The dictionary definition of productivity is “the effectiveness of effort as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.” Basically, it means getting the most done in the least amount of time possible. It is tempting to rush to get things done so we can appear productive, but if you do things fast, you may not do them well.
In my eyes, true productivity is getting as much of the right things done — and done well — in the right amount of time while giving yourself grace and time to enjoy your life! “Right” is a subjective word that varies from person to person. The “right” things should be tasks that move you forward toward your goal, and the “right” amount of time is the minimum amount of time that it should take to plan, complete prerequisites, and complete the task.
"...true productivity is getting as much of the right things done - and done well - in the right amount of time whil giving yourself grace and time to enjoy your life!"
Many times busywork takes most of our time, but doesn’t move the needle. Email is something that many of us who work in an office setting spend WAY too much time on, but it doesn’t propel us forward. Unfortunately, tasks like email still need to be done, but they need to be seen as secondary to our true objectives. Developing a system for secondary tasks is crucial so they don’t pile up and impede our progress toward our end goal. For ideas on how to control your email, read my previous posts on Email Organization and How to Clear Your Inbox After Vacation.
Even when you’ve created a system to handle your secondary tasks, there is still another key to becoming truly productive — planning! Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, says, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” I’ve recently noticed a metaphor in my life that shows how a lack of planning can make a task take longer and have a lower quality outcome.
I like to bake, but I don’t like to wait for the oven to preheat, so usually, I just turn on the oven when I think of it and as soon as I’m ready, shove the cookies or cake in the oven. It’s not until several minutes AFTER I’ve put the food into the oven that I hear the beep indicating that it is up to temperature. Chef David James Robinson from Learn How to Cook (and Eat Your Mistakes) explains the importance of preheating, “It’s like stretching before a run, or warming up the car, or letting the water get hot before you shower. Food cooks unevenly in a cold oven. Your poor dish starts in a cold oven, then it has to deal with a warm oven, then finally a hot oven, it doesn’t know what to do!”
After I’ve put food into a only partially preheated oven, I wait for my food to bake. At the end of the cooking time from the recipe, I check if my food is done. It’s usually not, so I then have to check on it every couple of minutes until it’s finally firm in the center. The total baking time is longer than the recipe called for because it wasn’t baking at the proper temperature from the beginning.
A Cook’s Illustrated article told of an experiment comparing preheated and non-preheated ovens. Cookies that were added to non-preheated oven spread out much more than ones in preheated oven because they were inserted before the oven was at the proper temperature for the dough to set. Cakes put in too soon came out with crispy or even burnt on the edges by the time the center was cooked through.
Think about how this applies in your own life. If you just start without any planning, the total project can end up taking longer because you may have to start over or change course in the middle. You may not realize all of the supplies or resources you need to be successful so that causes you to pause in the middle and possibly lose your place or your momentum. In addition to taking longer, the quality of your outcome may suffer because you were unprepared or trying to complete a project without the correct tools.
Taking the time to “preheat” can help you to recognize potential obstacles and make a plan to overcome them before they become barriers. You can also avoid mistakes that could require you to start over or repeat work. Additionally it can allow you to work at a steady pace instead of a frenzy at the end when you realize that a lack of planning caused a delay that threatens your ability to meet the deadline.
Next time I bake cookies, I am going to preheat that oven just like next time I have a project, I’m going to take the time to plan to save myself time and headaches in the end! What about you?
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
Robinson, David James. “Do I Really Have to Preheat the Oven?” Learn How To Cook (and Eat Your Mistakes), 2 Feb. 2011, eatyourmistakes.com/in-the-kitchen/do-i-really-have-to-preheat-the-oven.
“Why You Should Fully Preheat Before Baking.” Cook's Illustrated, www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/10431-why-you-should-fully-preheat-before-baking.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!