How to Increase Your Productivity

The biggest barrier to productivity is not a lack of time like most think. When you dig deep down to the core of the problem, a lack of productivity comes from a lack of integrity. Most people will say one thing and then do another. People who do this are not in integrity. This creates more work and leads to a lack of productivity.

As integrity decreases so does productivity.

Here’s one way to look at it. Let’s say I ask you out to dinner. I phone you up and say, “Hey, would you be interested in going out to dinner with me this Friday?” and you say, “Sure, I’ll meet at 7:00 pm.” At this point I’ve committed my time to go to dinner with you. I’ve given you my word.

Friday comes along and it’s getting close to 7:00 pm, no Steve. Now it’s past 7:00pm. Still no Steve! It’s 8:00 pm, you’re at the restaurant and you get a call from me. “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to make it tonight. I hope you understand. Do you want to reschedule for next Friday?” You give it some thought and then accept.

The following Friday comes along and I miss dinner again! This time you’re really pissed. I call you to reschedule for a third time. “Hey, sorry about that. Did you want to meet me next Friday?”

Big Question: Do you trust me to show up next time?

I’m going to guess that chances are pretty slim. You’ve had enough at this point. You don’t believe I’ll show up because you don’t believe what I say. The reason you don’t believe what I say is because you don’t trust me. Most people will cut me some slack for missing dinner the first time, but after the second time you probably think I’m full of it. You really can’t take me for my word.

Not a big deal right? WRONG. It is a big deal. If you don’t trust me, then who else doesn’t trust me? ME. If I can’t keep my word with you then I more than likely can’t keep my word to myself. That’s right. If you don’t trust me then I don’t trust ME either. It works both ways. This is a problem.

A lack of trust leads to low self confidence. Your view of yourself diminishes greatly when you can’t trust yourself. If you have a low opinion of your self, how productive do you think you’ll be?

What Not To Do

This is a big one. Never commit to do something that you know you won’t do. This is a productivity killer.  It’s also something I talk about in Effective Action and The 80/20 Rule.  Stop yourself from committing to things that you aren’t going to do. If someone asks you to do something and you don’t want to do it, tell them that. Save yourself the trouble and only commit to actions that will move you toward the bigger you.

This has been a real problem for me in the past. I used to over commit myself all the time. I had trouble saying no. I wanted to look good and impress others. This didn’t work because my decisions came from looking good. The reason I was trying to impress was so that I could feel good about myself and boost my confidence. This doesn’t work.

It’s like covering up a piece of crap by putting ice cream on it. The piece of crap is still sitting under the ice cream. You can’t get rid of crap by putting ice cream over it. You get rid of the crap by being your word and following through on your commitments because you said you would.

You may start by telling someone you’re going to go to the gym this week three times. The week goes by and you manage to hit the gym three times. You said you would go to the gym three times and you did. You start to feel good about yourself. You start to build your confidence. You start thinking about something bigger, something a little more risky.

This time you commit to earning $500 by the end of the month. The month goes by and you are $500 richer. You say to yourself, “Wow, this is really working. I said something and it happened.” This elevates your confidence even more. You begin to trust yourself. You declare a commitment and it happens.

If you’re going to be productive then you will need to trust yourself. You build trust when you start being your word. Do what you said you would do. Not only does this mean following through on what you declare to others, it also means following through on what you declare to yourself.

Productivity Test

If there is no integrity then you’re wasting your efforts. It takes a whole lot more energy and corrective actions to get results when you’re out of integrity. Save yourself the time and energy by completing the things you SAID you would do – the things you said to others and yourself. One way to gauge your integrity is with this productivity test.

The test is simple:

  1. Write out your commitments for the day. Tell two people what you will do.
  2. At the end of the day, check your list of commitments and see how many you’ve completed.

Most people will never completely follow through on all of their daily commitments whether they’re written or verbal. Some people will get distracted and not do what’s most important to them. This behavior is the quickest way to decrease your productivity.

On the other hand, you may be one of the very few people who complete all their daily commitments. This is a sign that you’re owning your word – you’re in integrity. You may want to look at bigger commitments that will take you out of your comfort zone and get you where you want to be.

Get Back Into Integrity

The best way that I know to get back into integrity is to follow through with your completions. Start small and build. Start by choosing small commitments that you know you can complete and do them. Each day begin to increase the size and number of your commitments. As you start to complete the items on your list you’ll feel your confidence building. Increased self confidence will help you to re-establish trust with yourself. Once you trust yourself, you’ll be able to get more done and increase your productivity.


