The second entry a blog series by productivity expert John Fisher
Read article 1
It’s the start of a new year and so many of us are resolved to stay on top of everything in our lives and to not let one single thing slip through the cracks. I see high hopes and admirable determination all around me, and I’m sure you do, too.
And yet if we’re honest with ourselves, many of us are already straining to keep up with the commitments that constitute our personal mountain of responsibilities.
What if 2018 wasn’t yet another year when you failed to conquer the mountain – but rather, the year that you became more productive than ever, despite the mountain? What if you could elevate your perspective so that your life no longer revolved around a never-ending list of things to do, but instead began to revolve around the things that really matter the most to you?
In my first article of this series, I introduced the concept of accepting that we’re never going to “get it all done.” It’s part of a very liberating approach to productivity that begins with a critical pivot: from constantly chasing an impossible accumulation of tasks to casting your focus on the actions that are most closely aligned with the aspirations and priorities that make you you. It’s a personal process that looks different for everyone, and I’ve seen it result in remarkable new levels of efficiency and accomplishment. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s entirely possible with practice and discipline. Moreover, you get to experience – for as long as you like – the new satisfaction that comes with directing yourself and your time in a new way.
A key part of this practice is how you choose to prioritize, then take charge of your priorities. It involves tapping into a power that comes from a highly realistic, yet ambitious focus. In short, it’s about managing outcomes, rather than fretting about how much time you have. There’s a tremendous sense of freedom you can generate if you’re rigorously honest with yourself about what you can get done, and what you can’t.
It may sound contradictory at first, but endeavoring to do less can put you on a direct path to accomplishing more than you ever could have before. This is because you can begin to manage yourself in a way that serves your highest purposes – whether that’s about personal priorities, professional priorities, or some combination thereof. While it’s a straightforward approach, it also requires laser-focused – sometimes difficult – decision-making on a daily basis. Or another way to look at it: It’s a set of opportunities that presents itself to you every day.
For example, I had a client who, after much reflection, decided it was imperative that she have more time with her family while also remaining a high-performer at work. She had to significantly adjust her approach to her accountabilities, and resist the urge to get distracted by more doable tasks that could be delegated (such as chores at home, or work functions that she realized others could handle). She was ultimately able to take a vacation with her family that was completely uninterrupted by work – a result she experienced as life-altering.
Another client was simply overwhelmed with stress and exhaustion and realized he had to stop trying to do everything – the sooner, the better. He admitted to himself that he was essentially pretending when he told himself he could get everything accomplished – and was then able to shift to a practice of managing himself according to what mattered most to him in his life. Rather than prioritize easy outcomes, he was able to impressively tackle the tougher undertakings he’d been in the habit of putting off while completing more doable tasks. And meeting those more daunting objectives served to advance him considerably on his career path. In his words: “I began directing myself from commitments – my word on getting certain things done – rather than from my identity…all that I thought I should be doing and saying. I had no idea what a difference that could make.”
Where does your direction come from? Do you think it’s possible that you could become significantly more productive and efficient by attempting to do less? I posit that a greater sense of power, freedom, and peace could be a hallmark of your year if you’re willing to change your orientation to your mountain of things to do. It begins when people are willing to make a paradigm shift and commit to directing themselves differently, and it continues to make an incredible difference when people remain committed to operating differently.
Being able to reduce – or even eliminate – negative stress, and to readily handle overwhelm when it threatens, are capabilities attractive to most of us. But beyond that lies the greater possibility of living your most meaningful life possible, on your own terms and by your own standards. Stay tuned for steps into that world.