No I'm not talking about the famous rap group N.W.A. I bet they would be happy knowing that I'm expressing myself though! Look, if you are driven, or trying to be driven, it all begins with productivity. Let's say I have a goal to eliminate a certain amount of debt by the year's end. Hopefully, I've mapped out exactly how I'm going to get there, but more importantly what I can do consistently to ensure I do exactly what I set out to do. This should include a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily plan with unbelievably specific courses of actions to get there.
So let's say today I'm calculating my credit card balances or organizing them in terms of highest to least interest. Simple. I'm in the zone and I'm feeling good. I am operating in the small chunk of time I dedicated today to accomplish this. Then my sister texts me a simple question. I stop what I'm doing and answer it. Somehow an hour later I've been on Facebook, Linkedin, ate another snack (or lunch), and done a number of any other set of random things that have nothing to do with my organizing my credit card balances. These are called Non Work Related Activities or as I like to say N.W.A.
It's not me. It's you. And by that I mean me.
What are you actually doing? Is it a value add at all? Consciously or unconsciously we excuse ourselves from steamrolling important tasks (personal or professional) because they're simply not fun. Comfort zones and complacency are kissing cousins if you haven't picked up on that yet. The offspring is called being unproductive.
Many of us don’t trust ourselves to stay truly focused. At what point will you (we) stop giving ourselves a pass? Demanding things of ourselves that fall within our capacity is a start. This morning I did the same exact work that I did last week and it took 20 minutes less. Why? I put my phone on airplane mode this time around. No texts, no emails, no Washington Post alerts that I never open anyway. Those are easy fires to extinguish. It's when it comes to other people that we fail because we make concessions or just don't want to disappoint anyone. Somehow we become less trigger happy in murdering our to do list when friends, family, and co-workers wander into our scope. "Want to go to lunch?" "Dude, did you see that game?" "Can you pick up toilet paper?" Wipes are better by the way, don't get it twisted. Would you ever use toilet paper when cleaning a baby's hellacious diaper? Didn't think so.
Even as I write this my phone is about to vibrate itself off the table from a combination of my fantasy football group text (our draft is in Vegas this week; be jealous) and my Instagram picture likes. I'm imagining my fingers being glued to the keyboard so I can finish this. Why? I WANT TO WRITE. I WANT TO BLOG. I WANT TO BE PRODUCTIVE.
If it doesn't happen and I try to blame anyone or anything other than myself than I'm already operating at a loss. I have some crucial decisions coming my way and it may involve creating the most optimal environment for me to do what I want and need to do. Dismissing distractions/people may hurt a little bit and take a lot of practice, but if you legitimately care about what you're doing you'll learn to not give a shit about who's feelings you hurt. The happier you are are the happier those around you will be. Unless they're miserable generally of course.
Don't underestimate a minibar
Categorize your "in the moment" task by being either value added or non-value added. From there you can course correct. If you are a leader this is even more critical! Do you really need to call another meeting, text your subordinate manager, etc. Have the presence of mind to put your people first and set them up for a successful day. I once had an assistant who I gave a time critical task. I said to her "In ten minutes, I'm going to ask you to do something else. Say NO." She did exactly that and it really helped establish better boundaries and a cohesive understanding of what we can do together when we respect a mindset of productivity.
Be honest with yourself. Be hard on yourself. Be self-aware. I say this because since I've been "working remote" I've learned that it's NOT for me. I need an office with a lockable door, a chair, a whiteboard, rap music in the background, and a fish tank with rare seahorses in it. The less honest I am with myself and afraid of disappointing someone, the more a hostility begins to fester inside. You see if you have one "bottle" of liquor from a hotel mini bar - that alone won't do much. But, drink a few, and you're going to end up drunk and randomly cold Face-Timing people to tell them you love them. Same rule applies with productivity. The more you concede prioritizing of the actions needed to crush your goals, the more you're going to hammer yourself. Stop giving yourself reasons to hold off, start later, or try again later.