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?

What Is The Value Of Inefficiency?

Everyone wants to be productive. Our jobs demand it, our busy lives require it, and our brains crave constant stimulation. But is there a value to wasting time? Of inefficiency?

Generally, different people use different methods to maximize their time spent on things. To-do lists. Productivity software. Comprehensive calendars.

If we feel overworked, that might stress us out, so our solution is to try and maximize our daily routine. Perhaps you can shave a few minutes off of making breakfast. Showering at the gym might save some time. Listening to audio books or podcasts during your commute allows you to make better use of wasted time.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘How can we encourage debate?’


However, there is some value to unstructured time. Having a tightly-packed schedule where every minute is accounted for is subject to disruption. An unexpected event can throw an entire day into chaos.

Beyond that, there is some indication that proper functioning of the brain requires some down time. After all, what is our need for sleep if it is not inefficient? For roughly eight hours each night we lie still in the dark, as our brains, through dreams, process events from the day or worries we might have. That’s not very good use of time!

Our higher-level, strategic thinking is not something that can be done while running errands or performing routine tasks. For that, you need to devote time to thinking. And sitting and thinking doesn’t appear, from the outside, to be very productive.

In addition, people need to have some time that is spent just relaxing. Just as a muscle can only work for so long before it needs to rest, our brains need breaks occasionally to function properly.

What is the proper balance between thinking and doing? Between productivity and relaxation? What is the value of inefficiency?

Related questions: Why do people like games? How important is the repetition in our lives? How do you set priorities? Are we too busy?