Non-Productive Actions that Make You Powerfully Effective
I learn a lot from my mornings. They usually set the tone for my day.
For example, last week, I missed my morning run and meditation most days. On the weekend, today and yesterday, I managed to make those both happen. The difference was pretty noticeable.
Sometimes, I have to make a choice between getting work done and going out for my run. My first instinct is to do the work, but that's actually not as significant an investment in my performance and my day as running. On days I run, I have more focus, more energy, and more optimism than on days I don't run. So while trading the run for an extra 30 minutes of productivity in the morning might seem like a good idea, it actually costs much more than 30 minutes of productivity. It decreases what I do throughout the day, both in terms of quality and quantity.
Running and meditating have been more useful than productivity tricks in helping me grow and take on the wide variety of challenges I am facing lately. I've basically discovered that running is one of the most effective things I can do in the mornings. It's one of the best uses of my time, even (especially) when I'm feeling overwhelmed with too much to do. Taking a short run actually helps me get more done than if I just buckled down and tried to just do the work.
As the Zen saying goes, You should meditate thirty minutes a day, unless you are very busy. Then you should meditate an hour.
Certain habits are like that. They aren't productive in their own right, but they make us much more effective in everything else we do.
So my challenge to you is to think about the little, seemingly extraneous things that you do that actually have a very important impact on your overall ability to do good work in the world. Some places to start looking:
- Personal care: exercise, diet, sleep, hygiene (a shower and shave can do a lot for your sense of efficacy)
- Treats: a particular cup of coffee, a craft beer in the evening
- Personal expression: clothes, grooming, color scheme (maybe it really matters that you have a blue notebook), accessories (my hat makes me feel heroic)
- Tools: do you love your MacBook so much you get more work done just because you get to use that shiny laptop? I take meticulous notes in all my meetings now because I love to use my nice pens.
- Leisure: when you make time for your favorite video games or sports, you can bring yourself to your work with more engagement, so that hour playing Call of Duty isn't really wasted
- Environment: a favorite cafe, certain office furniture, a particular park, music, light, noise levels, a good chair
Make sure you dedicate time and money to these things. As long as you don't go overboard, they really are an investment in yourself because they do make you more effective.
Just because we take pleasure in something doesn't mean it is a wasteful indulgence. Good tools are a pleasure to use, but they are also great at helping you produce good work. A well-earned treat at the end of the day can be a motivation to work hard. Leisure time can provide the opportunity to unwind, shifting your brain from focused mode (great for problem-solving) to diffuse mode (great for creativity and opening up to new ideas).
What makes you more effective? Can you make more time for it so you can bring even more engagement to your work?