The Wall Street Journalheadline announces “U.S. Productivity Falls 1.9% in First Quarter.” What if your personal productivity made the headlines, how would it read?
There is a battle associated with your ability to work efficiently and enjoy life harmony. There are three voices that influence your thinking about the work you do each day.
The Voice of Illusion
The Voice of Deception
The Voice of Reality
The voice of illusion deals with time
When you accept a misleading view of time, you make poor choices, waste time, and increase your stress. The message “Later…that can wait” is designed to encourage procrastination. When “later” comes it is then that you may realize the amount of time wasted. The Illusion returns to mock you for falling for the same old trick yet again.
This moment in time will never repeat itself — that is the truth. This hour, your morning, this day of life will never happen again. Productivity calls us to be good stewards of time. Time used wisely, intentionally, and purposefully rewards you with progress and energy.
The voice of deception is about being busy
Deception imposes a false understanding regarding your time use which leads to a lack of awareness, misunderstanding, and even vulnerability. If you accept the message that “being busy” is what matters, your efforts will be to stay busy. Busy gets in the way of adding value. Yes, busy feels good. Time to reflect seems wasteful. That is part of the deceptive plan.
When your days are full of activity, you lose freedom to receive something greater. Being busy about the “wrong things” will land you where you don’t want to be. As Jim Stovall writes, “Just because you are moving does not mean you are moving in the right direction.”
The voice of reality: “You will succeed as you do what matters the most, at this moment.”
Reality is doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time, for the good of all. Reality is about what is real, not illusionary or deceptive.
Productivity is about being engaged in what really matters. Being productive is about producing results. Success comes because you are engaged in what matters mostnow.
One secret to productivity
You must recognize the illusion of time and the deception of being busy in order to live in the reality of what matters most, right now. Such mindfulness will support getting the work done and your future success.
As Jim Stovall writes in Ultimate Productivity:
There’s only one good reason to pursue any activity, and that is because it’s the most productive and efficient way to accomplish your mission of moving toward your personal success goal.
In the productivity battle, choose which message you accept as true…
The voice of Illusion says, “No worries, you’ll have time for that, later.”
The voice of Deception chants, “You are so very busy, good job!”
The voice of Reality clarifies by declaring truth, “You will succeed, because right now you are engaged in what matters most.”
Creating Space for Reflection
What do you desire to accomplish with your life? What are your thoughts about “time” – your lifetime?
Where do you think you are “wasting time”? What causes you to procrastinate?
What is it costing you to live “busy”? How will you engage in “what matters most” today?
Okay, I admit it, I’m not a fan of Daylight Saving Time. I wish our clocks could be left alone, aligned with high noon.
There’s little evidence DST achieves its primary goal of energy savings. According to SleepBetter.org the Lost Hour costs the American economy $434 million in lost production and medical expenses. Regardless, we continue this costly practice.
Research shows that workers with inadequate sleep (seemingly the “new norm,” beyond DST) are “likely to be less ethical, less morally aware, more prejudiced, and more apt to engage in abusive supervision.”
What do you think — cost vs. benefit — why do we keep daylight savings time?
What about other thieves?
Last weekend,I remember thinking, “They’ve stolen another hour of my life.” And since daylight savings time is out of my control, the potential for frustration was presented.
That’s when the “truth in the Story” dawned upon me.
Yes, the ritual of daylight savings time is out of my control, but what about the other time bandits? What else robs me of time? What about the time wasters that are within my control? What about those practices that steal more than an hour once a year?
What a waste!
When our actions or use of something results in an unnecessaryloss of somethingvaluable, it’s called waste. And what is so valuable? Time, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years — your lifetime.
While it’s true none of us know the length of our lifetime, there are stages when we become more mindful of life’s brevity. That’s my Story.
When someone’s very drunk, we say they’re “wasted.” Forget productivity, prudence, or best behavior. When a resource is wasted, it is not invested in a good, useful, or effective way.
When was the last time you thought, “What a waste of time!”
Re-claim your lifetime
Here are a couple actions to consider to help protect your most valuable resource.
