3 secret ingredients of productivity

Before we examine the factors that impact on your productivity in detail, let’s take a moment to think about what it means to be productive in the workplace.

Being productive is more than just being busy. You’ve no doubt had days when you were busy all day but, at the end of the day, felt as if you hadn’t actually achieved anything. I know I have.

Work is something we do with intent. It has a purpose. It’s not just a way of passing the time. You generally don’t get paid for that.

Being productive at work or in your own business is about getting things done that you want to get done for a specific reason, and I don’t mean so you’ll get paid. That’s a by-product of being productive.

Contrary to what many people think, business is about service. It’s about producing goods and providing services that others need or want. If you’re being productive, then what you are doing is contributing to either the production or delivery of those goods and services. When you’re not being productive, then, basically, you’re not contributing.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re interested in contributing by being productive in your chosen field, and that you want to be as productive as possible. After all, we live in a society that rewards people for being productive, and there’s nothing wrong with being paid for making a contribution.

As I mentioned in the overview, there are a lot of factors that can either help or hinder your efforts to be productive. There are three other things though, what we might call the three secret ingredients, that are more important than all of those factors: awareness, purpose and action.

3 secret ingredients


You can’t do anything about things of which you are not aware. You can probably recall a time when someone at school stuck a sign on another student’s back as an April Fool’s joke. It was a laugh for everyone – except for the poor person totally unaware of the sign. You don’t want to be that person in the workplace.

The focus of this book is on helping you bring things into awareness, so that you can (1) assess their impact on your productivity, and ( 2) do something about them.


It’s important to be aware of the purpose of your work. If you don’t know what it is that you are working to achieve everyday you’re not likely to be very productive.

Before reading on, take some time to identify the purpose of your work. This might take a moment or it may require a little research. You may need to review your vision or think about articulating one for your business, or you may need to read your duty statement or job description.

I’ll come back to purpose in the chapters on attitude and knowledge, but I suggest you stop and answer the appropriate question below before reading the next chapter.

  • If you’re an employee; what is it that you’re being paid to do each day?
  • If you’re self employed; why do you get up and go to work every day?


There is no point in knowing all there is to know about being productive if you don’t take action, and not just any action. If you want to be productive you need to take action aligned with your purpose.

This is a draft of material that will eventually appear in Everyday Productivity, the next title in my Everyday Business Skills books. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a series of Everyday Productivity posts, and providing you with an opportunity to download a free copy of the workbook to complete the exercises designed to help you get the most out of the content. Please feel free to offer feedback in the comments.

Peter Mulraney has forty years experience working in schools, banking, and government. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic, The New Girlfriend and Everyday Project Management.