This post has a story about realizing the truth about being productive. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being productive. Personal productivity is something I’m known for. People come to me all the time for advice on how to get more stuff done because they see what I do and are impressed. Well, if they knew what I’m about to tell you, maybe they wouldn’t be so impressed.
First, I’m not always productive. People need down time, and free time is so important. I have free time. But there are some days when I get to the end of the day and ask, “What did I get done today?” Keeping a log book helps. And lately, I’ve questioned how much of my productivity has been spinning my wheels, working on secondary tasks and not the big things I should be working on.
Reticular Activating System
Several resources combined in my brain this week to give me a lightning bolt of a realization. Donald Miller’s Hero on a Mission framework and Start Finishing (links are Amazon affiliate links) by Charlie Gilkie are two of them. Vincent Pugliese is a steady voice in there, too. There may be more. The point is, synergy is powerful, and so is the Reticular Activating System. I’d been reading several books and talking about this stuff. My RAS supplied the revelation I needed. When the student is ready, the teacher (or the lesson) will appear.
Let me tell you the story about realizing the truth about being productive.
My friend and longtime client James Woosley gave me a Christmas present. It was access to Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple collection of online courses. I’ve been eating them up as I’ve had time over the last couple of months. One of the courses I’ve completed is Hero on a Mission. One element of that course is a daily planner. Now, I don’t usually use other people’s daily planners, and even if I start to… in true ADHD fashion, I fizzle out on it in three days.
Using Donald Miller’s daily planner
I’ve been using this one for three days, and part of me wants to lose it and go back to my former tool. That’s my O-Ring journal that I call my log book. I’ve been using them for years and love them.
Usually, when I fizzle and want to go back to my own daily planner, it’s because the new one has too many sections I don’t even use, or it doesn’t have what I do need. That’s not the case with this one. The part of me that says, “Walk away” says so because this planner plainly put reality in my face, and it’s not pretty.
As part of the Hero on a Mission course, the person makes a list of primary tasks that must be done this year to turn their one-year vision into reality. Each day, they’re supposed to write in three primary tasks for the day—the things that really need to get done—and up to 12 secondary tasks for the day, like errands and emails and household tasks.
Simple enough, right? Three primary tasks and a handful of secondary tasks.
How’d it go?
The first day, I did 1.5 of my 3 primary tasks and 14 secondary tasks. Yes, I added two more lines to the section! The primary tasks were 1. Write. 2. Contact 10 people. 3. Work on CK email sequence. I did #1 and half of #2, but #3 sat there untouched. So I moved it to the next day, of course, and put it at the top. I thought that would ensure I’d do it first. Eat that frog, yeah?
Well, ribbit, ribbit. On the second day, the task (frog) sat there, staring me in the face for three or four hours as I knocked out secondary task after secondary task, glancing back down at the planner and seeing those primary tasks just looking back at me. They weren’t going anywhere. They sure weren’t going to complete themselves, and I couldn’t exactly move them without feeling dishonest. And they were written in ink, so unless I was going to tear out the page… I had to do the things, and I had to start with the first one. No fair cheating.
Public announcement for motivation
Finally, I posted on Facebook that I was procrastinating. That was the nudge I needed to start on that task. The task took 11 hours. (Well, no wonder I had been procrastinating!) But I did it. Then I felt like I hadn’t gotten enough done for the day. One primary task and a few piddly secondary tasks like check the mail and make dinner? Not enough.
The next day, I did 1.5 of my primary tasks again and 10 secondary tasks.
That was when it hit me.
I realized that the big, important tasks I should be doing hid among the other to-do list items until I started following the Hero on a Mission daily planner framework. It’s so easy to be and feel productive when you’re checking off a dozen tasks a day on top of homeschooling and leading the team and making sure the household keeps running and dealing with a spaghetti pile of medical conditions among five people and…
Do those things matter? Yes, they do. But should they get in the way of the big, important things that must be done, the tasks that will turn your vision into reality? No.
I was getting at least 10 tasks done every day, and sure, I was being productive. But I wasn’t making the kind of progress I need to be making if I want to make my 1-year vision come true. The reality is this: I have not been completing enough of the needle-moving tasks. Seeing that wasn’t pleasant, and part of me didn’t want it to be true.
The good news
Another part of me was instantly excited, saying, “Wowza, now I can make serious progress, right?” I’ve started already, with the CK sequence task completed, and six blog posts written this week (not all for my own blog) and three more outlined. In the morning, I’ll write those three pieces.
How can this story about realizing the truth about being productive benefit you? You can put it to use today. Figure out what your primary tasks are. Put them at the top of your to-do list, and let them stare you in the face until you do them. Ribbit, ribbit.