Be mindful: what’s going on with your time? Track it.
Set boundaries: who are the thieves? Where are they breaking in?
Set appointments: what are the 3 priorities that support goal achievement for today? Now, move from your to-do list to your calendar.
Create Space for Reflection
There’s a lot of noise. Distractions are everywhere. You have one lifetime and you’re in charge of how it paces. Be intentional.
Here’s to your prudent use of time,
PS: If you need a little comic relief, watch John Oliver’s “Daylight Saving Time – How Is This Still A Thing?”
“We need to be on the road by 9:00 a.m.,” Rita reminded me. It was Father’s Day so we planned a trip to Southeast Kansas.
Grabbing a few extra minutes, we sat on the patio sipping Sumatra coffee. With our recent schedule we soaked up the moment.
The spring flowers danced pink, yellow, purple, and shades of green throughout our backyard paradise. Japanese Koi glided through the crystal clear water. The stream wandered and tumbled down the waterfall soothing the mind, body, and spirit. Perhaps you can appreciate why “running late” was so easy.
We prepared Sunday lunch – pulled pork, fresh beets, potatoes and carrots along with a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, and onion topped with mozzarella cheese – in honor of our dads. Dessert on the farm is a tradition, so Rita made gluten-free chocolate cupcakes; the only thing left was crowning them with a dip of Borden’s Home Style Vanilla ice cream.
Racing north on Highway 75 we enjoyed conversation, the scenery, and light traffic. I pushed our speed beyond the prescribed limit to make up for our lateness. We were 10-miles from our destination, about to show up on-time…
That car made a U-turn flashing red and blue lights. Immediately, I slowed to pull over and wait for his arrival.
I reflected on the story while we limped those last few miles to Independence…
My first question: What’s he doing out here on Sunday morning?
Who’s to blame here…?
“No one but myself; what a waste of money and time.”
What happened, what’s the truth in the Story?
“I didn’t plan ahead. I didn’t leave on time to be on time, so I pushed the limits and it cost me.”
What did it cost me?
Cash and unnecessary stress, and we were still late!
Last but not least … what’s this about?
What’s Your Excuse for Not Being On-Time?
Diana Delonzor is a former “card-carrying member of the “Punctually Challenged.” She conducts research on tardiness and writes about it in her book, Never Be Late Again.
JobPro’s management team slunk into the room for Thursday’s meeting. Two weeks of 60+ hour work weeks had stolen their engagement. Most crash-landed in their chairs, some with a sigh. Dave just stood, staring across the room, instead of starting the meeting. No wonder productivity had dipped.
“You gonna start this so we can get out of here or what?” Marlene snarled
“I’m gettin’ there. Needed a bit to collect my thoughts,” Dave replied.
“Looked more like staring into space,” Marlene replied.
“Give him a break. It’s not like anyone’s thinking clearly with all the overtime and staff cuts,” defended Phyllis.
“Yeah, and why’d they have to get rid of Jackie?” Barry chimed in.
All their conflict washed over Dave. He felt stress clawing at his insides. His frustration blended with theirs. Everyone had been picking up the slack of his or her lost teammates. What could he say? Their life outside of work was gone. His own work-home boundary lines had been blurred. Venting his frustration would only add to the rising tide of disunity…
“Life Harmony” a new paradigm
The longing for life harmony makes dissonance increasingly unpleasant. Dissonance brought on by inconsistency between what you believe and how you behave sometimes.
Harmony, on the other hand, is a pleasing arrangement of parts. In your story, harmony is the interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative. Life harmony represents the new work-life balance.
First, there is the harmony of being human – the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual “parts” which create your story. Physical chaos occurs when the need for rest, nutrition, and activity are ignored. Mental chaos can be brought on by what Douglas Rushkoff calls, digiphrenia – “a digitally disordered condition of mental activity.” Distracted by the constant connection of technology, mindless entertainment, advertising, and social media adding to the turmoil. Emotional chaos happens when fears are unaddressed, gratitude is unexpressed, and forgiveness is withheld. Spiritual chaos comes if we choose a worldview of self-sovereignty and providence.
