Jun 272014 2 Responses

A Secret to Productivity

Imagine it’s the Friday before vacation. When you leave the office today, you won’t return for two weeks.

What do you do?

Probably the first thing to happen is you find a way to close out the outside world so you can accomplish the most important things. I would shut my office door, close my email program, and turn off my phone. Some things can only be done by me and I would have to give my best time and energy to those things.

Next you would consider everything needed from you by others. Email would be quickly filtered to find only the most important matters. Paperwork would be largely ignored except for the most pressing issues. (See: You Chose This)

After the most important work was done and all the tasks which must be completed were finished, you might end your day by cleaning your desk a bit and putting things exactly in place so that when you return you won’t forget what needs to be done.

Have you ever noticed that the day before a vacation is often the most productive you are in the office? It’s amazing to me the things I can get done in one morning before I leave for vacation–things that sit on my desk for weeks when I’m not leaving on vacation.

There is something about the deadline and the scarcity of hours which offers a perspective and ordering of priorities we often do not have.

Yet why not work that way every day?

Instead of being lured in by every email and being redirected by every person’s minor emergency, why do we not take charge of our schedules every day? (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

For most, we are willing to take charge of our lives the day before we leave for vacation because we have an excuse. Everyone will understand if we say, “I’m sorry, I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow so this is what I have to do today.”

But without the excuse, we drift into apathy.

We feel the pressure of our workload, but we do not take the necessary steps to take control of it.

Every email is viewed the same. Every request gets our attention. Doors are left open, phones are left on, and when someone asks if we have a few minutes we lie and say “yes.”

The consequence of living like this takes a tremendous toll. Not only are we far less productive and therefore a less valuable employee, we also feel a tremendous guilt and pressure because we have so much to do but so little time to do it.

We feel out of control. We feel that way because we are. But we are simply because we have given the control of our lives to others.

This is the truth—a vast majority of modern workers are in complete control of their work schedules but they give that control to others. Whether through email, drop-in visits, phone calls, or a variety of other means, we sacrifice the most important task for whatever is the most urgent task as defined by another person. In so doing, we slash our productivity and kill any sense of accomplishment or achievement.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. (See: You Won’t Change Until…)

For many, we can choose how we spend our time. We might have to be in the office at a certain time, but what is done at any given hour is up to us. We should choose wisely.

Instead of reacting to whatever comes our way, we should intentionally do that which is most meaningful, productive, and efficient.

How would your life be different if you worked with intention instead of working in reaction to what happens?

What if you worked every day like it was the last day before vacation?

It’s Friday. How would you spend today if you were going to be out of the office for the next two weeks?

As for me, I’ll be playing golf. My work Friday was yesterday.

For more, see:

Three Loves to Change Your Life

2 Responses to A Secret to Productivity
  1. […] Nothing will increase our productivity and purpose as much as planning our day and charging into the... kevinathompson.com/the-best-way-to-start-monday

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