Friday, May 6, 2016

Finishing

The end of the semester is finally here, which means I'll finally have time to get back to blogging.  As I've been meaning to do for the past four months.

It's been a busy time, but a productive one.  Back in March, I came across an article by Gwen Moran that identifies the twelve habits of the most productive people. 

I'm a pretty productive person in general--probably very productive, really--and I do think Moran's advice is good.  The only caveat I would offer is that I also refrain from subscribing to the idea that life is always about productivity.

There are benefits to laziness as well.  Perhaps in a future blog post I'll discuss those. 

Moran notes that the "super-productive" among us have a mindset that situates them for success: specifically, "they focus on what matters" and the recognize that "important" and "urgent" are two separate things.

Personally, I find that we live in a world that pressures us to regard every little task as somehow "urgent."  It's not.  It probably isn't even all that "important" either. 

Keeping on top of things, to my mind, means moving swiftly through the little things so that they don't pile up whether by doing them during the "salvage[d] wasted time" that Moran describes or by doing all the things I know I'm not going to want to do (another strategy on Moran's list), so that the to-do list doesn't turn into a "jesus-just-shoot-me" list.

And yes, organization is important.  Again, as Moran notes, "having a set routine" and "knowing where to find what you need when you need it" can be key to working efficiently.

That said, I hate to think of how many hours of my life have been lost to the "Absent-Minded Professor Syndrome.  You know, when you walk into a room a stare around blankly and think, "Wait, what did I come in here for?"  Or you stare at a cluttered desk and think, "Now when did I last see that form I need... I know I put it in a safe place so I could find it easily...".

Because as Moran also points out, the productive among us aren't perfect--specifically, they aren't perfectionists.  Really, there's no point beating yourself up about the fact that you should be "better about" X, Y, or Z.  You are who you are.  Do what you can with that, and don't waste too much time wishing you were "better," somehow, at anything and everything.

Which brings me to two of what I regard as Moran's most essential points: productive people "quit strategically" and "only attend meetings with purpose."

Sometimes, you gotta say, "to hell with it," and walk away.  If it's using up too much time and energy and phrases like "beating my head against a wall," "falling on deaf ears," or--worst of all--"no good deed goes unpunished" keep coming to mind, it's time to quit.

Or, if it's a project that doesn't involve others and is simply something you started working on all by your lonesome, I tend to think the number of times you use the phrases "tearing my hair out" or "going in circles" can be a pretty reliable index of when it's quittin' time.

The issue of meetings is a fraught one.  Over the years, I've come to believe that there are people who just... like meetings.  They don't care if they're pointless or tedious, because they seem to have subscribed to the notion that being "at" or "in" a meeting means that they're busy and that being busy in this way means that their lives have value and purpose.

I've always been particularly surprised to note that these are often the selfsame people who lament that things "can't just be put in an email."  They can, actually, but mark my words, when they are, you will have those very people coming around to tell you that the issue is "too important" to discuss over email, and we "need" to meet.

Sometimes, meetings are necessary.  Sometimes, meetings are good.  In my experience, the best meetings are the ones where the people in attendance agree that "we need to do X and Y" and that "A and Z" can be put in an email.  And they move swiftly to the things that really do need to be done and discussed, and come up with an action plan for doing it.

But those end up few and far between.  And when they are, I say, if you want to be a productive person, you're probably going to have to brave the feeling that you first braved back in the day when you contemplated skipping a class.  (And no, I'm not condoning skipping class.  Especially not MY class.)

Because really, there are only so many hours in a day, and gatherings that leave you feeling drained and... well, kinda sad, actually, aren't worth it.  If your job and your salary don't hinge on such exchanges or encounters, then be selective on the ones you attend.

And if your job and your salary do in fact hinge on such meetings, then I would say, consider whether you really enjoy your job enough to want to keep doing it.  If so, great.  If not, this might be why you're not as productive as you'd like to be: you're not happy.

Because in the end, I think productivity and happiness often go hand-in-hand.  When you're down and depressed, it's hard to even move.  When you're happy, you've got the energy you need to get things done, and doing them doesn't seem quite so difficult. 

So maybe it isn't you, per se.  Maybe you can change your circumstances--or tweak them a bit--and find yourself getting more out of any given day.  And out of life in general.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."