Life harmony is the new work-life balance. The image supports giving voice to all your roles in life as a man or woman, a son or daughter, a sibling, perhaps a spouse or parent, an employee or employer and so forth.
Life harmony is less about share of voice and more about voice recognition. Imagine a vocal ensemble with beautiful harmony.
Harmony is achieved when each voice sings its part.
Said another way, life harmony blends the role of individual, family, community, and work into a single narrative. Think about it. Your Story began when you showed up as a person, the newest member of a family; you found your place in a community where you learned how to make your contribution through meaningful work.
Everyday is an opportunity to cultivate life harmony. Today, you will add toyour story. Are you writing the story you will want to tell?
Control the pace to create space
The pace of life provides little margin. What happens when the pace of life out of control? It becomes easy to live “out of control.” To create life harmony in the midst of chaos demands discipline.
Creating space is the disciplined use of time, place and resources to reflect on what’s really going on. Chaos happens; harmony is intentional. When your actions are aligned with your beliefs and values the new work-life balance is near.
Dave took a deep breath. “Grab a piece of paper and finish this sentence: I’m grateful for…. List your top five or so. Got it?
Surprisingly, Barry was first to start writing. Marlene just stared at the blank page before starting.
“What was that like for you?” Dave asked.
“I feel more positive … more grateful,” Phyllis said.
“Yeah, it helped me to realize how much I’ve got to be thankful for,” Barry chimed in.
Dave took another deep breath and pressed ahead, “Now, you won’t be asked to share this, but who is the team member you have the most conflict with?”
He waited and watched the look on their faces. “Okay, finish this sentence: One of the things I appreciate about (person’s name) is….”
As they looked up from writing, Dave asked, “What do you notice about yourself, what changed?”
“I started to see them as a person,” Marlene confessed.
“It caused me to look for the positive instead of the negative,” Barry said.
“Sometimes, we get so caught up in our work, our agenda, and the pace around here that all we do is deal with problems. Then, we allow the “problem” to build a wall between us and we lose sight of the people.” Dave continued, “Gratitude and appreciation grease our relationship gears, helping to reduce the friction and reduce the unnecessary stress.”
The energy of JobPro’s management meeting changed. It became a time and place for the team to step out of the chaos and re-connect as people. With time set aside to think, new ideas were discussed and the energy of the team increased. It wasn’t a quick fix, but a beginning.
So, with pen and paper in hand, what are you grateful for?
Who are you in conflict with? Now, what do you appreciate about him or her?
What do you think about the NEW work-life balance idea of “life harmony?” When do you create space to think and listen to your Story?
Christina’s work eats an unhealthy portion of her life. The past 20 years she intensely pursued her career. More recently she carried a heavy load with a start-up of epic proportion.
The cost? It’s taken a toll on her relationships and leadership … yes, conflict and unnecessary stress. The demand and pace squeeze out self-limiting behaviors that have minimized trust, disengaged the team, and created frustration.
Business eats people
The nature of business is to consume – not right or wrong – just the nature of business, which includes eating people. Business consumes, produces, exports, depletes the inventory … and then, asks for more. One leadership function is to determine how much of an employee’s life is consumed to do business. That leader is you.
As a self-managed leader, you stand at the mouth of the “beast” (no judgment, just descriptive) and must determine how much of your time, your energy, your creativity, and your life you will feed it. Whether you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, frontline worker, new manager, middle manager, vice president, or CEO … How much will you feed the beast?
The beast likes to snack and technology makes it easy. Yes, this is about drawing boundaries … a line between work and personal time, family, recreation and rest? To stay engaged requires life harmony (the new work-life balance.) Setting work boundaries is critical to engagement, as reported in a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Using a Smartphone after 9 pm Leaves Workers Disengaged.”
Smartphones fit workactivity into lifeoutsidethe workplace. Easy access to email, the web, video conference calls, webinars, text messaging – even old-fashioned voice calls – all allow work to be done anywhere, anytime. How much work has invaded your non-workhours?
