Productivity is more than just doing more with the time you have. Unless what you produce is linked to what you are trying to achieve, doing more in your allotted time frame is just producing more stuff. You risk using up your energy on irrelevant activity. If you’re going to be busy, be busy with purpose.
Defining your purpose makes productivity relevant and easy. Define your daily purpose (what gets you out of bed each day?) and your long-term purpose (what is the big picture that you are working towards?). Break your purpose down into concrete goals. Break the goals down into specific action steps. Then act. If you do it this way, your everyday actions become filled with meaning, energy and direction.
Here’s another way to look at purpose. What is your “product” purpose and what is your “process” purpose?
A product purpose includes the concrete, tangible results you are creating, such as goods and services.
Process purposes are intangibles, such as bringing enjoyment, satisfaction, kindness and enthusiasm to the people you encounter. If you wake up every day with this kind of process purpose, you can achieve it every day.
Make sure your big picture is high enough up the chain. For example, you may think that your one business idea is your big picture. Dig a little deeper, and you might discover that it’s financial security for your family. This a helpful because it means that if your one business idea fails to deliver, your big picture is not smashed. It just needs different brush strokes: there will always be other ways to achieve it. An incidental benefit of this method is that you can relax a little: you can keep your commitment to your big picture, but you don’t have to hold on for grim death to one method of achieving your goal.
High Participation/Low Attachment
I constantly use the Participation/Attachment model. It’s useful when you want to play big without the stress of all-or-nothing thinking. There are four quadrants in this model. I’ll use an analogy to explain it.
- You are watching a football match from the sidelines and you don’t care who wins. This is Low Participation (you are not playing) and Low Attachment (you don’t care about the outcome).
- You are a spectator, but you have a $10,000 bet on the outcome. This is Low Participation (you have no influence over the game) and High Attachment (you really care about the outcome).
- You are playing on the team, and your entire football career depends on the outcome of this one game. This is High Participation/High Attachment.
This leaves the High Participation/Low Attachment quadrant, which is where you want to play and work. Give your one business idea your best shot but let go of the outcome. There are plenty of ways to achieve your big picture purpose, and you can enjoy your daily process purpose along the way.
Once you’ve got your purpose(s) sorted, keep it simple. Get your priorities straight, then label items on your ‘to-do’ list with A or B. A’s must get done today. B’s get done if time allows. Some B’s that miss out today will become A’s tomorrow.
Getting frustrated when things go wrong or don’t happen in your preferred time frame can be sign that you are playing the wrong quadrant. Impatience and frustration will not make you more productive. In fact, they can slow you down and impact your judgement. Not to mention your relationships with coworkers, staff and family members.
Keep your eyes on the prize, but slow down and enjoy the journey. Otherwise, what’s the point? After all, if you lose the “game” you’re in, there are always other games, other teams, other sports.