Instead of picking a New Year’s resolution that is fairly sure to end in guilt and disappointment, I’ve decided to try a different approach this year. Of course I will continue to strive for productivity and effective planning, but when it comes to WHAT I do, I will look for meaning instead of time.
I am increasingly wondering whether the holy grail of productivity, that elusive stepping stone to success, is really worth pursuing. If that sounds crazy, hear me out. Take the example of email productivity and ‘inbox zero’: It’s great to stay on top of keeping my inbox organized, but what if the messages in the inbox are of little relevance? What do we gain by sifting through sales messages and fundraising requests (who invented the word “chip in”??) to find the few messages that actually pertain to our work and personal connections?
Through my work as a speaker and coach, I meet a lot of people who are worried about not getting enough done. They want to be more effective at running their business, have more energy for big projects, and feel in control of their time. Identifying how they can accomplish these goals is of course very important, but the key question is this: will running faster offer a satisfactory solution?
I want to know more about the way our activities align with our priorities. For example, does saying, “sorry, I don’t have time” automatically imply, “that’s not a priority for me”? Are we giving sufficient time and attention to those hard-to-quantify essentials of life – being a good friend, spending time outdoors, contributing actively to our community?
It has long been assumed that willpower plays a key role in managing time and hence, productivity. These assumptions are increasingly challenged by modern psychological findings: “If you’re running because you “have to” get in shape but find running to be a miserable activity, you’re probably not going to keep it up. An activity you like is more likely to be repeated than an activity you hate,” wrote Brian Resnick in a recent article.
In other words, if the activity has positive meaning (for you), the potential of implementing and keeping it up is much higher.
I’d love to get your feedback – how does meaning affect how you choose to spend your time?