To stay engaged and productive research indicates we need space …
This greater connectivity comes at a cost: using a smartphone to cram more work into a given evening results in less work done the next day. The reason for this … is that smartphones are bad for sleep, and sleep is very important to effectiveness.
Considering the research and the undesirable outcomes of insufficient sleep, how you are you doing? How well to you create space for life outside of work? When do you create space for reflective thinking? How committed are you to taking time off? Where are your boundaries? Simply put,what’s your bedtime?
It was a new experience for Christian, she “took advantage” of days off at Christmas. Returning to work she noticed a difference in her perspective, the reward of “time off.” To pursue greater life harmony, she committed to the following:
Dailyappointment – for 30 minutes the door is shut, devices muted, a little music is added, and she creates space to think
Business hours – she is leaving the office at a reasonable time to go home
Disconnecting – she does not log on and work from home during the evening, unless it’s an emergency
Time off – she plans to enjoy days off in 2014
For you to think about:
If you establish predictable time off, what would that look like in your story?
How is your sleep affected by your work habits? Load? What can you do about it?
Most businesses expect employees to turn into leaders with a title. They load them up with responsibilities and a diverse team of people to manage. Conflicts arise. Pressure builds. People leave. Managers crumble. Those who navigate their way to success seem to have leadership planted in them at birth.
But the study of truly effective leaders reveals that leaders learn to lead. Their success depends on whether or not they become self-managed.
Next Generation Leaders turns employees into self-managed teams and leaders,
No alarm clock was needed. I woke up realizing, “We’re in Kansas.” Father’s Day weekend pulled my heart and then my feet home.
We spent Saturday night at Rita’s parents on “the farm.” With my journal and briefcase deposited on the deck, I grabbed my coffee mug fully anticipating time to write. Yep, I might even review some work I brought along, just in case. You know, “Make hay while the sun is shinning,” as they say.
The country morning grabbed my attention tugging on me to come see. Eager to see the morning skyline I moved to the east end of the yard. Soon, like a sheep nibbling at the grass, I began wandering down the drive to the lane to the county road, all paved with gravel.
I grabbed my iPhone – not to check e-mail, my calendar or to consult Google maps – but to capture the story. My unseen Guide said, “See the lone wildflower there in the ditch.” There was the wood fence post dressed in mossy green; highlighted by the sunbeams. The thin patch of Bermuda in the center of the road turned into a million, tiny, green lights as dew reflected the morning sun. It was a well-lit runway. My unhurried feet followed.
What’s the hurry?
“Hurry up, or we’ll be late.”
“Hurry up, it’s starting to rain.”
“Hurry, they’re waiting on us.”
“Hurry up and finish eating.”
“Hurry up or we’ll miss our flight.”
“Hurry!” is an emergency Call 911! But how often is it just the voice of the Urgent silencing the whisper of the Important?
Slow down. Enjoy the Story. What’s the hurry?
When did you last watch the sunrise? Has sunset lost its spellbinding power on your gaze? When did flower blooms last hold you captive with their deep color? When did you last listen to the melody of birds?
The pace of life, ambition, needs and wants, success, information overload, the expectation to do more with less drive your life until they become habit. Can you remember the last time you experienced “unhurried”? When did you last describe your day as calm, casual, carefree?
Fear drives unproductive behavior. It takes effort to identify its source. Why were you in such a hurry this morning? What drives your lifestyle of busy? What does it cost you to live without margin? What is the affect on you physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually? How does it impact your relationships? What about your work performance?
Where you headed?
My “unhurried walk” took me north at the intersection on a “No Outlet” gravel road. As it narrowed, it became less gravel and more path-like until I arrived at Harmony Cemetery in Montgomery County, Kansas.
The tombstones displayed the Story of those who arrived “There” first, most a long time ago — Uncle Glen was buried just last month. Cemeteries and tombstones tell us of earthly life’s destiny and brevity.
Leaving the cemetery, I thought: if this is where the road goes and there is “No Outlet” why hurry to get here? Why don’t I embrace more unhurried days?
