Self Improvement

5 Ways to Keep Productivity From Taking Over Your Life

Dann Albright 16-04-2015

Productivity is one of the biggest buzzwords in recent memory: everyone wants to know how to do more in less time.


But where has it gotten us?

Are we, as a society, significantly more productive? And if we are, are we happier? Productivity is important, but it needs to be put in its place. Here are 5 ways to keep productivity from taking over your life.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

Productivity isn’t everything. That’s a hard thing to remember when you’re surrounded by apps, newsletters, blogs, and websites dedicated to getting more done. Yes, it’s important, especially when it comes to being efficient in the time that you have to work. But your life doesn’t need to be focused on being productive.


Instead, make an effort to remember that living a full, satisfying, and meaningful life is your ultimate goal (if indeed it is; whatever your ultimate goal is, it’s probably not to be efficient). There are a lot of things you can do to remind yourself of your priorities: keep a vision board with your big goals How to Create a Vision Board and Meet Your Big Goals You can call them as big rocks or big, hairy, audacious goals. Some call it a bucket list. Emptying that bucket calls for action. This is where a visual tool like Trello proves useful. Read More  in your office. Put up posters of places that you’d like to travel to someday, or create a rotating desktop background with travel destinations. Make an “anti-burnout” to-do list of fun things. Spend time with your family.


All of these things will help keep you focused on what you really want to do.

Make an Effort to be Grateful

Being grateful is hugely under-appreciated. Gratitude helps make you happier, makes it easier to get through boring or difficult things, and keeps you from getting caught up in all the little difficulties that life throws at you every day. Most of us have a huge number of things to be actively grateful for, but it’s easy to start taking them for granted, and this can lead to burnout.

Even scientists are starting to recognize the power of gratitude in living a healthier, fuller life. Sociologist Christine Carter talks about the sweet spot where you’re operating with the greatest ease and the role of gratitude.

“Have a gratitude practice in which you take time each day to consider what you are grateful for. “



To keep gratitude at the forefront of your mind, start a gratitude journal The 5 Best Gratitude Journal Apps for iPhone Users Keeping a gratitude journal can have many benefits! Here are the best gratitude journal apps for iPhone and iPad. Read More . You don’t have to spend hours writing in it; just write down a few things that you’re grateful for at the beginning of each day (or the end, or both). Make a habit of paying attention to gratitude.

You can also get gratitude reminders from Daily Gratitude and Gratitude Reminder, and following @GratitudeWriter on Twitter will keep a steady stream of gratitude-inspiring tweets coming to your Twitter feed.

Remember What Productivity is For

I recently read Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan, and it included the parable of the fisherman and the businessman, a great lesson on the purpose of productivity. If you aren’t familiar with it, check out this quick video:

It’s clear that the fisherman is focused on living his life, and the businessman is focused on productivity. But to what purpose? The businessman belongs to a school of thought that says increased productivity will lead to getting the things that you want . . . but the fisherman sees the truth: that he already has those things.


You can put this into practice in your own life. Ask these questions:

  • Do your goals support what you want in life?
  • Are you considering taking on a project to accelerate your career goals?
  • Are you thinking about taking a job that pays more, but requires more time?
  • What are you missing out on when you’re focused on productivity?

The answers to these questions will help you figure out if you’re focused on the right things or if you’re just focused on getting things done.

Practice Stress Management

Being productive can be stressful. The idea behind the many productivity management systems How to Create the Last Perfect Time Management System You'll Ever Use Productivity is a constant search for more organization with less work. A way to accomplish everything you dream to accomplish, without losing out on sleep. Can this automated time management system do it all? Read More out there is that having a system in place will reduce your stress and help you be more productive, but being solely focused on accomplishing tasks in itself can contribute to stress. Especially when things don’t go as they’re planned—which they often don’t.

You get drawn into unexpected meetings, your kids need to go to the doctor, your project gets delayed, you get sick . . . all of these things get in the way and can throw off your plans, further contributing to stress.



