Have you ever realized that it takes up a very small portion of our day to be truly productive? The rest of it is fluff stuff. Think about it. I have come to this realization a long time ago, and I keep refining the process of eliminating “stuff” to narrow down to productive tasks. Counter-intuitively, the more productive I am in a shorter amount of time, the more free time I have.
Let me explain.
Productive: I’m sure people have an understanding of what this term means, but do they really have an understanding of what this term means outside of your typical 9 to 5 workday context? Productivity is comprised of precisely those tasks that either directly generate income or are in a succession of exact steps that eventually generate income. That’s it. The key here is the precision of the action steps taken. Productivity in the income-generating facet of your life can be anywhere from 10 – 20 actions on a daily basis that can easily be completed in a matter of minutes (personal goal – complete income-generating or income-building tasks between 8:30 am and 11:00 am). Naturally, as with any other habit, this becomes easier with practice. Chances are you weren’t able to do the following tasks without any practice:
– Putting food in your mouth with cutlery
– How to keep stains off your clothes (some of us are still struggling with this)
You get the idea. The point here is to clarify your goals. If you didn’t have to live in a 9 to 5 world (many countries in Europe and South America have already freed themselves of 9-5), and you had the time to do the things you really wanted to do, you would have to re-evaluate all the things you do during the day, focus on the income-generating tasks, delegate or sometimes even ignore the rest, and take back your time.
It’s like a game of chess: take your current situation, strategise, and execute.
Unproductive: We all know what the unproductive tasks are. A lot of us go through a workday surrounding ourselves with office distractions, e-mails (usually very unproductive, especially when considering that approximately 95% of e-mails around the world on a daily basis are spam, even spam from our friends, co-workers), meetings, water cooler gossip, drama, and the list goes on. You know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you can take a look back in your previous work experience right now, and know this is true. How do you take charge of the situation and remove the unproductive? Be the boss of your own life. You know what that means? You get to fire people, places, habits, tasks. Seriously.
Needless to say, having the guts to take charge of your own life is unto itself, a herculean task for most people – especially because they’ve become so used to placing responsibility on other’s shoulders rather than taking the bull by the horns so to speak. My previous post takes a brief look at this issue. You become like the people, things, places you associate yourself with. Simple. If you were to apply to work on an assembly line, do you become a Priest? No, you become an assembly line worker. If you hang out with people who complain about their lives, about how they hate their work because someone else is giving them a tough time, then you’ll do the same. Chances are you’re already there, aren’t you? If you gossip around the water cooler, someone else is gossiping about you on the other end of the floor. Nonsense begets nonsense. Break out of it. Take charge.
A few things that have come to light for me recently has been introduced by author Tim Ferriss. His book, The 4-Hour Work Week, was written specifically as a tool to help eliminate the unproductive, focus the productive to a razor’s edge, and take back your time so you can do the things you want to do, instead of doing the things that you are required to do by someone else. There are 2 principles that he uses that are really powerful:
In other words, 20% of your tasks generate 80% of your income. 80% of the stuff you are doing right now is generating 20% of your income. Examine your tasks and you will see this to be true.
And going back to our college/university days, ever wonder why even though you were given a week to write that essay, you started and probably completed it the night before? That’s because your work has an ability to inflate itself and is proportional to the amount of time you have been assigned to complete that work. Give yourself short and tight deadlines and stick to it. Schedule a round of golf at 11:01 am, on the condition that you finish a particular set of tasks completely between 8:30 and 11:00 am.