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7 Lessons Old-World Sages Teach Us About Being Productive


Since the dawn of civilization, improving productivity has long been a mission of humankind. Somehow, the task of maxing out our time has become ingrained within our DNA. Perhaps our evolving lifestyles have caused us to accept that we need to fit the most we can into our daily lives for fear that if we don’t, others may judge us as incompetent or lazy.

One of the hottest topics of discussion over the millennia has been productivity, dating back to ancient Western and Eastern philosophers. Maximizing our time on earth appears to be a universal theme.

Here, we examine some of the most recognized philosophers’ teachings on how we can become more productive, achieve our goals with less stress, and take pride in our accomplishments without conceit.

   1. Are your tasks meaningful?  – “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

We neither learn nor accomplish anything from performing meaningless tasks. By refocusing your energy on more productive tasks, you will achieve a more profound satisfaction from accomplishing something more substantial.

   2. Pick & Choose – “Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.” – Plato 

Trying to do more in the time we have might be counter-productive; we sometimes end up compromising quality for quantity.

By setting up fewer and more attainable goals, at the end of the day, whatever you get done, whether at work or in your personal life, should be rewarding and offer a sense of accomplishment and be its own reward.

Create lists of things that need to be done as well as a list of things that you want to get done. Prioritize both lists. Once completed, you can go through your lists and start knocking those projects out, one at a time. You will come away feeling more productive and will be able to see results.

  3. Enjoy What You’re Doing – “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle 

By taking pride in the work you do and doing your absolute best, your commitment and efforts will become evident, especially if you enjoy what you’re doing. Your performance and results will demonstrate your attention to the job, and your productivity will increase organically.

  4.  Focus “If you seek tranquillity… [d]o less, better…because most of what we do or say is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more tranquillity.” – Marcus Aurelius 

We live in a world of many distractions. From family drama to the office drama to drama in the news media and social media, distractions are continually invading our thoughts and actions.  Take the time to focus and bring yourself back to the center. This will help you take control of those distractions and allow you to become more productive.

  5. Honor & Integrity – “Neither blame nor praise yourself.” – Plutarch 

Whether you feed your ego through unhealthy amounts of praise or blaming yourself for all that goes wrong, either can be self-destructive. With excessive blame, you stifle healthy criticism. With lavish praise, you become blind to any faults.

Either of these extremes will cause you to underperform and sacrifice the quality of your work, and your productivity will suffer. Work through the issues and celebrate your successes modestly.

  6. Looking Ahead – “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius 

A productive life takes diligence and hard work—but, it also means that you keep moving toward your goals. Whether they are workplace projects or personal goals, stay focused, and keep looking ahead. By staying the course, your chances of becoming more productive and achieving the outcomes you set out to achieve are exponentially increased.

  7. Achieving Success –  “In the universe, great acts are made up of small deeds…The sage does not attempt anything very big, and thus achieves greatness.” – Lao Tzu 

Success is dependant upon how you measure it. Doing many things, but doing them with mediocrity may be acceptable to some; to others, doing less, but doing it diligently and doing it well is far more important.

Being productive is much the same – although volume can be crucial. By measuring the quality of your work, you are more likely to be increasingly productive, achieve more of your goals, and meet with much more success.

Tangram Interiors works closely with their clients as a creative partner to help you create workplace environments that enhance your brand and culture.  To find out how we can help design your workspace through the expert integration of technology, furniture, floor coverings, and service solutions into an atmosphere more conducive to higher productivity, give Tangram a call today

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