We live in a society built on efficiency and productivity. We stay busy, invent new time management strategies, and learn how to fill every second with some kind of activity so that we can “save” more time and fill it up with even more activities. But the question is – What’s the point?
What is the point of working hard and checking off all these numerous tasks on our to-do lists when we misbalance other areas of our life like health or relationships, for one single idea – the idea that we must be efficient. Efficient at what? Work? Relationships? Life?
My friend recently came back from his family trip to Europe. And when I asked him how did it go, his first response was, “Oh it was very productive! We saw everything that we had planned to see and I even met possible business partners for my new project!”
Am I the only one, who does not understand the concept of a “productive vacation”? Vacations can be unforgettable, fun, great, amazing or terrible at worst, but not productive. Because if this is the case, a vacation loses its essence and becomes a business trip.
This got me thinking that maybe we have taken the productivity concept too far after all?
Maybe we need to take a little break from all the new fad time management strategies and turn to ancient knowledge for guidance?
Here is what ancient wisdom teaches us:
1. “What you are doing does not matter so much as what you are learning from doing it.” – Egyptian Proverb
Most of us are familiar with the concept of prioritizing – you should always start with the most important and urgent task on our to-do list, leaving less important ones for later. But what if we look at it from a different perspective and instead of concentrating our efforts on the tasks that are supposed to bring us maximum result in the short run; we make learning our priority?
When you evaluate any activity from “What can I learn?” perspective, you are continuously expanding your experience, improving your skills, as a result becoming more efficient.
Action step: Look at the tasks on your to-do list. Often the most beneficial activity is not the one that seems the most important or urgent. It is the one that you learn the most while doing it!
2. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Our present is a direct result of choices and actions that we have made in the past. And most of those choices and actions are mainly influenced by our habits. It is no different with work. Each of us has developed our own rituals like checking emails, answering friends on facebook, looking for the latest updates on the soccer world cup or eating lunch at our desk.
What we do not realize is that we perfect what we repeatedly do. We become more efficient at answering emails, we learn to carry on conversations with 5 different friends on facebook, and we become much faster at searching for the latest news on-line.
Action step: Become aware of your work “rituals” during the day. What do you repeatedly do? What are you getting better at? And is it worth excelling at these tasks? Or maybe it would be better to invest your time in something else that has a greater impact on your career and professionalism?