Productivity Requires Sacrifice

This is the eighth post in a series on productivity1. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.

The concept of productivity is easy to frame in the context of things we need to start doing. “I need to get better at managing my email.” “I need to make my meetings more efficient.” “I need to hire an intern to take some administrative overhead off my plate.” Fill in the blank.

Many times, productivity is as much about what we choose not to do as it is about implementing new behaviors.

The reality is that we are constantly tempted to believe that we can have everything we want, but experience tells us that isn’t true. We all know that we can’t eat or drink as much as we want of whatever we want and stay healthy, but our culture still tells us we can. Our society constantly reinforces the idea that we can have our cake and eat it to.

For many of us, the lie is that we can enjoy the social and leisure lifestyle we want and still be one of the most productive person we know. The reality is that the most productive people are making sacrifices somewhere.

Try this experiment: track the daily time you spend on non-work related social media, TV and movies, then add up the hours at the end of the week. My guess is that for many people, the results would be sobering. The statistics certainly are:

  • “The average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, says a new Nielsen report — plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.”2
  • “…average time spent per week on email, text and social among these respondents reached 23 hours”3

There are a whole lot of hours in those statistics. If the idea of adding 5 additional hours of work to your week is enticing, it may be that you can simply make a few sacrifices and take back some hours spent on what might be unnecessary things.

As I wrote in a previous post, my rhythm has been sprint-and-recovery, where I go into ‘crunch mode’ for a time to experience increased productivity, then take intentional time off to recuperate (and then get back after it). Here are a few things that came to mind about sacrifices I’ve made while growing a startup:

  • Media consumption – Besides music, I consume very little media overall. We don’t have a TV in our home and when I do watch a show or movie, it’s streamed on my laptop. My wife enjoys watching shows and movies, so 99% of the time I watch something with her.
  • Time with friends – Because I’ve had less margin, the quantity of friendships I’ve been able to maintain has been pared down. The “have your cake and eat it to” part of us hates admitting this is a reality. I’ve seen many people in this situation be judged for ‘having their priorities out of order,’ which I’m sure is true for some people. Personally, I have a great relationship with my wife and deep friendships with other friends—there are just fewer of them.
  • Personal projects – I used to be an avid photographer and work on side projects (products, freelance marketing, etc.) fairly often. Again, because of decreased margin, I’ve had to limit the number of things I work on. This blog is one of them.

Conversations about sacrifice certainly aren’t easy, but they are imperative in the pursuit of being more productive.

1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. You can read more about American television consumption habits in The NY Daily News.3. You can read more about digital consumption habits on eMarketer’s website.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

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