How to Be Productive Without Being a Jerk

By Chris Craft | Last Updated:  August 11, 2020
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a man drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette
Photo by Şahin Yeşilyaprak on Unsplash

Our 7-year-old daughter called her older sister a jerk the other day. It wasn’t the nicest thing to say, but the label was accurate at the time and the moment was actually kinda’ funny (I laughed on the inside because I don’t want to encourage our children to say mean things to each other lol).

I’ve been writing a lot of content for various publications, projects, and clients lately. If you’re a writer, then you understand that writing takes a lot of focus. I’ve also had more virtual meetings with my team, clients, and prospects these days. With three children at home, distractions can come quickly and often. Once in a while, I have to gently pry our 5-year-old son from my arm when I’m trying to write or participate in a Zoom meeting.

All of this got me thinking, “Have I been a productive jerk?”

The honest answer is “Yes, sometimes.” But for the most part, I think I’ve been good at giving the people in my life their needed attention while remaining productive. Our family is full of creative people and I want to be a good example of how to be creative, productive, attentive, and loving.

Allow me to share my tips on how to be productive without being a jerk.

Start Your Day Earlier or Work Later (Pick One)

Waking up earlier or working later is a good way to get some tasks completed without many distractions. Just don’t try to do both because you’ll burn out, and burnout can undoubtedly lead to being a jerk and decreased productivity to boot.

Do good, focused work when you can give your work your full attention. When outside human distractions aren’t present, don’t create more distractions for yourself. That means:

Don’t stop until the job is done. You will regret not getting your work done when you have the chance to. But if an unexpected human distraction happens during your quiet time, try not to lose your cool (I’m working on this myself).

Be Realistic with Your To-Do List

“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.” ― Patti Digh

Ain’t that the truth!

An overloaded, unrealistic to-do list can lead to stress and overwhelm. And being stressed and overwhelmed can lead to you being a jerk. I know that you may be motivated to get a lot done, but I think that you should focus on two to three core tasks per day. Getting through a shorter list of to-dos will give you an accomplishment boost and improve your mood.

Power Tip: Eat That Frog!

I love Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! method to time management. Tackle your hardest task first and use that accomplishment boost to complete easier tasks.

Respect Your Time and People

“Efficiency with people is ineffective. With people, fast is slow and slow is fast.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Cultivating relationships takes time and intentionality. You can’t rush engaging people. They are people, not checklist items.

Calendars and to-do lists are great. But if someone close to you needs serious help, stop what you’re doing to help them (or help them help themselves). Don’t burn a relationship bridge because you want to stick to a task that can be done later. Humans are relational (dare I say ‘needy’) people and ultimately serving each other is the most worthwhile thing to do in life.

I make sure to take occasional 10-15-minute breaks. If my wife is at home, I’ll go ask her if there’s anything that I can help her with. If my kids are around, I’ll go check on them, look at their latest piece of art or invention, or have a quick wrestling match with them.

Avoid the Tyranny of “Urgent” but Unimportant Tasks

Stop doing “urgent” but unimportant tasks. Now.

I put “urgent” in quotation marks because some people think doing things like retweeting the latest “breaking news” from a celebrity gossip outlet are urgent tasks. If you’re not a paid celebrity blogger, a task like that is pseudo urgent and not important.

Stephen R. Covey's Time Management Matrix

Stephen R. Covey’s time management matrix is really helpful. Try to spend as much of your productive time in Quadrants 1 and 2. The more time that you spend in Quadrant 2, the more future value that you are creating for yourself and your family.

Quadrant 4 is easy to avoid because no one wants to do anything that’s not urgent and not important.

Quadrant 3 activities should be avoided like the plague! These “urgent” but unimportant activities feel good to do, but they aren’t rewarding at all.

Don’t spend most of your time completing tasks that won’t move your life, business, or work forward in a meaningful way. The tyranny of Quadrant 3 activities will ultimately cause you to be unhappy with yourself and not fun to be around.

Delegate Tasks

You can’t do it all. Like I mentioned earlier, you have to be realistic with your to-do list. Empower others by giving them tasks to complete. Just be sure that they are qualified to complete the task (unless they are in training) and that the work’s quality will be checked at some point. Be sure to delegate in a loving way and not like an oppressive dictator. Remember, the point is not to be a jerk!

Delegating tasks will free you up to complete the important tasks that will create the biggest results for you, your family, and your team.

You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to delegate tasks. People across all walks of life can practice delegating tasks. You will be surprised at how much more you can get done when you share the load with others.

Be Done with Work When You’re Done with Work

According to research done by SlickText, over 50% of smartphone owners never switch off their phone.

Being tethered to our smartphones as a society must stop because in-person relationships are suffering. When your workday is done, put your laptop away and put down your phone. Be present with your family, friends, and/or pets. Fill up those relationship tanks by having some good time with your loved ones. As time goes on, you will remember the memories that you made with other people more than that random email or text message that you responded to.

Take Randy Pausch’s approach to time management: dream big, work hard, play hard, and love people!

In Conclusion

If you want to be productive and likable, consider others more. Getting things done is fun, but investing in relationships is way more rewarding.

To be productive without being a jerk, do these things:

  1. Start your day earlier OR work later to avoid distractions. Don’t try to do both.
  2. Be realistic with your to-do list (consider making a stop-doing list).
  3. Eat that frog! Do your hardest task first.
  4. Respect your time and people.
  5. Avoid doing “urgent” but unimportant activities.
  6. Delegate tasks to give yourself more time for your core tasks and others.
  7. Be done with work when you’re done with work.

I hope this article will help you get more done without sacrificing your relationships. Do you have any tips to share? Leave a response. I’d love to learn from you!

Hi! I'm Chris(topher) Craft. I'm a believer, husband of an amazing woman (Wanda), and father of three talented kids (Naomi, Maria, and Elijah). I love writing, learning about God's Hand in History, entrepreneurship, and basketball. Thank you for reading my stuff! ❤️ Connect with me on Twitter @CraftWrites.