A Productivity Mindset

I’ve been studying productivity for more decades than I care to remember, and much of my effort has gone into developing and teaching practical techniques to get more of the important agenda items done sooner rather than later.

But underlying all of that effort must be a productivity mindset: the positive attitude that you can control not only “what” you work on, but also “when, “how,” and even “why” you get certain things done.

Here are some of the elements that go into cultivating and implementing a productivity mindset:


There are a great many situations – from combat and competition to legal and medical work, and more – where most people readily acknowledge that “situational awareness” is crucial to success. I would argue that awareness is valuable pretty much all the time, in every situation. If you’re in a comedy film, you may be able to stumble through life and still succeed. But in real life, it takes a huge amount of luck to remain unaware and still get what you want.

Awareness is the end product of efforts to:

  • See and hear what others are saying,
  • Analyze current events and their implications for the future,
  • Develop and utilize relevant skills and expertise, and
  • Be honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, preferences, desires, values and goals.

A certain amount of denial, self-deception, and perceptual error is unavoidable, of course. But the hope is to minimize all these blinders and stay keenly aware of what’s going on in your work and your life.


It takes miles and miles to turn a big ship into a new direction, whereas a jet ski or small motorboat can turn on a dime. Such agility makes it far easier to avoid obstacles, and requires far less advance planning to navigate difficult waters.

That’s a favorable analogy for boosting your productivity, which is all about aiming to complete desired tasks, projects, and goals, recognizing difficulties and opportunities along the way, and then efficiently and effectively navigating to reach your targets.

Agility in your work and your life involves the ability to quickly pivot from one task to another, from one project to another, and from one goal to another in recognition of all the actual and potential inflection points as they emerge in real time.

Part of this agility comes from solid organization – such as having the requisite resources for each task, project, and goal assembled and easily accessible. Another part comes from having an agile mind that can switch focus easily and quickly, yet concentrate for long periods of time, as necessary.

Fortunately, you can cultivate and increase your mental agility to a fairly large degree.


Productivity generally increases when you are happy, healthy, and strong. This creates a strong incentive to take care of yourself, in order to maintain and expand your ability to deliver maximum results over the long haul, in a wide range of situations.

Self-care involves a strong willingness and desire for:

  • Good nutrition, stress reduction, and exercise,
  • Getting plenty of sleep,
  • Saying “no” to others when appropriate,
  • Cultivating supportive relationships, avoiding destructive ones,
  • Making time for activities that nurture you,
  • Treating yourself as well as you would treat your best friend or loved one in similar circumstances.

Stay Present

Our minds are so active, it’s easy for us to spend too much time thinking about the past and the future. But there are wonderful productivity advantages to staying locked into the present. They include:

  • Greater awareness of and concentration on what’s going on around us,
  • More appreciation of and gratitude for the good things, events, and people in our work and our life,
  • Easier and better utilization of our strengths, skills, and capabilities,
  • Better mental agility, and
  • Greater ability to relate to others, sense what they’re thinking and feeling, and attract them to participate in what we are doing.

There are great advantages to mastering lots of productivity skills and techniques, of course. But you multiply the opportunities to use these techniques, and gain more benefits from them, when you also support them with a strong productivity mindset.

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