It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.
Where are you headed? This simple question is an invitation for you to push back against a life with little margin, against the grind of falling into bed to roll out again. Create space for what matters most in life and listen. That’s the beauty of unhurried walks.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. – Winston Churchill
When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. – Steve Jobs
Our conversation was going quite well, there was a lot of energy and understanding, there was an exchange of ideas and relationship building. As Becky began to move towards ending our phone meeting she apologized, “I’m booked back to back until this afternoon, I must go.”
“Sounds like you may need to create space”, I teased.
“You’re right”, she replied.
We are discussing my work as “the people developer” (executive coaching), my message, and my desire to help more people with their personal leadership development. I had just explained the foundational need to create space and how there is a “conspiracy of time” that pushes back against personal development.
What is the conspiracy of time?
To paraphrase Mark Twain, a conspiracy is a secret agreement within a world system, which seeks to impose what it wants but will not freely reveal it. Let’s call it the “Opposition Force”.
The conspiracy of time is enticement to live over-committed lives. What do you see, are people around you living time-poor lives? Most of the people I know live such busy lives; this is the conspiracy.
The plot against personal development in life is have little time to listen.
The Opposition Force exerts influence when we fill our lives with so much activity we fail to commit sufficient time toward our well being, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
Bottom line: it is an attack on relationships.
A conspiracy is usually a plan involving activity considered “illegal”.
Technically, there is nothing illegal about generally ignoring human relationships. (Obviously, I’m not talking about child neglect.)
Clearly, we are not prohibited from working 60+ hours a week and in doing so neglect the people in our lives: spouse, children, family or friends. In fact, such behavior is rewarded and encouraged with subtle suggestions… “Not now, later.”
It is not criminal to neglect your health. It is not unlawful to even back burner spiritual formation, cultivating a relationship with God.
The Opposition Force promotes over-extending legitimate commitmentsto the point of over-commitment … and all we say is: “I’m sooo busy!” Life harmony is lost and so often the vital connections with others and the care of oneself.
It is impossible to enjoy life harmony when too much time and energy is given to the temporal stuff in life; only people are eternal.
The business of life is people.
The Opposition Force supports us as we pin the badge on declaring: “I’m sooo busy!” When was the last time you heard someone bragging that she left the office “on time”?
What is the best predictor of future success?
One of my favorite subjects is this idea of what predicts personal success. My coaching process and belief is this:
The Best Predictor of Future Success is the
ability and willingness to learn and change
achieved through consistent reflection on
truth found in the Story.
Once you understand the principles in that statement you will recognize the “conspiracy of time” and fight back. You will create spaceto listen; “too busy” doesn’t allow for such discipline.
Creating space for consistent reflection is the key to accelerated personal growth and development. When you hit the ground running and fall into bed the conspiracy is at work. Without time for consistent reflection you will limit your leadership and contribution to the world.
The ability and willingness to learn and change can be activated as we see the truth in the Story. When life is a blur the helpful messages from feedback, experience, success, and failure will be lost and so is the leadership development opportunity.
Then unproductive, self-limiting behaviors create a box and your behaviors keep you from freedom and the high performance you are designed to enjoy.
When life is harmonized, not only will you experience personal growth, but all your relationships will have a chance to grow, too.
When it comes your time what exactly do you want?
What does the Opposition Force behind the conspiracy want?
To keep us in bondage, living lives with ancient behaviors, driven by fear so we show up in unproductive ways.
As Steve Jobs points out, the TV networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. While this is a hard message to hear, it is often true about life; we have what we want. Staying “too busy” allows us to avoid the hard work and responsibility for our personal development.
When it comes to your future, what do you want?
As you think of your personal relationships, what do you want?
When it comes to your leadership, what do you want?
If you want something more, then when will you must create spacefor reflection on your Story?The Opposition Force will say you’re too busy.
Join the conversation, leave your comment below.
Have read my new book?
THE PEOPLE PROJECT:
Your Guide to Changing Behavior and Growing Your Influence as a Leader