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Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Take A Moment And Read This Because You Might Be Too Busy Doing Nothing In Your Life

Life can be busy. It seems like the older we get, the greater our responsibilities become. Our jobs, families, friends, and even our electronics and social media, are always vying for our attention. Sometimes it feels like we’re sprinting through life trying to keep up with everything.

Being busy isn’t a difficult status to attain. Whenever there’s a chunk of time, there are things that can fill it. The problem is, sometimes we focus on things that don’t actually add value to our lives. Many of us are busy, but we’re not productive.

It’s time to assess whether what you’re doing aligns with your mission

There have been times when I’ve completed a full workday without doing anything of value. Sure, I attended to a barrage of emails and performed menial tasks, but I didn’t tackle anything that put me on the path to advancement. It’s so easy to get stuck in a holding pattern.

Whenever this happens, I like to have some resources on hand to break the monotony and get back to doing purposeful work. One of my go-to reads is Benjamin Hardy’s If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think.

If you’re too busy, you may need a course-correction

Even the most organized and driven people need to course-correct once in a while, and Hardy breaks down that thought process for his readers.

He starts by acknowledging that people today are too busy focusing on things that don’t matter in the long run. If we don’t stop to evaluate what we’re doing, we can fall into bad habits and stray from the path we’ve set up for ourselves.

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Then, using a series of questions, Hardy explains the areas of our lives that usually get us into trouble. These include organization, environmental energy, financial energy, relational energy, health energy, spiritual energy, and time. The areas he focuses on have to do with our internal and external worlds. Hardy creates an invitation for you to reflect on yourself.

Finally, he sets out solutions to our most common pitfalls. The first thing we have to do is hit the pause button, and organize our lives. If you’ve ever been so busy that it seems like life is just piling up around you, you know the importance of this. Your chaotic inner world leads to external disorganization, which feeds more internal chaos. He argues that you have to stop and regroup when this happens.

Then, he recommends planning and investing in your future. He means this both in terms of financial health, personal health, and relationships, but also in terms of how you spend your time. If you don’t make a conscious effort to define who you are and why you do what you do, you won’t be able to make the most out of life. Vision setting is an important part of this. He states:

“Your vision should be based on your why, not so much your what.”

He further explains that what you do might change, but your why should remain constant.

He concludes by explaining the importance of tracking your work and moving toward your goals every day. When you don’t hold yourself accountable by keeping track of different metrics, it will be difficult to see when you are off course.

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Observe metrics on your relationships, finances, and self-improvement. By keeping track of these areas, you’ll be able to accomplish more, and you’ll be more committed to the end result.

Moving toward your goals takes thought and effort every day. It’s easy to talk about what you want, but it’s another thing entirely to do the work. A famous children’s poem by Shel Silverstein concludes with this:

“But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas/ All Ran Away and Hid/ From One Little Did.”

There’s power in doing the work. Hardy reminds us that “the work” in this case is not busywork. To make progress bit by bit, you have to do the things that relate to your ultimate vision. He recommends doing these things early in the morning, before your energy is depleted by the day.

Why I keep coming back to this article

Re-reading this article is like a yoga instructor reminding you to come back to your breath. It’s the coach telling you to keep moving forward. It’s like saying a mantra over and over in your head in order to manifest a goal. It reminds us that under all the layers of social media, personal and professional labels, and menial tasks, there is a human being dreaming boldly. We have to stick to our core values and fundamentals or we risk getting lost in the shuffle.

The most successful people don’t wind up that way by sheer luck. Building a meaningful life–a life you love–requires planning. You have to monitor your progress and fine tune your methods to get where you want to go. You’ll have to think about how your personal circumstances, experiences, and priorities affect your what and your why.

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Distractions are inevitable. We’re human beings subject to wants and frustrations. We take on responsibilities we don’t need to sometimes. We start labeling everything in our lives as equally important. It’s normal for this to happen, but we have to be able to step back and do some self-study to get back on course.

Takeaways from the article that you can use right now

All this talk does us no good unless we can commit to clearing the clutter from our lives to focus on what matters.

1. Write down your goals and think about your circumstances. Thinking about your goals is great, but when you write them down, it forces you to define exactly what you want.[1]Your written goals can remind you of your purpose when life gets complicated.

Making your goals more concrete can also help you think about circumstances in your life that could affect your outcomes. You’ll be able to anticipate bumps in the road instead of stumbling.

2. Trim the fat. Once you know what you want, you can remove things that don’t fall in line with your why. Think about it like this: The more time you spend on unrelated tasks, the less time you have to do the things that matter to you.

3. Get organized. Setting goals is only one part of the equation. If you want to achieve your goals, you’ll need to break them down into small, actionable steps. When you do this, you can also determine what metrics you will use to establish whether or not you’re making progress. By making a plan and monitoring how well you’re sticking to it, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed than when you fly by the seat of your pants.

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4. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Remember that your plan and methods may have to change depending on what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you have encountered a new challenge, or you realized that your original actionable steps are not reasonable. Adjust your plan so that you don’t lose motivation. Like Hardy explained, what you’re doing can always change, but why you’re doing it should not.

Stay focused on your vision

The static of modern life can muddle our efforts and intentions until we find ourselves working without real purpose. It can happen without warning, and before you know it, you’re unhappy, unhealthy, and questioning your value.

I’ve been there before, and sometimes I just need a reminder to get back on track. If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think helps me ground myself in my vision, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Featured photo credit: Finda via finda.photo

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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