If you ask me, I’d say yes, I’m productive. I get lots of stuff done.
But like any creative entreprenuer, I easily get caught up in the minutae and lose track of the big picture.
Clearly the problem isn’t getting stuff done. It’s that it’s often the wrong stuff. Busy work that‘s easy to cross off our to do list rather than the important work that falls into quadrant 3 of the Eisenhower Matrix. Important but not urgent.
What happened when I was forced to abandon my to do list
I was jolted out of this way of doing things recently when I woke up one morning with a stiff neck and suddenly couldn’t work through my to do list as usual.
When my neck was at it’s most immobile, I spent a lot of time staring into space and just thinking.
Then, as my neck eased a little, I began to do gentle tasks such as brainstorming in my journal and reading.
It turned out to be a period of immense insight and productivity in a different way than I would normally think of it.
I realised that by cramming my schedule full of to list items, I hadn’t been allowing space for the deep work and the result was that I was staying stuck in lots of areas of my life without understanding why.
Why it's hard to schedule deep work
One reason we often don’t do this kind of work is because it is more nebulous. It’s the Yin to the Yang of outward achievement.
This makes it harder to schedule even though doing it will likely have a very beneficial effect our longer term well-being.
This kind of deep work needs mental space. We can’t get this kind of space by cramming a half hour strategy or planning session into our already crowded schedule.
That’s why some of the top entreprenuers plan annual solitude weekends to review the year and envision the next one. As creatives, this kind of reflective process is equally important.
Make space to go deeper AND wider
To effectively do really deep work we need to shift our state of consciousness away from the one we use for daily matters. To disconnect from our usual pressing concerns in order to adjust our focus to something not just deeper but also wider.
Imagine looking at your life through a camera lens. By changing the focus you can stop staring at the immediately obvious things in the foreground and hone in instead on some interesting but less defined things that are hovering in the middle distance.
Mark McGuinness calls this Creating Assets.
“This is where you invest time in creating something intended to generate ongoing value in the future.”Mark McGuinness, Productivity for Creative People
It’s high time we redefined productivity away from the mechanistic, ‘clock hours, produce widgets‘ mentality that we’ve used for too long. Time to look at productivity holistically, to equally revere it’s Yin AND it’s Yang.
And to recognise that our important work ONLY gets done effectively and meaningfully when we make space for the Yin side of the process because that’s the way we arrive at the real insight that propels us forward.
What can YOU let go of, in order to make some space for deep, wide thinking?
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