Saturday, January 4, 2014

Being Productive

Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.

Franz Kafka




For some reason, I’m being fairly unproductive this morning.  So I’m going to sit here and write without stopping for the next 25 minutes, because I don’t want to lose sight o my goal.  This would be the perfect time to relax and think that I have plenty of time, but I often find that turns out to be a trap.  When I think I have plenty of time and then become unproductive, thinking I’ll have time later to be productive, something unexpected always comes up and then I get little or nothing done.  Here are some other things I’ve learned about productivity:
·      I spend a lot of time avoiding it.
·      When I’m productive, I’m usually very happy.
·      The visible results of productivity usually make me very happy.
·      Action leads to more action.
·      Productivity and busywork are not the same things.
·      The more things I write down, the more I get done.
·      Often I work best in short spurts or with quick deadlines.

To address each point, first, I spend a lot of time avoiding it.  The good news is that I don’t do this as much as I used to, but I will never be completely “cured” of this affliction.  Every day is a battle.  Some days the battle is brief and I get to work immediately, but most days I really have to push myself to focus and get work done.
Ironically, I am almost always happier when I am producing or creating something.  “Something” means anything from making my bed, to selling something on eBay, to writing a blog.  Whenever I am working, really working and not allowing distractions, I feel happier, stronger and calmer.  I am in control of my world and my choices. 
In addition, the visible results of productivity make me happier and calmer.  A very simple example is how much better I feel after I’ve made my bed.  I love looking at the numbers of radio show or blogs.  I check eBay constantly to see how many items I’ve sold.  I feel like I’ve done something and I agree with psychologist Abraham Maslow who says that self-esteem comes from accomplishment.  I remember how good I felt after writing my first blog.  Now on my 375th blog, I generally feel better about myself most of the time.
Feeling better usually results in wanting to do more.  For years, I’ve been letting things in my life build up, emotionally and physically.  Now I’m clearing the clutter in my mind and in my physical space.  The way I’m doing it physically is, as I’ve said, by selling a lot of my comic books on eBay.   Slowly I’m coming to a place where I have a physical environment and an emotional environment that is freer and clearer.  I still have to use my time well though or I waste it doing things that I should be doing later. 
Busywork and productivity are similar.   But when I’m done with busywork, I still feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing.   Sometimes something that is productive one time can be busywork at another time.  The key question to ask is, “Is what I’m doing now moving towards my goals and my immediate tasks or am I avoiding something that I should be really doing?”  Sometimes I find it helps me to do a little busywork, especially if it is something physical in order to get on with the work I’m really supposed to be doing.  If I give myself a time limit on busywork, it feels productive. 
The more things I write down, the more I get done.  This means writing a list every day.  I have also found that the larger my list, the more I get done.  If I write down five things to do that day, I will usually get all five things done.  However, if I write ten things, I may only get eight or nine done, but that’s still more than five.  Goals should be large and perhaps even difficult.  Otherwise, what’s the point?
Finally, I work best in short spurts, running a sprint, not a marathon (not my idea).  For example, I’m ending this blog in a few minutes because I need to mail something at the post office.  Creating deadlines, even artificial ones, often keeps me focused and I usually get more done.
Now what I have to do is Get Started and Keep Going…and keep being productive.