  • David

    Reply Reply October 5, 2007

    I help homeless veterans get back into society by building confidence and self-esteem in a back to work program.

    If you have email list for notification of your new articles, which by the way are very good, please put me on that list

    Thanks before hand, David

  • Steve

    Reply Reply October 5, 2007

    Hi David,

    thanks for your feedback. I have just added an email subscription for updates to my blog. It’s in the top right hand corner.


  • Karl

    Reply Reply December 3, 2007

    This was a great Monday morning article. Thanks man!

  • Steve

    Reply Reply December 3, 2007

    thanks Karl!

  • WebDrops

    Reply Reply December 4, 2007

    Well I have to agree with Karl, this is a lovely article… very well said and drafted… I really liked the case study though :) yes I have to agree with you and which I am going to follow… “Never commit to do something that you know you won’t do” sometimes over commitment tends to decrease the value of our words, especially when we are not able TO DO what we said… :)

  • Steve

    Reply Reply December 4, 2007

    thanks WebDrops – it’s great to hear your enthusiasm.

  • WebDrops

    Reply Reply December 5, 2007

    you are welcome Steve… this post itself is engrossing enough to boost up our energy levels :)

  • Qrystal

    Reply Reply December 10, 2007

    I have tears in my eyes after reading this article… I never associated my lack of productivity with a lack of integrity, because it usually just seems like I’m a victim to the things that distract me. I’ve been battling my procrastination and distraction and lack of focus for so long…

    I have been thinking lately that I actually am NOT CAPABLE of being on time for things, or NOT ABLE to accomplish the things that I have committed myself to. What does that say about my level of trust? Eek! I didn’t think my self-esteem was a problem, I like myself just fine (except when I catch myself slacking when I should be working, then I’m “very disappointed!”)

    So this article has gently reminded me that integrity is something I will have to build, and I’ll have to be especially careful not to kick over what I’m building. I want to be the person I want to be!!

  • Steve

    Reply Reply December 10, 2007

    That’s great Qrystal. It’s definitely a challenge in this day and age with all the distractions we have (ie. phones, blackberry’s, TV, etc.) to stay focused on what’s important. I believe that by being conscious of your choices you can make each day a productive one to move towards your dreams.

  • Integrity is always an important point for me. Thanks.

  • Steve

    Reply Reply January 26, 2008

    thanks Patricia, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Loved the article. Some of my friends would really benefit if they read it. But I guess I should look at myself as I am no exception. When I am personally out of integrity my life is a real mess. And whose fault is it for that? Mine. It took me some time to realize that the only one “working” against myself was me but when I did, everything changed and things started to improve. Thanks for the article Steve. It’s nice every now and then to read an article like this and to be reminded about certain things as I tend to slip back into my old (and bad) habits…

  • Louise

    Reply Reply November 12, 2008

    I know exactly what this is about. I do it sometimes with regards to “Beginning” to create an Income for myself so I can do all the things I want to do. I get too busy and never have time to take that little step to go into Town and set up a Practise and make it work. I am out of integrity with myself and my friends. I do not like myself and make excuses, like I don’t know where the time goes, I just don’t have enough time to do all the things I need to do to get me to where I want to be.

  • Dianna

    Reply Reply June 22, 2009


    You have such a special way of putting things. One example: “You can’t get rid of a piece of crap by covering it up with ice cream. The piece of crap is still under there.” I love your sense of humor! Please keep it up.

    I have some issues with starting things and not finishing. I recently discovered I have A.D.D. but I don’t want to start using it as a crutch. Any suggestions on getting people like me to follow through on their tasks?

    Thanks :-)

  • Steve

    Reply Reply June 22, 2009

    Hi Dianna,

    I was also a great starter and poor finisher at one time.

    At one point I realized that the only way to get projects off the ground was by becoming a great finisher – so I made a commitment to finish everything I started…. and at first it only began with the small things and then later with the bigger projects.

    What you really want to do is to make finishing a habit. It’s something I teach in my coaching program.

    There are a couple of things you can do to make finishing a habit:

    1. Find an accountability partner – someone that will hold you accountable to your commitments.

    2. Get a coach.
    Most coaching programs will have a built-in accountability system. I do with my program and when people get slippery, I make sure to remind them of their commitment. The process has worked wonders for many clients – some didn’t even know that they were being slippery :-)

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