Productivity is where the rubber meets the road. The best laid plans in the world won't see the light of day, unless you are productive, that is EFFECTIVELY using your time to get to your goals.
However, this is where our culture has gotten it wrong, and where you have likely found yourself victim to the trap of the cult of 'busy'.
I found myself in this very situation, when after over 10 years in high pressure politics, and corner office pressure (read: intense days and nights of work with no end in sight), I realized that I was judging my productivity on how full or sparse my Outlook calendar was on any given day.
If it wasn't full, I felt like a failure.
If it was full, I felt panic that I couldn't follow-up on everything that the full schedule necessitated.
A catch 22 to be sure! And a no- win situation for the most productive among us.
I was literally working my ass off, surviving on an IV flow of Starbucks, and yet I was always barely keeping up!
And if you are overly busy, you are very likely also very un-productive. I know that hurts to hear, as trust me, I've been there!
For every hour you book yourself up in meetings and projects, you must also ensure that you allow for the adequate planning, follow through, and follow up that each of those appointments and commitments require. That is where it is easy to fall short. That is where you end up working late nights, early mornings, and weekends trying to keep up.
And keeping up, is not the same as being productive either!
So what is productive?
Productive is where you exert the least amount of time and effort, for the maximum amount of impact or gain.
Productivity happens when you are smart about the way you invest your time.
Notice my choice of words. Productivity results from 'investing', rather than 'spending' your time, and there is a big distinction between the two.
Productivity happens when you make the choice to design your time, when you protect it, and take every possible action to ensure your daily success.
And this is a very different mental model from just booking your days full of work.
Let me give you an example. A high performance habit that I learned from Brendon Burchard really changed the way I start my day, and has dramatically improved what I'm able to accomplish. I was completely resistant to this when I first heard about it, and you will see why.
Here's what you do. When you get to work every morning, or before you start your work day, challenge yourself NOT to check your email for the first hour. You read that right. Do not read your email for the first hour of your work day.
Instead, spend that first hour planning out how you will spend your time that day. Consider your appointments and commitments, and really map out the things you will follow-up on, the things you need to look into, the things you need to anticipate later in the week or month.
When we stay completely connected to our devices all the time, or compulsively check our emails before we've even started our day, we are allowing other people's agenda and plans interrupt and frankly hijack any plans we may have had without their input.
In taking the time each day to be more thoughtful and protect our time so that we can make strategic and pro-active choices, rather than reactive ones resulting from being a pinball in a machine of our own creation; we can actually find ourselves making real progress.
I was shocked at how much more productive I became once I started using this simple technique. Usually I would 'hit the ground running' each day, going from meeting to meeting with very little time to even think about what was coming next, let alone what I might want to do to get more out of my day.
But protecting that first hour has been a huge turning point. And it's just one example of real tools you can employ to really get more out of your day.
And the benefit of being more effective is not that you work more. Quite the contrary.
Work/Life balance is not a practical goal. However, ALIGNING your work life in a way that supports the lifestyle you truly desire is VERY doable.
For more information on Productivity, and other High Performance concepts, visit my blog here.
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