“In today’s culture – where self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity – spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact, for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen. We’ve got to get ’er done! It doesn’t matter if our job is running a multimillion-dollar company, raising a family, creating art, or finishing school; we’ve got to keep our noses to the grindstone and work! Many of us still believe that exhaustion is a status symbol of hard work and sleep is a luxury. The result is that we are so very tired. Dangerously tired. But the truth is, we can’t handle it. We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that’s keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down.”
The above passage is the wisdom of Brené Brown, one of, if not the, most highly referenced of today’s writers and researchers. Brené has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, and her published work is business - and life-altering. I have been studying it for the past three years and working with my business coach on incorporating much of her work into our organization.
Brené calls her syndrome “dangerously tired”; I would like to add “dangerously productive” to that diagnosis. As a follow-through, I am guilty of this. “Just finish up this marketing campaign and then I will close down for the day,” I’ll tell myself. “Muscle through, you can handle it.” “I can catch up on sleep this weekend.” There is a cost for this dangerous productivity. I see it in law firms every day. The challenge is that we trick ourselves that “it’s just this week” when the truth is that this level of muscling through becomes our norm. And if this isn’t our way of being? Then it’s almost worse, because we repeatedly beat ourselves up for not being motivated enough or not working hard enough.
The following exercise Brené rolls out in her book, titled “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” was a game changer for me personally. And yes, I will be sharing it with the team this week.
STEP ONE – Create a list of specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in your life (here’s an example of mine):
- Starting my day @ 5:00 a.m. with exercise
- Being present for & connecting with kids in a.m. before they head off for school
- Dedicated 1 hr. Sunday evenings for my “Rock Star Week” planning
- Weekly partner meeting to connect on strategic opportunities vs. operations
- A scheduled vacation on the horizon to keep me moving to know there is time carved out for play, rest and connection with my family & friends
- Operating from my written Marketing Plan with deadlines for the week
- Weekly accountability meeting in place for the beginning and end of the week to hold my feet to the fire to stay focused on my goals
STEP TWO – Create your To-Do List (here is one of mine):
- Type up notes from partner meeting
- Schedule calls with DH & VC
- Follow up emails to MO and RD
- Call with AM on L/T webinars
- Call w/RD about covering for me while I am in China
STEP THREE – Create your To-Accomplish List (Here is a sample of mine right now):
- Automated Enrollment Process in Infusionsoft with triggers and chains for each step of the enrollment process
- Meet “100 Days to Year End” goal by December 19,2014
- Generate 16 initial contacts per week consistently
- Replace myself in Operations by October 1, 2014
- PPT up & running and generating $22,500 in revenue by December 19, 2014
The most revolutionary part of this exercise was looking at the pieces that must be in place in order to create and traverse (not muscle through) my rock star week. The other “AH HA” was comparing my To-Do List and my To- Accomplish List. I loathe my To-Do List. It sucks the life out of me. It’s busy work that doesn’t challenge or inspire me. I quickly realized it’s time to delegate my To-Do’s for the week and put my To-Accomplish front and center. I am going to be incorporating this exercise every week in my Sunday planning time and I am going to immediately delegate my To-Do List to allow me to focus on my To-Accomplish List.
Dangerous productivity is not a long-term plan for success, whatever success means for your business. Dangerously productive is so “old school” and has been replaced with intentional laser focus, which in turns eliminates the exhaustion as a status symbol and replaces it with joy and meaning.
Molly L. Hall, Co-Founder, Lawyers with Purpose, LLC, and author of Don’t Be a Yes Chick: How to Stop Babysitting Your Boss, Transform Your Job and Work with a Dream Team Without Losing Your Sanity or Your Spirit in the Process.