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Naphtali Hoff


Maximal Productivity, Part 4

Committing to the long haul

Published: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 12:02

The next and final step (No. 4) toward increased productivity is to aim to ensure that our new productivity process is sustainable and doesn’t quickly fizzle out. So often, we get excited about a new process but lack the tools, commitment, and mindset to see it to completion and long-term integration.

Here we talk about how to keep going in the face of expected setbacks and maintain the requisite level of well-being required for succeeding over the long haul.

The five components of this step are:
1. Decline or question as many noncritical meetings and tasks as possible; learn to say no
2. Focus on excellence, not perfection
3. Break often but briefly
4. Self-care (sharpen the saw): sleep, exercise, eat well
5. Use your commute wisely; read often


We all get sucked into meetings that we don’t want to attend, or conversations that offer little upside. To be productive and energized over time, we must be able to learn to say no to as many noncritical meetings as possible. This will obviously require tact. But you always need to keep a few key considerations in front of you:
• Your time is your most precious asset. It must be guarded carefully.
• If you allow yourself to be pulled into unimportant meetings, you will lose critical time needed to advance important tasks.
• People who think that you are available all the time will start to devalue you (if they haven’t already).


This ties in neatly with a time management framework called the “4 Ds.” In this framework, each D refers to a different reaction to a possible project, depending on its importance, urgency, and other considerations:
Delete it. Something that is not important, such as certain emails, should be deleted and given no time or attention.
Delegate it. This is for a task that can and should be handled by someone else. An example would be delegating the process of identifying, ordering, and installing a new collaboration software. Ultimately, you are responsible to get this done, but you have chosen to delegate the primary research and leg work to an associate.
Do it. This is what we referred to in part three about knocking out two-minute tasks. These are tasks that have not been delegated elsewhere and can be done quickly without railroading other work.
Defer it. This, too, we discussed previously. Defer it applies when the task is important but not urgent. It needs to be done but can be deferred until a later time and perhaps date. A meeting with a sales associate, for example, may be able to wait until the upcoming team meeting that’s already been scheduled (with the one-on-one occurring beforehand.)

Another sustainability tip is to focus on excellence, not perfection. For many perfectionists (this author included,) it is hard to “settle” on doing good work. We want to do great work. Actually, we insist on perfect work. Every time. Mainly because it satisfies our egos and leads us to think that others will more readily accept our work.

But seeking to produce perfect work (even if that were possible) slows us down and decreases output. So, instead of perfection, pursue excellence. You will still get solid results and others will be more than satisfied.

The final three components of step No. 4 relate to self-care.

Take a break

There are many reasons that we should be taking regular work breaks. They include reducing the negative health effects from too much sitting, cutting down on decision fatigue, restoring motivation, especially for long-term goals, increasing productivity, creativityand more.

Sharpen your saw

Like a dulled saw cutting through a thick log, we produce diminished results when we use a depleted self to “cut through” our daily grind and challenging projects. To succeed over the long haul, be willing to take care of yourself. Eat nutritious food and snacks. Hydrate often and sufficiently. Exercise. (The American Psychological Association reports that we are 15-percent more productive on days that we exercise before work. The study also found that physically active employees were less likely to develop job burnout and depression.) Get adequate sleep. (A study from Harvard University found that U.S. companies lose almost $65 billion annually because of employee sleep deprivation.) Meditate, pray, and take regular vacations. These will help you clear your mind and prime your body for sustained success.

On a related note, be sure to keep the temperature comfortable. A 2015 CareerBuilder survey found that productivity drops significantly when the office is either too cold or too warm. Experts suggest the work temperature sweet spot is between 65° and 70°F.

Use your commute wisely

Americans spend about an hour a day commuting to and from work. Use your commute wisely by listening to or reading content that will motivate and inspire you, offer you tools for success, or some combination thereof. I am personally a big fan of audiobooks and podcasts (including mine), which I listen to as I drive or take public transportation.

Sure, I will listen to the radio and attend to work matters (like returning client calls and prospecting), but I try to carve out meaningful time each day for learning. I guess there are some benefits to driving in and around greater New York, after all.

First published March 11, 2020, on the SmartBrief blog.


About The Author

Naphtali Hoff’s picture

Naphtali Hoff

Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach, organizational consultant, trainer, and lecturer. He has a doctorate in human and organizational psychology, which analyzes successful individual or organizational change and development, and he holds two master’s degrees in education and educational leadership. Hoff’s personal experience in the leadership field allows him to understand leaders’ needs and craft solutions to help them optimize their performance and success.