High performance goes to the tortoise, not the hare.
Not that long ago a life of material excess and happiness meant endless leisure time to do all things you wanted. It signified prestige.
In today’s culture that couldn't be more wrong.
And yet, it’s exactly right.
Researchers have proven that highly successful scientists, entrepreneurs, athletes, writers and so on do not fall prey to the fallacy that busyness = success. The people who write perennial bestsellers, are serial entrepreneurs, Olympic gold medalists, and Nobel prize-winning scientists do not work 24/7. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Scientists who spend 25 hours in the workplace were no more productive than those who spent five.
Our social engagement platforms have created a new, and false perception of what constitutes success. The humble brag of busy – frantically running from meeting to dreaded meeting, to important dinners and gallery openings, to family commitments and more – does not, by itself, confirm that we possess a desirable, scarce and precious offering that’s in high demand.
Busyness for its own sake is the enemy of productivity. People who are time urgent can't settle down and turn to multi-tasking as the solution. This in turn constrains our thinking and lowers our productivity. We're left with the inability to tackle the important work because we lack the ability to commit to deep focus.
What studies bare out and Buddhists have understood for millennia, is that busyness is a form a laziness, a distraction from taking the time to focus and uncover your purpose.
Yet the more we multi-task, over-schedule and scramble from place to place, the more lonely, unhappy and unproductive we are. And, this behavior is fundamentally at odds with what the majority of us profess to be our definition of success. According to a Strayer University study, a whopping 90% of Americans believe that success is more about happiness than power, possessions, or prestige.
So why the gross misalignment, the perpetual pursuit of busy, the grit and frenzy of no time?
In a workshop I ran last week on Mindfulness for Leadership and Peak Performance...
A seasoned executive raised his hand and asked, “Do you think people stay in their jobs, 10, 15, 20 years as an unrecognized distraction – not wanting to allow themselves to really see and feel where they are, that they are in situations professionally or personally that aren’t truly satisfying. Then they wake up suddenly and see the time wasted and are crushed.”
Yes, is the answer.
Our desire to speed from one activity to the next stems from our addiction to instant gratification. We're often scared of slowing down and taking stock of what's really there.
It's the the difference between what we want to see vs. seeing what's really there.
We are comfortable in our present discomfort because it feels safe. We tell ourselves "the devil we know is better than the devil we don't," that it's easier to follow the pattern of the known, our current behavior, than having to challenge ourselves and seek out the tools and support to help us break through gridlock.
You can stop the spinning.
You can be more productive and fulfilled.
You just need better prioritization, not more time.
Even in today’s 24/7, always-on world, we can blend work and rest together in ways that make us smarter, more creative and happier.
Here are some simple steps to get to greater productivity and balance:
1. Restore meaningfulness into your life.
Have a clear sense of your purpose, priorities and values. Your reason for being beyond money and a form of celebrity.
In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, on a meaningful life "you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self."
People who have meaning in their lives, have a purpose rate their satisfaction higher, even when they were feeling badly than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose.
The 80 year long famous Harvard Grant Study observed it’s not status that determines a good life. Those who were happiest and healthier reported strong interpersonal relationships, while those who were isolated had declines in mental and physical health as they aged.
2. Slow down. Doing nothing is doing something.
Your brain is a muscle and wasn’t designed to run a marathon every day. It needs downtime to replenish. The brain's ability to provide the discipline of focused attention, motivation, and creativity are the essential ingredients to achieve our highest levels of performance in everyday life. Don’t you find that ideas come while you’re brushing your teeth or engaging in some form of cardio. That's because your brain is taking a break.
3. Take deliberate action, make choices:
Take five minutes every morning to prioritize how you spend your time each day, every day: As Adam Ferris says, we don’t need more time, we need better prioritization. Review how you spend that time: are goals met, why/why not, and pay attention to feedback. You don’t have to work long hours, you just need an easy workable plan. (time for exercise, sleep, family, etc.) and DO IT.
4. Keep a mindfulness practice.
I’d say meditation, but for those who see meditation as an obstacle, take simple 1-2 minute pauses throughout day. Use Deepak Chopra’s STOP (Stop what you’re doing, Take a breath, Observe with your body and mind, Proceed with kindness and compassion).
5. Get a coach or teacher.
Seek someone who will work with you as an objective accountability partner, a guide to help illuminate your obstacles and coach you to obliterate them and chart new paths. No one achieves continuous improvement by themselves. If you have a gnawing ache you go to the doctor, if your car needs a tune-up you take it to the garage. You’re personal goals are important.
Get on with your dreams. Go change the world.