How to Unlock Next-Level Productivity
Have you ever been driving and seen that person weaving in and out of traffic, only to end up at the same spot as you after a few lights? All that rushing, just to get no further ahead than the people driving patiently.
I always wonder where said person is going to. Sure, maybe they’re late for something. But I often think they’re just in a rush to go nowhere and do nothing. I always crack the same joke, “Why is this person in such a rush? It’s not like they have some board meeting to attend.”
Think of how crazy that is. Some people risk their lives and increase their odds of a dangerous crash simply because they want to get home faster and do some B.S. activities — watch T.V., scarf down the fast food they bought, screw around on their phone, whatever.
This is a generalization, of course, but I look at the person speeding home to do nothing as the perfect microcosm to the way people live.
We’re all in a rush, always, but we rarely get anything meaningful done. Everyone is “busy” but to what end? What outcomes are we getting from said busyness?
How often do you find yourself living in this frantic and frazzled way without, you know, getting what you really want from life?
One the one hand, I’m not the most productive person in the world at all. My workdays never make it more than four to six hours. I can’t keep to a calendar to save my life. I’m the definition of absent-minded.
Yet, when it comes to the things that matter, to me at least, I’m extremely productive. I produce something new almost every single day — be it a blog post, a new video, an email message for my tribe, ideas I end up using, etc.
When it comes to putting energy towards what matters, my vocation, I’ve put more into it than almost anyone I know personally.
My definition of productivity is different than most. And to achieve the level of productivity I’m talking about, you have to master the perfect level of patience and speed.
The Paradoxical Pace of True Productivity
“Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry” — John Wooden
Before we get into this piece of advice, understand you must build the foundation first. Discover your talents and strengths, work on them until you get a little bit of traction, and then settle into a groove where you know you’re committed.
Then, be quick…but don’t hurry.
While you’re working, do deep work. Be focused and push yourself to get the best out of the time chunk you have to work on something important to you. I’m prolific. I write and publish something new almost every day. I use a time-block to create with such a dense energy level that I can produce quality and quantity at the same time — quick.
Then, I’m patient about the long-term prospects. I’m building my catalog at a rapid clip, but I’m also aware that writing success takes years. When you put success out of your mind and just work, success will come to you. The results you want will happen eventually. You have to give the universe time to catch up to your accomplishments.
If you can learn to develop even a slightly above average level of the following:
- Work ethic
- Delayed gratification
- The ability to practice, iterate and implement new concepts
You’ll make dramatic leaps, seemingly out of nowhere.
What Does a Productive LIFE Look Like?
Extending outside of the scope of “working on your passion” these ideas about productivity, patience, and living in a focused way without being rushed apply to life in general.
If you blaze through your life getting a bunch done, but never really enjoying any of it. Are you successful? There’s no perfect recipe. It’s almost like you have to go to certain extremes and curb yourself to find the right balance. I’ve spent years at a time doing nothing but partying. I spent years working so hard on my purpose that it harmed my social life.
The right answer will be different for everyone and the definition of right is nebulous at best. Instead, always look to calibrate. Never think you quite have this “how to live” thing figured out. Always try to focus on the type of life your actions seem to be creating for you.
I do little things to help myself find this mixture each day. On the days where I’m overly anxious to start working, I intentionally slow down. Take today — I have a bunch on my plate with a book launch I have coming up and I woke up with my mind moving in a million different directions.
So what did I do? First, I cleaned my apartment. Then, I meditated. Then, I spent half an hour of journaling. Technically, I wasted two hours of “productive time.” But by the time I got to the coffee shop to sit down and write, I was calm. The words came out pretty easily because I wasn’t frazzled.
It’s about understanding the quality of the time you’re spending. Two deeply focused hours can be better than 14 frazzled ones. You can also have productive 14 hour days if you have a certain level of mental clarity and an unusual wave of motivated energy.
Productivity is first about identifying your priorities and values, which goes back to what I said above about finding your strengths.
Second, it’s about mastering the ebbs and flows in your life. Sometimes you are meant to work. Sometimes you are meant to simply enjoy yourself, have fun, and experience pleasure. Many times, as many times throughout the day you can successfully so do, you’re meant to simply be there.
From the mundane things like washing your dishes to the fun like spending time with friends and family to the vocational like working on your passion, the end goal is always the same — do what you’re doing, fully.
We tend to do things in the wrong order, at the wrong time, and with the wrong level of energy, focus, and presence. Focusing on not only what you’re doing, but the way you’re doing it.
The ideal life you’ll never reach, but worth striving for, is the one where you’re building an amazing life in all areas one step at a time, totally focused on each step.
You’ll Never be Truly Productive Until You Can Do This
One of my favorite “productivity hacks” that gives me mental clarity, energy, and focus is…
At this point, almost once a day, I sit back and wonder what the hell we’re doing here. I look up into the sky and realize I’m looking at a window into an infinite mystery. I see the outer edges of the sky shaped like a globe and it hits me — we live on a rock in the middle of nowhere…a center of the universe next to an unfathomable amount of other centers of the universe because…every point in the universe is the center of the universe.
Then I feel lighter.
The idea of success and productivity seems trivial, which gives me the room to dive fully into them. The more trivial and fleeting you realize all the things we chase really are, the easier it is to get them.
The best productivity advice I can give you?
Quit being so serious all the time.
You’re so locked in that you can’t float.
That’s why you’re “not productive.”
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.