What do you say when you run into people and they ask, “How are you?”? Do you tend to have responses like “Busy!”…“Swamped!”…or “Exhausted!” Or are you thinking those things but vocalizing standard answers like “Good! …or “Great!”? Whether you wear it on your sleeve or not, if you’re an accomplished, in-demand leader, it’s possible that you feel the continual thud of mounting pressures and responsibilities at work, home, and elsewhere. You may consistently worry about how you’re going to handle everything…or perhaps you’re very good at telling yourself that you’re just fine.
So how’s that working out for you?
Several years ago, I found myself really struggling to get it all done. I loved my work, I loved my family, but I did not love the level of stress and exhaustion I was experiencing on a daily basis. My colleagues and I began to explore possible new approaches for people to become even more productive than ever – while also experiencing less overwhelm and stress and more overall fulfillment in our lives.
That was a tall order. But we ultimately landed on something that works.
In prior blogs, I’ve explained the basics of our approach and shared tips on sustaining this practice. In short, it is rooted in an acceptance that we’re never getting everything done. Once we make that shift in how we view our accountabilities, our next move is to acknowledge what “everything” is and commit to a new process for deciding what we do now, what we don’t, and even what we may never do (at least for now). We make these choices based on our most fundamental concerns – the things that matter the most to us in life. And here’s the kicker: As we do so with discipline, we not only become more productive than ever before, we get to experience much more power, freedom, and peace of mind. By that I mean the power of making choices in a way that aligns with who we are as individuals, the freedom that accompanies our departure from survival mode, and the peace of mind that comes with shedding layers of stress and exhaustion.
I’m not trying to make it sound simple or easy, because it’s not. This approach calls for great rigor in execution. It requires wrestling with everyday obstacles as well as opportunities, big and small. Most of us were conditioned as adults to apply our focus and discipline to everything asked of us, especially at work. We learned to take pride in “juggling” responsibilities. But of course, when you stop juggling, you’re left with all of the balls in your hands and no forward progress.
So rather than juggle or dance as fast as we can, we can decide to act with great focus, and choose to prioritize our accountabilities in our own individual way. That’s part of the beauty of this approach: There can never be anything cookie-cutter about it. You make choices based on the things that matter to you the most – only you.
Yet as freeing as that can be, it comes with real work. You will be challenged with tough choices. Some people may not get it. There may be things that you used to treat as top priorities that you won’t any longer, and the people around you may not understand the change. You may not be as accommodating with your schedule as you once were when somebody misses a deadline that impacts your deliverable – others may have to help pick up the slack. Yet if you consistently align your choices with what you care about the most, people around you will adapt to your new way of operating. And some of them, especially those closest to you, may be very pleased.
I should also note that the implementation of this approach never ends; there’s no coasting. A classic pitfall is to become complacent. There may be times of difficulty when it’s tempting to revert to older, more familiar ways. And if that begins to happen, you can view it as an opportunity to recalibrate and consider whether anything about your fundamental concerns has shifted or evolved. Part of the human experience is that it’s full of change, and hopefully, growth. Truly mastering this practice with confidence will take time and require diligence.
Eventually, your new way of making everyday choices will become just as – even more – familiar than the way that wasn’t serving you. And you will have the incredible experience of knowing that you refused to settle for survival, and honoring that you as an individual have more to contribute to the world and people around you than delivering on a conventionally prioritized set of expectations.
I know many people today – including me – who are experiencing more power, freedom, and peace of mind than they thought possible, all as they realize the greatest productivity of their lives. It’s an inspiring thing to experience and to behold. More on the productivity aspect of this journey in my next blog.
This is the sixth in a blog series by productivity expert John Fisher