If busyness is our number one obsession today, then constant productivity is a close second. I'm part of the problem: I not only analyze how some of the most interesting leaders stay focused, but I am obsessed with being productive myself. I launched a minor and a major startup, did two TED Talks,and continued my media career all while being the primary caretaker of my first baby. I've got my own issues.
So perhaps you'll listen when I say this: You are not meant to be productive all the time. We seem to think that there is some magic formula that turns our mushy, balanced-oriented human brains into tough, binary computers. There is not.
The best way to be productive is to let yourself be less productive.
Stop multitasking: It's no coincidence that some of the most recognized entrepreneurs ruthlessly focus on one thing at a time. Focusing on multiple things doesn't make us get more done, but simply makes us less productive in several areas.
Focus in intervals: I call them palate cleansers, after the refresher you eat or drink between meal courses. Others call it the pomodoro technique, named such because the inventor used a 15-minute tomato-shaped kitchen timer to coordinate his concentration. The idea is to focus on something for a short, intense period of time, then to give yourself a break.
Break early, break often: Walking, quiet time, blank days, Internet unplugging and other disconnections do marvelous things to your productivity because your brain will continue to problem solve while you take in the quiet.
If you really want to get amazing things done, then trade in busyness for productivity. And that happens best in intense cycles, not in breathless marathons.