Some productivity principles are worth being reminded of from time to time. Here are a few that I think are important.
A good time to remember some key productivity principles
I had a birthday recently, and I’m also wrapping up the fifth year of The Productive Woman podcast. These kinds of milestones have me pondering where to go next, which leads me to thinking about where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, and what I think is important in the area of productivity and making a life that matters.
I thought I’d share with you some of the productivity principles I think are most important to keep top of mind. Most of these I’ve talked about before in past episodes, but they are worth reiterating and reminding us all as we work on our individual journeys toward making a life that matters.
1. In order to get anywhere, you need to have a destination in mind
If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you possibly get there?
Similarly, in order to accomplish anything, you have to have an outcome in mind.
For me, it starts with thinking about who I want to be. This is more important than what I want to do because it goes to what I value and what legacy I want to leave behind.
What I do should reflect the kind of person I want to be. The goals I focus on, and the actions I take to achieve them, should grow out of the kind of person I want to be. If they don’t, I’m living a dis-integrated life, and it will be hard to find satisfaction.
2. Our calendar and checkbook tell the truth about what we value
Where we spend our time and money says a lot about what’s most important to us, because we always make time for what really matters. This ties back to last week’s discussion about why we do what we do. If the way we’re spending our time and money doesn’t reflect our values and priorities, we need to think about why that is.
What value are we getting out of what we’re doing and buying?
When we act in ways that are not consistent with our values, what are we actually getting out of it? Is it security? Is it buffering? Do we want to address it in another way to make sure our calendars and checkbooks line up more with our truest values?
3. What you do matters, but you are not what you do.
Your value as a person is not in what you do, not in what you produce. It’s not in the results you come up with. Here in the US, people often judge each other based on what we do. Often one of the first things people ask each other when they first meet is “What do you do?” We define ourselves based on our jobs. And if we are not successful or are not producing the kinds of results other people think we should or we think we should (or we think other people think we should), we tend to believe that reflects on who we are as a person and the value that we’re contributing.
That is NOT true.
You are valuable and worthy as a person regardless of what you do or don’t do. That’s why failure isn’t fatal. It doesn’t define us or our worth, so we can try without fear of failure as long as we don’t make it mean something about who we are as a person.
What you do matters. Setting goals, taking actions to achieve them, doing our best work, putting ourselves out there.. all these things matter. But there is more to who you are than the work you do and the results you put out.
“I have no interest in turning myself into a hyper-efficient automaton of productivity. I aspire to work hard, create wonderful things, and cultivate deep and meaningful relationships, which are the core of a happy life experience. My work is a big part of who I am, but it is not everything.”
Rick Smith, from “My Morning Routine”
4. Self-talk is crucially important
Managing our minds is the key to managing our results. What you say to yourself matters far, far more than what anybody else says to you. What we think creates our emotions, which drive our actions, which create the results in our life.
“Make no mistake. What we say to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds matters. It drives our behavior, which drives our destiny, which shapes our world.”
~ Marie Forleo
What other people say (in person, via social media, and in movies and on TV) does affect what we say to ourselves. So pay attention to who you’re listening to. Are they feeding you words that help or hurt? Is their input helping you achieve the results you want in your life? If not, you can choose to remove yourself from their influence.
I truly believe that managing our minds is key to managing our results and creating a life that matters.
5. We don’t have to wait until we achieve our goals to be happy
This ties back to the idea of self-talk, and the idea that we do things because of how we think we’ll feel when we’ve done them (Episode 246). We think “When I finish school, when I lose the weight, when I get the promotion, when I get married, when I get divorced, when I have a baby, when my kids leave home . . . then I’ll be happy.” There are three problems with this:
First, we defer happiness to some future time, denying ourselves the right to be happy now.
Second, being productive won’t necessarily make us happy, but happy people do tend to be more productive.
Finally, and maybe most important, nothing outside of us will ever make us happy. Happiness, like every emotion, comes from within, from how we choose to think about ourselves, our circumstances, and the people around us. If we are not happy now, we will not magically be happier just because we accomplish something or something in our life changes. On the other hand, if we can learn to manage our minds now and create that happiness from within, we can be happy now and when we’ve accomplished our most cherished goals.
6. Time, energy, and attention are the most precious resources we have
They are finite, limited, irreplaceable, and the key to everything. How we spend them determines what kind of life we live. How we manage them determines what other resources we have such as money, friends, and skills.
7. It’s crucially important to focus our resources on the right things
This idea is embedded in the Pareto principle, which is also known as the 80/20 rule or the Law of the Vital Few. This is the idea that the 20% are worth more than the other 80% combined in terms of the benefit gained. The idea was originally developed in the economics world, but as applied in the productivity space, the concept is that 80% of the results in any situation come from 20% of the causes.
For example, 20% of your actions give you 80% of your results/satisfaction/value or 80% of your income comes from 20% of your clients/customers.
We forget this at our peril, spending time, energy, and attention on “easier” tasks that don’t give us the return on our investment. To make the best use of your time, energy, and attention, spend them on those tasks/projects/goals/etc. that will give you the most progress toward what matters most to you.
Brian Tracy offers this suggestion:
“Here’s what you should do in order to effectively apply the 80/20 rule to setting SMART goals which will boost your overall productivity.
First, take a piece of paper and write down ten goals. Then ask yourself: If you could only accomplish one of the goals on that list today, which one goal would have the greatest positive impact on your life?
Then pick the second most important goal. What you’ll find is, after you complete this exercise, you will have determined the most important 20 percent of your goals that will help you more than anything else.
You should continue to work at those goals that you’ve chosen as the most valuable all the time.”
8. What you do habitually matters more than what you do occasionally
Simply put, our habits create our life. Focus more attention on those daily habitual actions than you do on the occasional big efforts and grand gestures.
“If you want to change your life, change your day.”
Courtney Carver (author of Soulful Simplicity), on Instagram
9. Small steps taken regularly will lead to progress
The actions and activities that make up our days are what create our life. Small steps taken regularly will lead to progress. They are more sustainable than huge, all-out efforts that can wear you out, wear you down, and ultimately lead you to give up.
I hope you’re setting big audacious goals that you’re excited about. But even the biggest goal has to be accomplished one tiny step at a time.
Take the time to break down your goal/project/idea into the smallest possible steps–tasks that can be completed in one location, with one set of resources, in one increment of time
One writer puts it this way:
“Ask “How can I take a step so small that it is impossible to fail?” This is one of my favorite questions ever. (I got it from the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life — summary here.) I ask it every single day when reviewing my projects and task lists. It melts resistance away and, when asked frequently, keeps you on track and energetic to keep going.”
Once you’ve done that, you can start chipping away at it, because the way you accomplish anything is by doing one small thing, then another, then another.
- You run a marathon literally one footfall at a time
- You write a book one word (one letter) at a time
- You earn a degree one semester, one course, one assignment at a time
10. Productivity is not about what you do. It’s about what you produce – the outcome, the results
Whether that’s widgets or words or children or anything else, you are productive if you are producing results. You are making a life that matters if the results you are producing are meaningful to you and consistent with the values you hold most sacred.
What do you think?
Are these productivity principles worth remembering? What is another productivity principle that you think we should remember? Please share in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver
- One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer Ph.D
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