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It’s Time to Rethink Productivity

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It's Time to Rethink Productivity

Seriously. We may be doing it wrong…

Raised by a children’s librarian, my youthful heart belonged exclusively to Shel Silverstein. Every one of his poems delivered a clever punchline if you were in on the joke. And I was…most of the time.

But one whose meaning sailed over my head the first time was Smart. It’s a clever, rhymey story about a child who swaps his dollar for 2 quarters, his quarters for 3 dimes, etc. until he heads proudly home with five shiny pennies – waiting for his dad to preen. Spoiler: Dad does not.

As a kid, I searched for the joke. More is always better – right? So why are the adults around me chuckling? What did I miss?

Assuming I have zero precocious 9-year-old subscribers, I’ll presume we are all in on the joke.

We know that better comes in varying quantities and packages.

So why, at work, do we still strive to do more? More items on (and checked off of) our to-do lists, more projects conquered, more meetings attended.

I’ve been hired many times to deliver workshops on Productivity. My secret, readers? It’s a Trojan Horse. My most successful client groups end up getting less done. Not more. And they preen like they’ve turned 5 pennies into a dollar.

Here are a few of the ideas into which we deep dive in these sessions…

Shift from “achieved” to “impacted”

We’re all inclined to celebrate our accomplishments. No shame there. But the “why” of what we’re accomplishing often gets lost. Checking things off feels great. For us. But how much good are we really delivering – to the organization and our customers? Taking a step back, looking at our to-do lists in totality, and really asking – where do I have the opportunity to make the most positive impact? This simple practice can push us toward crossing off the low-value adds, and digging in where it matters most – producing better; not more.

Shift from “expended” to “invested”

Getting it all done doesn’t make you a superhero. No matter your health or fitness, your energy supply is limited and should be managed like an asset. So invest it shrewdly. Sometimes we hide behind doing everything because frankly we lack the courage to do the hard work of making tough decisions and sometimes even saying no. But if we continue expending our energy like it’s limitless, our results and our impact are bound to suffer eventually.

Shift from “did” to “learned”

Part of a necessary mind shift is recognizing that unstructured time on our calendar still “counts.” I’ve had myriad leaders in these sessions tell me they’d love to have more whitespace in their days – to learn, reflect, research, ideate…but inevitably meetings come up and supersede said white space. And I tell them this only happens because we allow it to. Does an emergency sometimes arise that must supersede a creative hour? Certainly. But it should be the exception and not the rule. Only when we truly believe in the value of our creative space will we have the courage to defend it. Only when we recognize thinking, imagining, and ideating as “productive” will we give ourselves permission to say no to something threatening to overtake it.

In summary, as we begin to close out 2019, I invite you to really take stock of how productive you’ve been this year. Not how many things you’ve done, but how much impact you’ve had; how much value you’ve delivered.

I hope you love what you see.

Related: Here’s to a Thriving Fourth Quarter: Let’s Wrap This Decade up Right!

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