Stuck in a Productivity Rut? Try Incorporating Acts of Service into Your Routine

March 02, 2021

Filed Under: Productivity, Volunteer Work

By Sten Morgan

Photo Credit: Pexels

This new pandemic reality has done a number on the workforce’s productivity levels. For example, while some may find themselves working longer hours and achieving more goals than ever before, others may be struggling with burnout and losing their productive edge. If you can answer “yes” to being stuck in a state of low motivation and feeling slammed by a productivity wall—then the answer is probably you’re setting your sights on the wrong North Star, yourself. While being self-motivated and having personal growth goals is a key quality to achieving success in the work world, chances are if your drive is waning, it’s because your personal goals are no longer cutting it. Therefore, it may be time to set your sights and motivation on something—or somone else. In other words, when it comes to productivity, it’s not about you, it’s about “who.”

The first step of this is realizing your purpose is much bigger than yourself and recognizing that the big difference your individual hard work can have on changing others’ lives. The earlier you can unlock that driving motivation, the better. Making an impact on others can greatly affect your productivity; here are some tips to get you started.


Think about this specific scenario for a moment: If you doubled or tripled your income, who are the three people that you could immediately change the lives of starting tomorrow?

Look at your immediate circle. Who, if you had an extra $50,000 a year, would you immediately change the lives of, even anonymously? The point here is to identify people other than yourself that you could invest in or make meaningful change in their life. Whether it’s a scenario in which your mom has a rundown car that’s limiting her from getting to and from work, or it’s about your sister who cannot afford to send her kid to childcare. It’s about finding motivation beyond yourself.

The hard truth is that a lot of people give up on themselves or fall short, if all they’re thinking about is making themselves comfortable. Think about it: If later in life, if all you did is buy yourself a bigger house or nicer cars and take trips—you’ll probably be left wanting. For example, growing up in a house with a single mom and three sisters, if my only goal would have been to go to the grocery store and get gas without stressing out, I would have reached that goal in my early twenties and fallen into a world of complacency and limited growth. However, the fact that I could change the lives of my sisters and my mom and have a meaningful impact on others allowed me to unlock a different level of productivity. And the motivation that comes with that is not fleeting.

Also, consider the fact that in today’s environment, your “who” can go beyond your inner circle. Maybe there’s an organization in your neighborhood that’s helping families with the hardships of being unemployed or another organization focused on giving back to essential workers or helping students with limited resources further adapt to their new remote learning environment. According to a 2020 report by Fidelity Charitable, 66% of volunteers have decreased the amount of time they volunteer or stopped entirely due to the pandemic. So, the opportunities to find an organization to work with are even broader in today’s reality, as are the methods in which you can partner with each organization. 

As Winston Churchill put it, “we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Your actions can impact the life of others in a positive way, but it also brings with it many benefits that can serve as valuable tools to break down your own productivity barriers. Further, psychological studies have also repeatedly pointed to the benefits of finding purpose beyond yourself including well-being, happiness, health, and longevity. For example, by forming part of a larger community group or philanthropic organization, you not only gain perspective on the needs of others, but you also gain a deeper connection to humanity. Finding your “who” can be a productivity snowball effect; connection leads to new networks and perspective, perspective leads to ideation, ideation leads to action, action leads to improvement and creation, creation leads to purpose and meaning.

A 2021 survey by the U.K.’s Education and Employers and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showcases this concept at work in today’s society. Eighty percent of the 1,000 volunteers surveyed assisting in schools and colleges in activities such as career insights talks, mock interviews, mentoring, or serving as a school governor described a boost within their own professional lives as it pertains to their communication, influence, and relationship skills. Additionally, this same report highlighted that 80% of volunteers also described improvements in their sense of mission and purpose within their professional roles as a result of volunteering in education.

Now that you’ve identified your “who,” it’s important to make a list of steps that not only help you break through your productivity barrier but simultaneously help you achieve life-changing results for them. Consider the following steps to finding your productive edge.


As you work to refocus your productivity goals, analyze the key factors that are holding you down, or in other words, your safety net. It could be that you’ve already achieved the initial goals you set for yourself and therefore you are stuck in a place of complacency and comfort. However, while you may be comfortable, you may also be bored. This is the initial step to figure out how to shake things up keeping your “who” in mind. If you are to change someone else’s life, consider how you will need to step outside of your comfort zone to achieve these steps. Make a list of these steps and work to incorporate these into your daily workflow.


Despite what some schools of thought may preach, working longer hours does not necessarily correlate to higher productivity. Remember this thought when it comes to setting your goals to change someone else’s life. Reaching higher productivity does not mean you have to boil the ocean in one day. With this in mind, set intentional time during your workday to achieve one or two goals that will take you one step closer to achieving the vision you have in mind for someone else’s life. Plan your day the night before in order to pinpoint the key tasks at hand for the next day. 


As you work to add elevated goals to your workflow, identify where your areas of expertise are and where your shortcomings lie. It’s only by identifying what you need to improve on that you will be able to break beyond the productivity rut. As well, understand that making a change in someone else’s life requires teamwork. As you set your productivity goals, it’s important to understand what you cannot achieve by yourself. Become aware, ask for help, learn, and grow.

For the original article, visit: Fast Company.

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