I've spent the last year or two of my life thinking about productivity on a daily basis. It's the topic of thousands of books, blogs, websites, businesses, seminars, and more. People have become obsessed with the idea of productivity. The idea of doing more in less time. Being a super human of sorts. Waking up early, sleeping late, and getting an incredible amount done every single day.
There's understandably something alluring about the idea. Getting everything done in a short amount of time, and having time for things that 'matter'. (Or at least, that's how it's sold. "Get all your work done faster and you can spend the rest of your time how you want!")
That approach is a lie. I've found that I never spend that extra time on anything other than, you guessed it, more work. It becomes this horrible, insatiable monster of productivity that demands more from me. Go even faster, do even more, produce and produce and produce, and don't stop. If I save 2 hours a day by improving a process, I should now use those 2 hours on more work. No amount is ever good enough because the goal post is constantly pushed further.
I ended up sacrificing way too many other things that ironically could have helped me be truly productive, and more importantly, happy. Things like spending time with my friends, and my family, reading, writing, and simply being human. Work can be really fulfilling but it isn't everything. We're so much more interesting than what we do-- our life is made up of all our experiences, like our relationships with friends, family members, our hobbies and interests, our travels, and so on.
Unfortunately I ignored all of that for so long that ironically my work began to suffer-- my creativity plummeted because I had very little experiences to draw from. I had no more 'aha' moments. I had no new inputs or experiences or anything to draw from. All I had was work! My perspective totally left me, because I was too close to everything I was working on.
As a result, I began to feel discouraged and empty inside. That emptiness drove my productivity down even further, and instead of realizing it, I just doubled and tripled my efforts to make up for it-- making things far worse, of course. It wasn't until total burn out that I stopped and re-evaluated my strategy.
I realized that I am strengthened by my friends and family. I am strengthened by travel, and seeing the world. I am strengthened by exercising and reading and writing. All of those things play into me being a happy, functioning human being and they all contributed back to my creativity and energy level.
As a result, my Real Productivity started sky rocketing. It was higher than ever before even though my hours spent working dropped. I learned to focus on my "why". I found goals that mattered to me and I started working towards them. I learned what was the perfect mix for me of working and doing other things I loved. My work no longer defined me-- my goals and my purpose defined me, and I let the work just flow through me.
My life totally changed, and it's because I let go of what the world was trying to tell me to do and instead focused on what was inside of me all along: finding my "why" and pursuing it with everything I had. In other words, I added purpose to my productivity and I began to go farther and faster than ever before.
Find your purpose, and then all those tips and tricks and life hacks and everything else start to feel trivial. They can be helpful, yes, but they aren't the solution to becoming more productive. They are just exactly as they're named: tips and tricks. What will really push you and help you do your best work is a sense of purpose and drive. Find out what you love and apply it to your life in every way you can. That's finding your "Real Productivity" -- a point where your work comes naturally, easily, and still leaves time for everything else in your life that matters.
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