How Can We Be More Productive?

Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.  When your to-do list is frustratingly long, what can you do to be more productive?

While there is something to be said for the need to relax in our over-scheduled society, sometimes you just need to get stuff done. That might include running errands, preparing a work project, or performing home maintenance. Whatever the task is that you feel is crucial, how can you avoid procrastination and distractions, and actually accomplish said task?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘How can we encourage debate?’


Productivity has been steadily increasing in our modern society, thanks to tools like the computer and the internet, as well as the labor-saving machines that magnify the effort of an individual. Not to mention increasing the weekly hours spent at work, or even working during “off hours” like answering emails from home.

Are there further advances to be had? Do productivity programs or apps actually work? Are there routines or practices that can further improve how much we can accomplish? Or is the attempt to increase productivity bound to further increase daily stress and unhappiness?

If you feel that your list of tasks — for work, home, or even for enjoyment — is too long and needs to be reduced more efficiently, what can you do about it? How can we be more productive?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? How do you set priorities? What is important? How can we encourage collaboration? Do you keep lists?

Stairs Or Elevator?

If you need to go to a higher or lower floor, are you more likely to take the stairs or the elevator? Does the number of floors make a difference? Does it matter if you are alone or with someone else?

Share why if you wish.

Stairs Or Elevator?

Competition Or Collaboration?

If you want to get the most out of a situation — for yourself, or for a group — is it better to encourage competition or collaboration? Which do you think is more effective?

Share why if you wish.

Competition Or Collaboration?

How Has Your Work Life Changed?

The nature of work life had been changing, but the COVID pandemic accelerated that change. How we work may never be the same again.

While some companies closed temporarily or permanently, others adapted in ways that may have long-lasting impacts.

Many companies were hesitant to encourage their employees to work from home. There was some concern that productivity would plummet, if workers were at home, where there were innumerable distractions.

However, those fears appeared to have been overblown. Productivity did not take a noticeable hit when employees were forced to work from home, even if they have kids they suddenly needed to provide daycare for. And office space can be quite expensive, so downsizing corporate buildings can have measurable financial benefits.

Even beyond that, quality of life for employees working from home can improve significantly. Commute times drop to zero, and a worker can put in just as many hours at their job, and still have time to devote more time to family. A happy employee is a productive employee.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


Still, there are concerns that communication between co-workers may suffer. It is also difficult to build a sense of camaraderie between employees who spend little to no time in close proximity.

As government guidelines change, so companies are requiring their workers to go back to the office, while some are not. Even those that go back may find some things have changed in the year and a half since the pandemic started.

What about you? Are there differences in the way you do your work? Are there differences in the way your business or your company thinks about remote work? How has your work life changed?

Related questions: How do you want this to change you? Work or play? What is your dream job? What is the value of inefficiency?

What Is Waste?

You can waste a lot of things. Time. Energy. Potential. In addition, we produce several different kinds of waste. Environmental. Biological. Toxic.

But what exactly is it? By one definition, it is a substance that is not useful in a particular context. For example, a cell in our body takes in oxygen, and after metabolic changes, produces carbon dioxide as waste. The cell doesn’t need it. The carbon dioxide is taken by our blood stream to our lungs, where it is expelled as exhaust.

But while that carbon dioxide is not needed by our cells, plants need those molecules for growth. In a different context, our cells’ waste is not waste at all.

This cycle is repeated throughout the natural world. What is considered useless by one organism is a valuable resource for another.

So does that mean that waste is simply a matter or perspective? If there is a substance that one being considers useless, is it possible to find another that will make use of that material? Or are there some things that simply cannot be used in any other context?

In addition, there are the other definitions of the word waste. If I waste my time, that time is not a resource that can be retrieved by someone or something else. It is simply gone. Similarly, if an person wastes their potential, that isn’t a resource that is available to others.

Is there a common element to these two different uses of the word waste, between the ephemeral, like time or talent and the corporeal resource, like oxygen or carbon dioxide? In short, is it is just the same word being used for two different concepts?

What is waste? How should we think about our waste? How can we reduce it? Is waste ever useful and desirable?

Related questions: What is the value of inefficiency? What do we owe the future? How do you define success? What do we do about plastic?