This is the second post in a series on productivity1. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
The subject of productivity flows almost immediately to discussion around tactics—we’re all hungry to know what we can do to be more productive, right now. Oftentimes, that hunger keeps us from stopping to first evaluate our current state of affairs and second, more importantly, to put serious thought into what we’re really seeking to get out of increased productivity.
How many days or weeks end with you completely satisfied with how much you’ve gotten done?
When I asked this question at The Makers Summit, laughter rippled through the crowd as if for some people being satisfied with progress at the end of a day or week was the stuff of fantasy. Perhaps you feel the same, or perhaps you are happy with how much you accomplish. Either way, it’s worth it to stop and spend some time thinking about how much progress you make relative to how much you wish you had gotten done.
For example, if you are producing a lot of really good work but can’t remember the last time you were satisfied with it, it might be healthy to re-evaluate your expectations. Personally, I tend to have higher standards for myself than anyone else (sometimes unrealistically so), so setting healthy benchmarks is a constant need. On the other hand, you might feel pressure because you aren’t producing the amount of work that you know you are capable of (or that is required for your craft or business), which results in well-warranted dissatisfaction.
People fall on a spectrum of satisfaction and there are many other examples. The point is just that—everyone is different and faces different demands from their life and work. Taking a few moments to stop and think about the context of satisfaction for yourself is a healthy (and hopefully enlightening) exercise.
What would your life and work look like if you had more time?
On the surface, “what would you do with more time in the day” seems like an easy question to answer. We tend to answer with felt pain points and needs (sleep, time alone, finally getting on a budget, etc.) or things we aspire to (exercising, taking better care of the yard, reading or writing, spending more time with family or friends, etc.).
If you suddenly (miraculously) had an extra six hours each day, though, actually figuring out how you would use it—consistently—requires some navigation, prioritization and likely goal-setting.
The thought experiment gets more interesting when you narrow the scope: what would you do if you had an extra six hours each day for your work, specifically? What new projects would you tackle? What things would you fix that have needed attention for a long time? Would you finally breath the fresh air of more space for creativity and critical thought?
Dreams about 30 hour days don’t map to reality, but taking time to ponder thought-provoking questions is the best place to start a conversation about productivity; our answers shed light on things we need to change in reality.
It’s easy to love the idea of more time, but without a clear vision for what we’d do with it, increased productivity is only going to take us so far.
1. You can read the story behind this blog series series and find links to all of the resources here.