I’m always banging on about personal productivity largely because I see so little of it and I know it will make the difference to your work life (and more). Further, most people I meet are not satisfied with their own personal productivity, and those I have helped love it and keep at it.
So, why this huge gap between the massive desire to be more productive (= successful) and the failure to actually achieve it?
Well there’s lot of reasons.
For a start we are not taught how to be efficient and effective. At least not in school, when we are at our most habit forming.
Second, a lot of time management material is just garbage. It adopts a year-zero approach – by that I mean the authors pretend that everything that has gone before no longer works because of a) t’internet or b) the recession or c) the author’s desire to have you all to themselves.
It’s all rubbish of course. And there are many other, external, reasons.
Yes…external reasons. But I think the biggest barriers are in our heads. Internal reasons. And here they are –
“But Mark, time management will kill my spontaneity.”
This is a myth. Being productive will not kill your spontaneity or flexibility or creativity. People who are disorganised tend to be busy fools and are not spontaneous. They are often anxious and unfocused. And often chaotic. This is not a good basis for spontaneity or creativity.
The more organised and focused you are, the more relaxed you will be. Then you can be spontaneous.
“But Mark, I’m just a messy person (and I like it).”
This is conditioning. There is no gene for messiness (although I sometimes wonder…). These people have probably been told they are messy, are always late, and never finish what they started. And they grow accustomed to this. They end up liking it. Or they at least arrive at an accommodation with it.
Conditioning works both ways. Personal productivity is learned – like riding a bike. Taking repeated productive action fosters new habits and behaviours. But the system needs to be easy to learn – no 360-page year-zero time management PhD thesis.
“But Mark, I just cannot be productive, I’ve tried.”
This is a self-limiting belief. The thing about beliefs is that people really think of them as truths. They say belief but they mean truth. But it is not a truth. We are not destined to be poor at time management. We are also not destined to be good at it either. Like messiness, there’s no time management or personal productivity gene either. It’s a learned behaviour. A discipline.
It just depends how much you want it. Which part of the bell-curve you want to be at – really rubbish, rubbish, below average, average, above average, good, great.
It’s a choice. In fact, it’s a choice we’ve all already made. But we can re-make the choice. You get another go.
I’m doing a two hour talk on how you, like my private clients, can triple your productivity overnight. It’s for charity (mine clearance in war-torn parts of the world), costs about £35 + vat I think, is at Manchester Business School on Thursday 30th Sept from 530pm to 830pm. I’ll be on about 6pm. There will be food. And there will be booze. And there will be my easy to implement personal productivity system that will triple your productivity overnight.
Or you could stay in the office spontaneously catching up with your email…