Working harder on things that are not important, that don’t move you closer to your goals, or that don’t really need to be done at all, does not make you productive. Even if you write these things down on a task list, complete them, and cross them off as done, you were not really productive.
Working smarter doesn’t make you productive either. You can work really smart to put the processes in place that streamline your work, reduce friction, and let you compress the time it takes you to do certain things. You can work really smart on the wrong things, and be anything but productive.
Delegating things or outsourcing them to other people might help you cross tasks off a list, and it may give you back some of your time. As necessary as it is to delegate, if the decision as to what to delegate is poorly made, poorly managed, or poorly done, you are not improving your productivity.
The Secret to Legendary Productivity
There is only one thing you can do to be more productive; that is to prioritize and work on what is most important.
Working harder on what is most important will absolutely make you more productive. You will get more done, you will do it faster, and it will mean your work is of a higher quality. All of these are good measurements of productivity.
Working smarter on your biggest priorities will also increase your productivity. Finding ways to produce more, faster, and with less friction can allow you to more with less energy and effort, energy and effort that can be devoted to additional work.
Delegating the tasks and to-dos that must be done to move your most important work forward, but doesn’t require you as the primary value creator allows you to increase your output. When done well this can be like working both smarter and harder.
There is no scenario in which working smarter, working harder, or delegating, improves your productivity when these things don’t help you to move your biggest, most important projects forward. In fact, you are better off not working harder, not working smarter, and not delegating, and instead working only on what’s important if you want productivity.
The simple fact that you are doing what’s most important is what makes you productive.