Now This Is My Idea of Productivity – Celebrating the Mundane

Reporter Leah Fessler had a story in this week’s New York Times about how important it is to recognize our small wins and routine accomplishments, rather than just wait to celebrate when we have major breakthroughs.

According to Teresa Amabile, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, “huge achievements are much less likely than small wins, and if we wait for them to feel good about our work, most of us are going to suffer through vast deserts of tedium.”

This reality magnifies the importance of recognizing and briefly honoring the more mundane — but much more common — instances of progress among ourselves, our family, and our colleagues. What’s more, Ms. Amabile’s research suggests, is that small wins can have just as positive an influence on our sense of self-efficacy, happiness, and, ultimately, our productivity as enormous accomplishments do.

Here are some examples of small wins shared in the story:

  • Ms. Amabile and her husband recently celebrated disinfecting a large load of groceries.
  • Ms. Fessler cleared the screenshots and random documents from her computer desktop, changed her screen saver image, cleaned out her refrigerator, read one chapter of a book that has sat on her bedside table for a year,  and brushed her pug.

Impressed? Probably not, but that’s the point. These small accomplishments are a sign that you are still being productive, even if it seems like you got nothing done that day. Realizing this can make us feel good and lead to even bigger accomplishments.

So after reading this, it made me reflect back on what I accomplished today.

  • early morning workout
  • answered several emails and blog comments
  • read several blogs, offered comments on many
  • vacuumed and cleaned my beloved Toyota Matrix
  • moved all my desktop files to a folder so that I have a clean desktop

I’m guessing that some people may look at that list and say that they could do all of that in two hours. That is impressive but just as impressive is my ability to spread all of that over a 14-hour day.

Like the professor from Harvard says, you’ve got to celebrate those small wins…

*image from Entrepreneur

36 thoughts on “Now This Is My Idea of Productivity – Celebrating the Mundane

  1. Not a bad philosophy to recognize each of the things you’ve accomplished.

    The first thing I thought of when I saw your picture was Hobby Day in my classroom. It was a glorified public speaking trick where each child would get five minutes to share one of their hobbies with the class. One child (I’ll protect his identity) collected pencil shavings from the class pencil sharpener.😎

    Liked by 2 people

    1. to each his or her own. Today I will be having each student introduce themselves and share some sort of prop or way to help us remember their name. It should be fun, and I will probably write about it… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cleaning is such an underrated accomplishment. Do that ‘little’ thing a hundred times and you’ll have an environment fit for a healthier and more creative mind. Thanks for sharing, Jim!

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  3. there you go, jim. a day filled with celebration. i charged my vacuum cleaner, not that i’ll use it unless company is coming, but it is sitting at the ready! time to celebrate!

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  4. You made me feel better now about the things I get done! I cleaned a little area of our basement yesterday. Felt good to see the clean area, even if it was small! I feel accomplished too whenever I can top some “stooge’s” smart comment. 🙂
    Can I put reading books on my list, for I could scratch that off my list real easily!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the one person in the NYT story mentioned that she read a chapter in a book, and she considered that one of her daily accomplishments! And yes, some of those stooges are pretty clever – I’m not at their level yet…

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  5. I’m a list person and maybe I should celebrate each tick however small …thus far I have read some blogs and left comments, discovered collections and started a few on Windows 10, answered all my emails…now for the first drink of the day green tea and some of the cherries my neighbours gave us ….and it’s still early AM…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually no…we went out last night the first time in a few months and I had more than I normally would so today…I have abstained….sigh…It was a good meal and company though 🙂

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