The Three Levers of Productivity (#3 May Surprise You)

“Do more with less.” “Boost your productive output.” “Get more done, faster!”

Messages around efficiency, productivity, and hard work are drilled into us from the first day of our careers. Today, these themes pound in our heads, originating from bosses, shareholders, suppliers, customers, colleagues, and family members. Most of us have internalized the demands, hearing the productivity drumbeat in our minds even in moments where others are not overtly verbalizing.

The problem is, we all hit the same 24-hour-a-day wall. Without time expansion or external resources magically appearing, how do we boost productivity to meet the challenges of the day? Why do some people achieve remarkably while other hard-working folk languish? To solve the mystery, let’s examine the three primarily levers of productivity:

Lever #1 – The Effort
This is the classic move we’ve been taught since kindergarten: work harder, tough it out, boost intensity. Even the busiest among us can generally extract an extra 10-15% more output through good old-fashioned hustle. In the same way athletes achieve more by pushing themselves to a higher level of training and intensity, most of us have room to enjoy solid gains by deploying greater effort. Grit works.

Lever #2 – The How
Since effort alone may not be enough deliver the results we seek, the next level of productivity involves the manner in which we do the work. Cutting the lawn with a scissors or a riding mower may deliver the same outcome, but one is dramatically more efficient than the other. If you challenge yourself to carve out one hour a week for the next six weeks to examine how you do your job (vs. just cranking out the work), you’ll likely uncover fresh hacks, process improvements, and changes to your methods that end up boosting productivity significantly. In fact, one hour a week dedicated to improving your approach (just 2% of a typical 40 hour gig) can skyrocket your overall productivity by 30% or more. The early wins will be especially big, so get started soon!

Lever #3 -The What
Once you’ve ratcheted up your effort and improved how you actually do the work, you’re ready to take on the What. Here, it is exploring what work you’re actually doing, looking for activities that can be swapped out for higher value ones. If you spend two hours a week on cold-calling new prospects, is there better use of that time that could fuel results? Maybe it’s hiring a part time employee; maybe it’s replacing manual calls with ads on LinkedIn. The core idea – examining the various task, projects, and functions that currently fill your schedule to discover opportunities for an upgrade. Exploring the workload itself, trading up lower-value duties for higher ones, can boost productivity into the stratosphere. This is the trick of billionaires and industry titans, consistently upgrading what they do with their precious hours in order to maximize results. Unlike the first two levers, the gains to be seized are limited only by your imagination.

In our always on, 24/7 business world, we must constantly seek new ways to boost output to achieve our full potential and best serve the world. Investing in the three levers of productivity, taking time to look inward to optimize what and how you deliver, is one of the highest return investments you can make.

To increase time, it’s time to lever up.