain in the zone constantly while being mindful, is what truly matters. It’s tough but a work in progress.

It is true that I face everyday dilemmas during this period of remote working, with deadlines, expectations to produce results, the need to exhibit leadership qualities, supporting a team and company, striking a balancing between work and life, among others. Shutting down and forgetting the reminders above can be easy. 

I try to manage by having personal time included in my daily routine and tasks. I create a make-belief space, a bubble of sorts, for relaxation and tranquillity.   

Anyone can be productive. The challenge is maintaining productivity. In my opinion, it is our mindset and outlook that keeps us in the optimum productivity zone. One who can oscillate between relaxation and ‘Flow’ with ease, will be a very productive person.


Kadam Balan is a thought leader who believes in personal and professional development. He strategises and works to consistently improve efficiencies at his invested companies. 

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