So often and in so many places these days, we’re bombarded with messages about productivity.
How to be more productive, how to utilize your time better, how to systematize everything, plan, execute, hack, be a useful human being. Doesn’t really matter what we’re talking about either, because while yeah, it applies to business and entrepreneurship, it also increasingly seems to apply to our personal lives, families, and relationships too.
You can probably imagine I’m not super big on productivity. Or, rather, I’m skeptical of how we approach it, and I’m adamant that we’re conscious of what it really means for each of us.
On a recent call with a client, we were focused on finding a better flow for her days – which amounted to feeling more productive. The challenge was to figure out how to add a bit more structure so she could feel accomplished at the end of the day both personal and professionally before signing off for kids and spouse time, but without boxing in every single minute. And that is certainly something I understand – I like a balance between structure and freedom too.
This client has a lot on her plate. I mean, like most of us do. And as with most of us, about a quarter of what’s on that plate is really, truly a non-negotiable. Another quarter is necessary, but flexible. And the rest? Typical “shoulds,” “have tos,” and “nice to haves.” OK, so then how do you find a flow or a routine for that?
Well, it can be tough.
And you have to work through that. You have to lay the groundwork, understand what tasks and activities fall into which categories. And also, understand what’s underneath all of it. That takes some questioning, exploration, and conversation. And frankly, it’s exactly why I hate this idea of slapping a “productivity hack” onto your day and calling it good.
With this client, we had to dig in a bit to see what was really going on and figure out all the elements at play. It might seem like a simple thing will help, like there’s an easy fix – just block your time! Use pomodoros! Stop surfing social media! Delegate these things! – but it doesn’t always play out that way. Or, that stuff might alleviate some immediate pressure, but it doesn’t create lasting change and flow.
So after discussing a whole range of things, a few big points came up. The main takeaway, though, was related to my client’s desire to do things like take some time in her morning to sip her coffee and read a book or journal or do some studying for a course she’s taking. But with all the things on her list, she explained,
“But a book is not productive to the goals of the day!”
To which, I replied, “But what are the goals of the day?”
Important point, right? Because really, maybe reading a book is exactly in line with the goals of the day. Maybe it’s the precise, perfect, productive thing that needs to be done and will lead to accomplishment for that day.
But if you don’t define it, how can you know? How can you possibly determine what productive means if you don’t give it meaning? Set a benchmark or a measurement for it? And then re-evaluate it as necessary?
It was a bit of an a-ha moment for her. Combined with what she really wants, and her fundamental reason for existence besides money (two things that are reflected upon in coaching discovery worksheets outside of calls), it provided a lot of clarity as to how she was going to move toward achieving the flow she wants in her day and feeling more productive. Like, OK, I get to set this up for myself, I get to determine what the goal of the day is and spend my time and energy appropriately to realize that goal. And it can change – day to day, week to week, season to season. But it will always lead to a better focus and connection and fulfillment at the end of my day in the real ways that I want to make happen.
Fast forward just one day, and I got a super excited email with a bunch of positive feedback that taking this approach had drastically changed the course of her very first day putting into practice the things we had talked about:
“I feel so much clearer and focused. Piles of wins today!”
Her words, not mine. (Also, she made time to play with her new guinea pig, which was probably the biggest win in my book.)
So this whole rat race and productivity game really just does not have to look that way at all. Life is not about constantly chasing shit. Or, well, I guess it can be, but only if that’s what you determine to be your goal of the day. But you can find flow, you can feel great, you can be productive – by your own definition – if you set the parameters for what that means to you. One question, one individualized approach, can get you more results than 27 different hacks.
So, what are the goals of the day?
If you’re having trouble answering that question, I’m really good at helping out. Schedule a call below to chat about it anytime.