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The Real Trouble with Productivity

The Real Trouble with Productivity

I have a confession: I cringe at the word productivity. Getting things done. Saying that feels like being against democracy or love or Buddha or something, but I feel that much of what passes for productivity is simply ubercybersonic doingness dressed up in happy faces. Organization, accomplishment, measuring effectiveness–all those tools and systems are cool, but what if our doingness masks a hollow core, or gives us fuel for avoiding the life we say we’d like to be living?

  • Doing more won’t make us happy any more than doing happy will make us more [fill in the blank].
  • Doing more better also won’t make us happy.
  • Until we look at what generates true happiness, we won’t be fulfilled and content no matter how many boxes get checked in a day.

Productivity is bootless without sole.

Aligning with what makes us happy, fulfilled and alive connects us with our being. And what we’re really talking about here is honoring our values, those must-have, absolute qualities of being we crave expressing to be who we truly are. So if your top values are say, creativity, adventure, compassion, fun and service, they must be present somewhere in the holy grail of GTD, your daily life, and connected to your vision. If not, simply put, you’re eventually going to be miserable. And since miserable is a word often paired with work, all this values talk begs the question:

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“But what if I’m in a job where I have to buck up to the company’s demands and get all these things done, or else?”

If we want to be pragmatic about walking the talk of values-to-vision living, or personal mastery, and connect it to getting things done, I can’t help but think of Peter Senge:

Personal mastery is the bedrock for developing [shared visions.] This means not only personal vision, but commitment to the truth and creative tension — the hallmarks of personal mastery…Those who will contribute the most toward realizing a lofty vision will be those who can “hold” this creative tension: remain clear on the vision and continue to inquire into current reality. They will be the ones who believe deeply in their ability to create their future, because that is what they experience personally.

So whether we work for ourselves, or in an organization, getting things done has to be grounded by a continuum of learning infused by vision. According to Senge, “Organizations intent on building shared visions continually encourage members to develop their personal visions. If people don’t have their own vision, all they can do is ‘sign up’ for someone else’s. The result is compliance, never commitment.”

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At The Bamboo Project, Michele Martin challenges us to wake up to learning in her post Do You Set Your Priorities to Add Value or Avoid Pain:

Essentially what I see all too often is that things like paperwork and lengthy meetings of questionable relevance take precedence in most organizations over spending time on learning. It’s like what happens in a lot of marriages, where everything but the couple’s relationship is a priority and then the next thing you know, you’re in divorce court. If you think about it, “avoiding pain” is a pretty negative and short-sighted criterion to use in deciding how we spend our days. It tends to put us into a cycle that creates even more pain because we aren’t focusing on the kinds of activities that build us up (individually or organizationally), but on the things that constrain us. If you believe that you get what you focus on (which I do), then focusing on pain is just a way to keep inviting it back into your life.

So, how do we go about changing the dynamic?

Chris Bailey at Bailey WorkPlay consistently generates the answers to questions like this, and in a comment left at Steve Roesler’s site–All Things Workplace–he asks us to consider who’s really in charge:

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I’m feeling run down by work that increasingly feels like a J-O-B. I’m losing my passion for it. I can actually feel it receding away like the ocean tide. I know what my strengths are and what I love to do…and I feel that I don’t have a chance to utilize these in my work with my organization. Now, does my manager read All Things Workplace?

Probably not, but yeah, he should. In this case, it’s me who needs to take the first step to guide the passion along. More generally, sometimes it’s the employee (or the even manager) who needs to bring her or his own manager to the table for this dialogue. It would be great if all managers got the memo suggesting that they can perpetuate passion. That may not be entirely fair to lay this all at their feet, though. The employee has to be there, too. The employee needs to know what they love, what they want to do, what will connect into their purpose…and they must be willing to share this. And who knows…maybe the employee might lead the manager to a new understanding of how to connect their passion and purpose to the work they do.
And this moves us, as everything inevitably does, to transparency and personal responsibility. Again, Steve Roesler in his post, A Good Place to Use Some Passion:

Managers don’t have easy jobs. They’re trying to pay attention to you and everyone else in their group. Why not get passionate about taking some of the burden from your manager’s shoulders and simply start a conversation about what’s on your mind? If you want a good shot at using your talents where you are now, then take the responsibility for making it happen. Nothing warms a manager’s heart more than seeing someone who is passionate about responsibility.

