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Making an Impact: Purpose and Productivity

If we asked you what was the biggest boost to your productivity, what would you say?

Maybe you’d say your well-organized to-do list, your paper planner, your go-to notes app, your work playlist, or that workday classic: your beloved cup of coffee.

You’re not alone: productivity “hacks” are celebrated in many workplaces – but these organizations are missing a trick.

In fact, Yahoo caught some flack when they made the controversial decision to end WFH back in 2013. We’re sure they changed their tune in recent times, but Yahoo was criticized for misunderstanding productivity.

The tide has turned and some companies realize that productivity is not about coffee; it soars when we feel we have a purpose.

What Does Purpose at Work Look Like?

Great question. We’re not talking about just a reason to get a job done: a purpose isn’t a deadline at the end of the day, a boss breathing down your neck, the hope of a vacation or raise.

Instead, purpose is the feeling that your work has a bigger impact on:

  • you as an individual, to your self-esteem, your personal development and alignment with your life goals
  • those you care about, helping you support loved ones with a clear vision of the benefits they get from your working life
  • your community or society, if your role helps those in need

It’s been found that people who see their work as “a calling” usually feel more satisfied than those who think of their work as “just” a job.

But: don’t feel like a purpose is only valid if it’s Nobel Prize-friendly. We wrote about this in our blog recently: there’s no reason why you can’t find purpose exactly where you work right now.

So, how do we delve into our work purpose? Now we know that it’s legit, it’s time to find ways to help you find and feel aware of your work purpose every day… Here is where to start, and how to make it part of your daily life.

A busy, modern office setting with lots of plants around. A wall in the foreground has big white text on it, reading "PUNCH TODAY IN THE FACE"

Start with Your Values

Chances are your organization has its own values, but have you ever thought about yours? A lot of us never have, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know them deep down. Use these three prompts to get you started and then let yourself dive into your own. Do you value:

  • Connection with others as part of your everyday life
  • Creativity and the ability to explore new ideas
  • Social causes that change the world for the better – and if so, which ones

Take a Look at Your Life Goals

Not everyone loves a five-year plan and if they make you want to pass out, don’t worry. Most of us, though, have ideas that we would love to work towards and make happen in our lives, so as your next exercise, make a note of what they are.

These could be trips you want to take locally or further afield, building a specific skill you have already and letting that become a significant part of your career, starting a family, living in a home of your own, or anything else that makes you feel excited. Don’t forget that a life goal can be “big” or “small”; short-term and long-term goals are just as valid as each other. If they inspire or excite you, they’re on the list.

Map Out Your Current Role and See Where You Can Tap Into Your Values and Goals

Now it’s time to get present: looking at your two lists from above, use it to identify the parts of your job that you do which link into the above.

If it’s a task that you really dislike, it’s probably because it’s highlighting a weakness that would be valuable for you to work on for your professional development, so that the home you’d love will be yours sooner. If it’s organizing work social events, it can tap into your desire for connection and get you used to creating happy moments for a family of your own.

A birds-eye view of a desk with black coffee, a half eaten croissant and a person writing in a notepad. Only their hands are visible.

…And Make Them Visible

These lists will help you stay motivated every day that you take the time to remember them. Have them front and center, but setting using them to make a background for your phone or desktop, writing them in your work planner, or having a little part of your Asana that just lists them for you to see.

Takeaways

  • Work productivity is more than the tools we use, be they tech or rituals that we turn to most frequently
  • Instead, purpose can be one of the biggest boosts, especially when we feel our work matters to ourselves, to loved ones, or to our wider communities
  • People who see their work as “a calling” feel happier than their peers who do not
  • Map out your values to get a sense of what purpose means to you
  • Make note of and return to the aspirations, short-term goals and larger visions that inspire and excite you

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