Hard Work vs Productivity (and how to be more productive)

Diligence and hard work are not the same as productivity. Only if they are under the auspices of productivity – which above all implies a high degree of clarity about what you want to achieve (clarity regarding ‘ultimate vision’) and an awareness of whether a particular decision and activity you are taking in the direction of your ‘ultimate vision’ – diligence and hard work make sense, because ‘if the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.’”

***

(Extract from ‘Top 7 Mistakes New Mindfulness Coaches Make (and How to Avoid Them)‘ by Tomislav Tomic)

As soon as you have a tendency for starting your own coaching business, I have no doubt that you are a diligent and hardworking person. As far as I can see in everyday practice, most small entrepreneurs are quite “workaholic” and often act as if they were calibrated to work until they were completely exhausted.

In other words, they often act as if their productivity depends primarily on their diligence and hard work.

However, diligence and hard work are not at the same time a guarantee of productivity. You can work all day, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean that you will achieve the desired business results.

There is a wonderful thought by Stephen Covey that says:

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

In other words, productivity involves, first and foremost, creating a high level of clarity on the direction we are heading as well as the “ultimate vision” of where we ultimately want to get. And only when it is completely clear to us “where” we want to be (the “ultimate vision”) can we begin to make meaningful plans and strategies that will support our path toward our desired goals. And only then can we judge whether a particular decision or activity leads us in the direction we want to go or not.

“Productivity involves, first and foremost, creating a high level of clarity on the direction we are heading as well as the ‘ultimate vision’ of where we ultimately want to get. And only when it is completely clear to us ‘where’ we want to be (the ‘ultimate vision’) can we begin to make meaningful plans and strategies that will support our path toward our desired goals. And only then can we judge whether a particular decision or activity leads us in the direction we want to go or not.

Without this clarity, your diligence and hard work, by themselves, will not only not be of much use to you, but also can become one of the key factors that will ruin your job, marriage/relationship, social life, health, as well as your entire life enthusiasm.

***

Apart from the high level of clarity of the direction in which we are going, the “ultimate vision” where we want to go, productivity requires a high level of our focus, or rather, our complete attention.

We live in the age of information and at every turn, someone or something is trying to “usurp” a portion of our attention. Our attention has become very fragile and we find it difficult to keep focused. Due to the constant “bombardment” with various information from all sides, we have become chronically distracted and absent – which inevitably causes great stress and pressure and general job dissatisfaction and loss of motivation. Scientific research shows that 46,9% of our time at work is spent absent and distracted.

Full attention (which is a necessary prerequisite for strong focus) becomes, as the famous American professor Thomas Davenport says in his famous book, “The Attention Economy,” a new “currency” that we definitely need to invest the time and energy into as it becomes necessary not only as one of the key factors of our productivity but also as a key item for a happy and fulfilling life.[1]

Unfortunately, in the minds of many Mindfulness coaches, the concept of “productive person” is connected to a person who is often absent and distracted, works all day, has no time for him or herself, and is constantly exposed to great stress and pressure. I fear that is the fate of every entrepreneur (including Mindfulness coaches) if he or she doesn’t begin to think in time and reject the dangerous philosophy of “distraction and absence” that many blindly follow.

***

In addition, productivity requires clearly defined priorities and plenty of time for creative thinking.

Productivity requires a focus on small details and extremely high flexibility so that we can change our usual direction and way of doing business as soon as we get the smallest signal that there is a better and more efficient option.

Productivity requires enough free time to spend with ourselves and the people who matter to us.

Productivity requires the allocation of time for activities that literally nourish our soul – in the absence of which our life motivation inevitably decreases.

Productivity requires that we have the necessary detachment in our head to think the thought we often think, the emotions we often feel, and activities we often repeat from time to time to analyze from different angles and constantly try to find better and more practical solutions.

Productivity demands that we dare to think with our own heads – even when everyone else around us tells us differently – and listen to our own intuition.

***

Another important reason why many new Mindfulness coaches identify diligence and hard work with productivity and, in principle, work until they are completely exhausted, is the emotion of USEFULNESS they necessarily begin to feel after consuming the work energy they have available.

However, do not let the emotion of usefulness fool you because it is mostly a mere biochemical process in your brain that does not necessarily have anything to do with productivity. For example, when our brain “estimates” that we are exhausted enough, to protect us from burning out and losing necessary energy supplies, it begins to excrete hormones such as dopamine which first gives us a short-term sense of well-being, and then we begin to feel “useful” – as if we have done something important and need to (read: give yourself the right) “reward” ourselves with rest and relaxation.

Try to do anything to the point of exhausting yourself (for example, building a small drywall, then demolish it, then rebuild it, then break it again… until you are completely exhausted 😊) and then after that you will, thanks to dopamine, feel “useful” and you will have the need to “reward” yourself for your efforts and give yourself the right to rest and relaxation. 

“Try to do anything to the point of exhausting yourself (for example, building a small drywall, then demolish it, then rebuild it, then break it again… until you are completely exhausted) and then after that you will, thanks to dopamine, feel ‘useful’ and you will have the need to ‘reward’ yourself for your efforts and give yourself the right to rest and relaxation.” 

As you can see, this has nothing to do with productivity but with the natural mechanism of self-protection.

So, diligence and hard work are not the same as productivity. Only if they are under the auspices of productivity – which above all implies a high degree of clarity about what you want to achieve (clarity regarding “ultimate vision”) and an awareness of whether a particular decision and activity you are taking in the direction of your “ultimate vision” – diligence and hard work make sense, because “if the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

“So, diligence and hard work are not the same as productivity. Only if they are under the auspices of productivity – which above all implies a high degree of clarity about what you want to achieve (clarity regarding ‘ultimate vision’) and an awareness of whether a particular decision and activity you are taking in the direction of your ‘ultimate vision’ – diligence and hard work make sense, because ‘if the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.’”

(Extract from ‘Top 7 Mistakes New Mindfulness Coaches Make (and How to Avoid Them)‘ by Tomislav Tomic)


[1] The term “Attention Management” is increasingly used in blogs and publications published by Harvard Business School, as well as many other reputed business schools. There are a growing number of companies in the world that regularly provide Mindfulness training for their managers and employees – Volvo, Xerox, Yahoo, Toyota, eBay, IKEA, Deutsche Bank, American Express, Societe Generale, Nike, Google, IBM, Reebok, Starbucks, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *