In this information age, most people live in a state of near constant distraction. Time and focus are at a premium, with many devices and platforms competing for our attention, and making it more difficult to achieve optimal focus.
Anyone who wants to achieve great success in all areas of his life must be at alert for productivity drains.
Earlier in the year, I talked about how to make 2019 count as a great year. Now, the year is halfway gone, but many are yet to achieve half their goals because they have allowed things in life to distract them and deflate their energy levels.
These distractions come in varying forms.
In Digital Minimalism (2019), Cal Newport, a computer scientist turned productivity expert, notes that part of the problem is that our computers, phones, and tablets, by their very nature, are tools that mix productivity with distraction—and sometimes distract under the guise of productivity.
Great benefits have come with great harm, I guess.
For some of us, who hide under the guise of being busy, we must keep in mind that perpetual busyness is bad for wellbeing and worse for productivity levels, and there is a cost both on a personal level and in terms of money and opportunities that are lost.
Let me share the productivity system I learned from Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus. It consists of three simple steps; stop, cut, and act.
The first step requires leaders to pause and assess. During this phase, leaders will formulate their goals, evaluate their current level of productivity, and learn to set healthy work-life boundaries. As leaders examine their situation, they should consider all the work they do in terms of proficiency and passion. Preferably, most of the work should rate high in both categories. Leaders need to be perfectly clear, not just on their mission, but also on which parts of the work mean the most to them.
Cutting is at the heart of productivity. People often think of their work in terms of to-do lists when they should be thinking more about what not to do. Time is not a renewable resource. Sometimes, people, have difficulty saying no to other people’s demands on their time, but when they say yes to those demands, they are also saying no to other, perhaps more important, demands. People who are overcommitted don’t have time to do anything well. And low energy levels can negatively impact how time is used. Leaders who have too many tasks have too little time and too little energy, which is a self-defeating combination.
In cutting tasks, there are three main approaches. One is to remove the task from the workflow entirely. Another is to delegate the task, preferably to someone who’s both passionate about and proficient in the subject. A third cutting method is automation
This is where all the productivity planning from the first two steps is put into action. The first element, consolidation, requires looking for ways to batch together with similar types of work. For example, meetings can be relegated to one or two days of the week, or a month’s worth of podcasts can be recorded in a single day. The second element, designation, requires scheduling work on a calendar such that chunks of time are blocked off for critical tasks alongside deadlines and meetings. Finally, the element of activation is about minimizing distraction. For an overly busy person, every task can feel like a miniature emergency. Productive people know how to set boundaries so that tasks are handled calmly and clearly, if not right away.
Leaders who have too many tasks have too little time and too little energy. Yes, it can be difficult to find time for long term planning when there are perpetually too many things on the task list, but people who are most overwhelmed are the most in need of a change.
To have a productive and meaningful work-life balance, we must minimize distractions and be intentional about our focus. Remember, attention is a limited resource.