Who I am and what I’ve experienced have a big impact on my productivity. The same is true for you!
Personal productivity – and what you might not know about me
Productivity is a very personal thing. Everything about us–our background, our relationships, our physical and mental condition, our mindset–affects our productivity, both our ability to do the things that are important to us and our ability to make a life that matters–partly because all these things affect how we define a life that matters.
What has influenced my approach to productivity–and how it helps me make a life that matters
This episode is being published a few days before my birthday. I thought it was a good time to share a few things you might not know about me and how they affect my productivity. I invite you to do an inventory of the personal factors that affect your productivity.
1. I was born with congenital hip dysplasia. This means I have physical limitations that affect how I do things. For example, I cannot squat or tailor sit, so doing certain tasks, such as cleaning low areas like baseboards or putting things away in bottom cabinets, requires me to bend over or get on my hands and knees. I also walk a bit differently due to one leg being shorter than the other, which is something I’ve always been self-conscious about. Over time, this hip dysplasia led to degenerative arthritis and eventually much-needed hip replacement surgery, which was life-changing. I was finally pain-free after so many years.
2. I’m the oldest of 6 children. A lot of birth-order science supports the idea that I was born to be a productivity nerd.
“According to the stereotype, firstborns tend to be serious, structured, goal-driven, high-achieving, well-organized and logical thinkers.” [from Can Birth Order Determine Success or Failure? Science Says Maybe So]
Large families pretty much require organization. Being the oldest in a large family I was inclined toward organization–lists and charts and organizing games and clubs.
3. I was born and raised in Washington state, but we moved a lot. My dad was a log truck driver, and a bit of a wanderer, so we moved often. I went to 3 different schools for 6th grade alone. I hated moving because I was and am an introvert who found it hard to make friends when I was young. I was often the “new kid” in class and that made me self-conscious. It took me many years (and some favorite activities) to learn ways to fit in to new situations and feel comfortable speaking up. This experience of moving around a lot and constantly being in new situations has had an impact on my productivity and making a life that matters. I’ve never really had a hometown and the impact of that has caused me to gravitate towards making a home wherever I am (which is wherever Mike is) and making it feel homey.
4. When I was younger, I wanted to be a country singer. In junior and senior high school, music was my life. All my friends were met through the various choirs I sang in. I met Mike in one of those groups. Participating in choirs and vocal ensembles taught me things about teamwork, about the importance of practicing and developing your craft. I learned to be comfortable in front of an audience, both singing as part of the choir and as a soloist and also speaking, introducing myself or our group, introducing songs, and more. I learned to be flexible when my dreams changed. To me, that’s a big part of productivity.
5. I married at 18 and had our first child at 20. I was set to go to college as a vocal performance major when I graduated from high school. Life intervened over the summer after graduation when I connected with the guy who played bass for the vocal ensemble I’d sung in since I was a sophomore in high school–this was Mike! By October we were engaged, and by the following March, we were married. My life at that age was different from the life my peers were living. I had to learn to think of my husband’s needs and preferences as well as my own as I developed my approach to homemaking and life in general. Incorporating another person into my planning and learning about the value of time had an impact on my productivity in a positive way.
6. There were 10 years between my second and third years of college. During that time, we moved across the country twice and had 3 more children, I homeschooled them, taught childbirth classes, and I changed my major. My 5th child was born a few weeks after finals of my junior year, and a few weeks before I sat for the LSAT and GRE. Everything I’d learned to that point came into play as I entered a new phase of life: college and law school with a family and a home to care for. Having systems and routines in place made all the difference in my ability to fit my classes and studying into my life while still caring for my home and family. The most important thing I learned was to ask for help–things that I had always done needed to shift to other people in the household. I felt guilty about it at times but over time, learned to be okay about asking for help. This made a big difference in my productivity in this season of life.
7. I homeschooled our kids for 10 years, including my first year of law school. Taking a direct hand in my children’s education was very important to me. In order to do this, I applied the things I’d learned over the years about time management, organization, and more. I learned to understand and appreciate different ways of learning and adjust my approach to the needs of each individual child. This was a valuable lesson I have used throughout my life as I’ve needed to communicate with people with a variety of learning and communication styles, and as I’ve needed to learn to be more flexible in my approach to life in general. This lesson had a big impact on my overall productivity.
8. I have 5 adult children and 8 grandchildren (with number 9 due in a few weeks). My family drives my priorities as far as how I spend my time, energy, and attention–and how productive I am. There are lots of things I don’t do to make space in my life for the people I care about most. Nothing is more important to me than family and they are how I make a life that matters. My calendar doesn’t always reflect this, but it’s something I continuously work on. Having a large family informs my view of the world and gives me a desire to make the world a better place for my children and grandchildren and those who’ll come after. It also motivates me to keep working hard at my legal career, in part because of what it allows me to do for the people I love.
9. I started my legal career at age 38, after all our kids were born. For the 10 or so years leading up to that, I’d mostly been at home, raising kids and pursuing other interests, like teaching childbirth classes and dabbling in writing. The change to a more-than-full-time career was a drastic one and I didn’t always handle it well. I missed a lot of important family things because I was working. If I have any regrets in life, that is it. I eventually came to a realization that I was spending a lot of time and attention creating a life that did not reflect what was most important to me. I was not happy with who I had become at that stage in my life. I had to stop and think about who I wanted to be in the world and what I wanted my life to look like. This was a real struggle at first but now, it’s more of an effort to just continuously remind myself to work towards the life I want.
10. I’ve been a huge bookworm since I learned to read. I read widely and eclectically. I love fiction of various types and I devour non-fiction, especially self-help-type books. I own several thousand books, not counting the hundreds in my Kindle app. I love learning new things and experiencing different perspectives. The reading I’ve done has helped form my thinking. I try to read materials from a wide variety of sources and perspectives, even those I disagree with, so I can understand better. I’m usually reading more than one book at a time and wish I had more time to read, which is a struggle to fit in at times. Reading is part of how I make a life that matters and has a huge impact on my productivity.
Lessons I’ve learned
- Productivity is personal. How you define a productive day and a life that matters is specific to you and deeply influenced by your background, experiences, and personality. I truly believe there’s no “right” way to be productive. What works for me at my stage of life might not work for you. In fact, what works for me now might not have worked for me when I was younger and all our kids were at home. We can learn from each other, get ideas from each other, but we should never measure ourselves by what we see other people doing.
- Persistence is important. Life is a long-haul proposition and we have to be willing to keep at it over the long term to get what we want in our lives.
- It helps to be flexible and to be willing and able to let go of tools, systems, goals, and even dreams that no longer serve you or reflect who you are today.
- It really is all about the journey and not so much about the destination.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
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Royse City, Texas