I’m sure you are a busy person. I know I’m a busy person. Being busy people who read and write stuff like this, we are looking for ways to organize things better, have a better perspective, or just look for a better way of going about things. The good news is there are more than a few resources out there for us to rely on. A simple search of “productivity” or “life hacks” will yield enough reading material to keep all of us busy for the next several years, and I think that’s probably a conservative estimate. The question is with all these available resources and so many people spending so much time thinking about this answer, how have we not cracked this yet? Shouldn’t we be able to point to something like the pythagorean theorem, enter a bit of information and be productive?
The reason I bring all of this up is due to conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks about using my time. With new responsibilities at work, the kids back at school, soccer back in full swing, and the rest of life going on, I’ve had a hard time doing everything I need and want to do. I haven’t been running as much, although I did run today(we are starting a streak here!), I haven’t been writing as much, and just been in an overall funk trying to get everything done. I obviously don’t want to continue this, and I want to succeed at everything and flourish with everything going on. This is where that productivity theorem would be really handy. I want to enter a few variables into a formula and magically have the productivity answer right in front of me. It goes without saying that that’s not going to happen, but that’s what we all want with these hacks and all the other information out there right? We want some sort of immediate sign or immediate sense of peace that the puzzle has been solved, or the finish line crossed. Then when something doesn’t work, we’re on to the next book or article to see if that’ll make everything better now.
The conclusion that I’m coming to is that things don’t work that way. Productivity and feeling accomplished isn’t a finish line to cross, and it’s sure as hell not a straight line to get there. There’s going to be bad days, less productive days, and amazingly fantastic days where you feel like you can conquer the world. That whole range needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Every day isn’t going to be fantastically amazing, and every day isn’t going to be a throw away either. Wherever a given day falls on that spectrum, you can’t beat yourself up or praise yourself too much for it, and you certainly can’t compare days. Doing any of those things is a quick way to get yourself in trouble. Each day is a new “game” of sorts. Enter that day trying to win it. Once the day is done, win, lose or draw, figure out what you can learn and move on. Once that new day starts, there’s a whole new set of rules or obstacles that need to be taken into account and you do the best you can.
I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the professor with the jar. Professor puts rocks in the jar followed by gravel, sand, and water. you can find the whole story here. The point being there is a lot of room for a lot of things in our lives. When we focus on, and identify the big stuff and make sure we’re completely present mentally for those things, having room for the smaller stuff becomes that much easier. Focusing on those big things allows the sense of accomplishment I think we all need and are striving for and it makes sure that our days aren’t hijacked by small less important tasks.
To answer my question from the top of the article regarding a productivity theorem, I think it does exist. I think the answer is mindfulness and being completely present in whatever task or activity you choose to do next. Too often over the last month I’ve found myself at work worrying about home, or at home worrying about what I need to accomplish at work. When I’m sitting there distracted, it’s really hard to get anything done. That’s why I think the answer is presence. To put it another way, presence and purpose. Be all in on whatever you choose to be doing, and do it to the best of your ability. Once done, move on to the next and do the same thing. I know this is all easier said than done, but it’s my goal. Let me know what you think, and I’ll let you know how successful I am with this.