Yes, I know I veered a bit. How this all ties in for me is that in countless conversations with clients, time and productivity are always issues, but the real breakdown, we discover, is that there has been a lack of resonant underpinning– a values to vision consciousness in the individual and the workplace.

What do you have up your sleeves, Lifehack readers? Dive in. Inquire. Discuss.

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6 Simple Steps to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals

6 Simple Steps to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals

Every day that goes by you either move closer towards achieving a goal or you move further away from that goal.

If you take specific step, you can be assured that you are moving towards our goal. If you do nothing, you are moving away from the goal.

By being still, you lose momentum, and the level of inertia of our current position increases.

Following these steps will guarantee that you will make progress towards achieving goals each day:

1. Gain a clear picture of what you want to achieve

You can’t move towards a goal unless you have a clear idea about what that goal is. This picture must be specific.

You can’t simply state that you want “a better job”; rather you must clearly picture what that job will be and why it will be better.

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You can’t simply have the goal of “being self-employed”; instead, you need to have a clear picture of what you will be doing and how that will change your life.

2. Spend time visualizing your success

As part of gaining a clear picture about your goal, frequently take time visualizing yourself achieving your goal.

Get as detailed as possible in your mind, even taking the time to write down your goals in significant detail.

Whenever you find yourself getting discouraged go somewhere, quiet for a little while and use that time to visualize success in your endeavors.

3. Associate immense pleasure with achieving your goal

A third step is to associate immense pleasure that will occur when you achieve your goals. This can be a natural outflow of the visualization process in step two.

Consider how you will feel when succeed. What will it be like? How much joy will you have? How will you celebrate?

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Make the level of pleasure as deep and realistic as possible. The more pleasure you associate with achieving your goal, the easier it will be to get out of your comfort zone and do the things needed to achieve that goal.

4. Associate intense pain with the idea of failure

Another motivator that will push you towards the goal is the pain you associate with not achieving your goal.

In college, this is the motivator that pushes students to write an essay the day before it is due; the pain of failing has become very real to them.

What are the pains associated with not achieving your goals? What will you NOT have? What will it look like to those around you? How will you feel about yourself?

Get these pains clear in your mind and use them to push you towards action. Be careful here to always use the pain to push you towards action.

Remember these pains are not inevitable. You know you can achieve your goals.

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5. Focus on doing something important each day towards reaching your goals

As I mentioned in the introduction, each day that goes past without action towards your goal plants you further in your current situation. As such, you need to do something each and every day towards achieving your goal. 

Start by identifying the important activities that need to do to achieve your goal. Every goal can be broken down in to a number of steps and those steps can be broken down further into the activities needed to achieve those goals. 

You need to do something every day from this list. That means even on days when you are busy with other things, tired, or when unexpected things fill your time, you need to find someway to do something that helps you move forward. 

Even if it is a simple act, it will help you keep your personal momentum moving in the right direction.

6. Keep your goal at the forefront of your mind

Not only do you need to have a clear picture in your mind about what you would like to achieve in your goal, you also need to keep that goal at the front for your mind.

There are many ways you can keep yourself reminded about your goal. One idea is creating a storyboard with photos about what you want to achieve.

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A number of years ago, I set the goal of going to the Olympic Games. I set a storyboard filled with photos of the Olympics and of the city where the games were hosted. I placed the poster in a place where I would see it all the time when I was working. It helped me make the progress I needed to for my goal to come true.

Now, a number of years later, I have been to four consecutive Olympic Games.

You may also want to use your calendar system (such as Outlook or Google Calendar) to set reminders. Have the reminders keep you focused on the goal you want to achieve.

While these six steps are simple, they are very rewarding.  Put them into action and you will achieve your goals.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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