Are productive people born or made?

“We were all born with a certain degree of power. The key to success is discovering this innate power and using it daily to deal with whatever challenges come our way” –  Les Brown

Workers are unique due to their respective strengths, weaknesses and preferences. For instance, someone who’s organised and busy doesn’t necessarily translate into a productive person. It could be that they’re tidy but focused on the wrong priorities. Whereas a worker who just makes deadlines could be quite productive due to the high workload they take on and deliver. How we interact with our work influences the level of output. Are productive people born or made? The answer isn’t straightforward but I think it’s a combination of both.

One of my first bosses and mentors always got results but never seemed to work all that hard. If 10 people were given the same task to do, he’d find a way to complete it without having to exert too much effort. He was incredibly efficient and an exceptional logical clear thinker. Colleagues would say he was lazy but I think they were jealous (secretly they wished they could be like him). Most of us have worked with someone like this. It doesn’t mean they don’t have weaknesses or that they’ve reached their full potential (maybe they never will), they’re just naturally talented.

Then there are workers who find results don’t come as easy for them. Despite trying very hard, their productivity is lower than it needs to be. They might like to be organised but don’t know how to be or lack the discipline to maintain some kind of system. It’s likely they’ll be distracted by the constant stream of interruptions and priorities which will leave them feeling somewhat exhausted, overwhelmed and with little time to devote to what’s important. They simply haven’t found a rhythm that feels natural to them and this restricts their ability achieve targeted results. Workers like this can learn to become more productive. It won’t be by a 1 size fits all approach, it will be customised and aligned to their strengths, weaknesses and preferences. 

Our approach to work influences the quality and quantity we’re able to achieve. 4 reasons why workers produce inconsistent results are:

Lack clarity – they don’t know how to truly manage the responsibilities of their job

Poor rhythm – they don’t have an approach to their workflow that supports them to do their best work every day

Too busy – they’re overwhelmed with the volume of work

Lack urgency – they either choose not to take action or their poor systems don’t support them to get things done in a timely manner

Organisation is an element of productivity. Those who are naturally organised are born with what I’ll refer to as a tidy gene. However, anyone can be taught how to become organised. Success depends on whether the person see value in it to have the desire to maintain an organised approach.

This decade sees constant advances in technology that unlock opportunities for further productivity gains. While productive people can be born, that will only take them so far. It’s the learned workers who will bypass them because they’ll continue to exploit further productivity savings by leveraging technology and new ways of working where it is appropriate.

The challenge for businesses is that sub-optimal or bad time management is a major barrier to business growth (Source: study commissioned by Instantprint). Successful businesses will be those who build a culture of productivity by providing the tools, training and support to their people. Even though some people are born productive, it’s necessary to help everyone reach their potential to become more productive.