Make sure to give some of your time to stress management. Akshata wrote a great article on taking the stress out of productivity 4 Ways To Take The Stress Out Of Productivity With a few well-targeted changes, you can boost your productivity by leaps and bounds. Apply these simple methods to your life and the result is what you would expect -- better work with lesser effort. Read More , and I strongly recommend going through it and adopting some new habits to keep your stress under control.

You can even do simpler things; when you start feeling stressed, take a few minutes and practice some deep breathing. Meditate Learn Meditation On Any Device & Don't Spend A Dime Contrary to popular opinion, you can meditate without a yoga mat, religious guidance, a peaceful personal space, incense candles, and any other apparatus. Here's a simple tool to help you begin. Read More in the morning, exercise or do some yoga 5 Top Yoga Channels On YouTube That Help You Beat Stress After a stressful day, a few minutes of yoga can mean the difference between anxiety and rest. Load up these YouTube channels and don't be surprised when your stress melts away. Read More after work, and spend a bit of time journalling before bed. Take vacations, even if it’s just for a weekend at the cabin or a day at the spa.

Practicing mindfulness is another great way to keep your stress under control. Mindful practice helps you keep a better eye on how you’re feeling and teaches you how to deal with it in a way that’s healthy, gentle, and effective. You can introduce mindfulness into every part of your life; even browsing the Internet How The Simplicity Of Mindful Web Surfing Can Help You Focus You can be more mindful of your browsing to stay focused, reduce stress, and be a lot more purposeful with your time online. With practice, you can strengthen your "mindfulness muscles". Read More !

Keep up Hobbies and Side Projects

When you’re focused on being productive, it’s easy to sacrifice other important parts of your life, like hobbies and exploratory side projects. These things are important, though, not just for your mental health, but also for your productivity!

Working on things that are outside of your comfort zone are great for increasing creativity and learning new ways of problem solving. They’re also good for stress relief, taking your mind off of work, and — often—improving your physical health as well.


Set aside time for learning new things — learn a language 15 Great Sites to Learn a New Language Although there are endless resources to learn languages on the web, it is often difficult to find quality websites that offer structured lesson plans for free. Read More , or spend some time teaching yourself electronics using an Arduino Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More . You can have fun learning to program online Bored With Programming Books? Try 3 Fun Ways To Level Up Your Coding Skills If you've ever tried to learn to code from a book, you know how boring it can be. Why not try some engaging options to make learning more quirky and fun. Read More , pick up a new sport, read a novel, or even just play new board games with your spouse and kids. No matter what you decide to do, make sure that you set aside time for it regularly.

Your side projects can even be work-related things. Some companies, including 3M, give their employees a set amount of time to work on side projects that aren’t directly related to their jobs, because it helps them think more creatively and increases satisfaction with their job. And if companies like 3M are doing it, there must be something to it. So make sure to spend time on yourself, too!

Put Productivity in Its Place

Productivity and efficiency are important. We all have to get things done and make money—but it’s important to remember that those aren’t the only priorities in our lives. There are others, and some of them are much more important than work. Use the strategies above to help maintain balance in your life and keep from getting burnt out. Use good productivity strategies when you need to, but don’t forget that there’s more out there!

How do you keep productivity in its place? Or do you feel like it’s taken over your life? Share your experiences and tips below!

Image Credits: man walking and balancingcatching the sun #2, silhouette of a man, depressed woman in the office, pretty woman is a professional photographer via Shutterstock.

Related topics: Health, Mental Health, Stress Management.

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  1. Alex
    April 17, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Productivity must grow in expense of technology not muscles. Muscles wont give big productivity anyway.

    • dragonmouth
      April 17, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      They will if you are a bricklayer. :-)

    • Dann Albright
      April 19, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Alex, I'm not quite sure what you're trying to get at here.

      But dragonmouth does have a point—larger muscles could help your productivity if you work in a manual-labor-focused job! :-)

  2. Rob
    April 17, 2015 at 5:25 am

    Keeping up side projects and hobbies is a very good point. I know too many people who focus on productivity, and who may have a growing bank balance, but do absolutely nothing with it, or their lives in general.

    • Dann Albright
      April 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Yeah, that's no way to be! It's easy to think of productivity as an end, but it should really be a means. Productivity is a great tool, but it can become a goal really easily.

      Thanks for reading!