It’s not enough to just get lots of stuff done. We want to make lives that matter–we want our productivity to be meaningful. In this milestone episode, we discuss what meaningful productivity means and how we can order our lives so as to maximize our positive impact on the world.
What does meaningful productivity mean?
It’s the difference between being busy and being productive. But there is more to it than that. Truly meaningful productivity is about producing worthwhile results, results that are in line with your values and represent who you want to be in the world.
It’s also about more than just efficiency, such as using the best tools and best practices. Meaningful productivity is also about the outcome. While doing research for this episode, I came across an article by Shawn Blanc where he states:
“Productivity hacks, daily routines, automation tools, and the like are all great, but they are a means for optimizing how you’re already spending your time. They’re just faster horses. And what good is a faster horse if you’re on the wrong road, headed to the wrong place? We need clarity about who we are, what our values are, our vision for life, what’s important, and what we can do every day to stay steady in our aim of doing our best creative work.”
No matter how much stuff we get done, we’re not truly productive in any meaningful way if what we’re doing and producing doesn’t line up with our values. The key to making a life that matters, a meaningfully productive life, is knowing where we want to go and taking consistent actions targeted to getting us there.
How do we make a life that matters?
It starts with awareness. We have to know what we want. That comes from time spent thinking deeply and honestly about some fundamental questions:
- What kind of life do I want to live?
- What kind of person do I want to be?
We need to be conscious of whether the things we are doing are in line with who we want to be. An important thing to remember is that our life does not have to look like everyone else’s.
Following awareness is intentionality. However we choose to spend our time, we need to choose on purpose and make the most of that time and spend it doing things that matter the most to us. The first step is to acknowledge that the choice is ours. If you don’t like where your life is headed right now, you can always make another choice. It may not be easy, but it really is that simple. We need to recognize the difference between urgency and importance and be willing to ignore the urgent in favor of the important.
Making a life that matters requires us to sort through the voices in our head and evaluate their truth (or lack thereof).
For example, “I don’t have time” is a phrase we often tell ourselves, but it’s seldom true. There is always time for what really matters. Maybe not as much time as we’d like to have, but even if we can find only 10 minutes a day, progress can still be made.
Another voice tells us “I can’t,” meaning “I’m not capable. That’s a mindset issue. Often it’s a symptom of Impostor Syndrome (which I discuss in TPW063 and TPW293). We can learn to counter these questions by asking “what skill do I need to learn in order to accomplish this? Where can I go to get the help I need?”
Another voice in our heads tells us “I’m not sure what matters.” Usually even when we tell ourselves that, we actually do know, but might have a hard time admitting it to ourselves or others or saying it out loud. This issue will take time and courage to work through.
Making a life that matters requires honesty with ourselves. Again, asking ourselves, “What kind of life do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to be? How do I want to show up in the world?” and giving ourselves permission to answer them honestly, no matter what others might think of your answers. There is no right or wrong answer.
Once you have figured out what really matters to you, you may ask why you haven’t done that one thing. Why hasn’t progress been made? Why the procrastination?
Procrastination usually has two causes: we dread the task, or we don’t know how to do it. But why do we dread it? Maybe because we don’t know how to do it. Or because it’s hard or dirty or monotonous. Or because we doubt our ability to successfully complete it. (We talked about procrastination in past episode TPW170.) To address procrastination, ask yourself this question often: What would future me thank present me for doing right now, this minute?
What does it mean to make a life that matters (from the TPW community)?
Recently I reached out to members of the TPW community to ask what it meant to them to make a life that matters.
Bolette says: “Apart from the obvious (love and being loved by my family) it is important for me to keep learning. Be it about myself and my reactions, about the wonders of nature and the universe, and new stuff in my field as a designer.” I loved this response, which is similar to something I read when I was preparing for this episode:
“We are more than just the sum of what we’ve accomplished. We’re also the sum of what we’ve learned, heard, read, watched, reflected on, believed in, and listened to.” – The Key to Meaningful Productivity: Being Receptive ]
Now, we don’t want to use continual “learning” as a means of procrastinating (check out TPW236 for thoughts on finding a balance among consumption and creation), but we enhance our lives, our abilities, and our productivity when we seek to learn new things while we are taking action. Whether it’s seeking to understand ourselves or other people, or learning a new skill, or simply expanding our thinking. It’s important to seek out perspectives and information from a variety of sources, including those that challenge our viewpoint.
Another TPW community member, Chris, says “When I first found you and heard you talking about a life that matters, a light bulb went off in my head. I was trying so hard to keep fitting in more without thinking about why. While I’m still working out what it means to me, I now know that what is important to me are connections with family and friends, health, work and education, and a comfortable home environment.”
Betsy feels that making a life that matters means “making a life that I am proud of, and that my family can be proud of because I have made a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others.”
A life that matters almost always matters in relation to other people. For our community, when we talk about being productive or what it means to be a productive woman, it’s a woman who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world around her.
We can make a positive impact on our family’s life, but it can go beyond that. We can make a positive impact on others a well. We simply need to know what we’re doing, why we are doing it, and then intentionally taking action to go in the direction we want to go. In this way, we can change the world.
What do you think?
What does it mean to you to make a life that matters? What steps are you taking to achieve it? Please share your questions or thoughts in the comments section below this post or on The Productive Woman’s Facebook page, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- How to Improve Your Meaningful Productivity | Psychology Today
- A Simple Guide to Meaningful Productivity
- Thoughts on Meaningful Productivity – Shawn Blanc
- The Key to Meaningful Productivity: Being Receptive
- You’ve Got This | Tips & Strategies for Meaningful Productivity and Alignment in Work and Life on Apple Podcasts
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