3 Ways to Be Truly Productive

How to be happier and live a more meaningful and fulfilling life


Truly productive people know it’s not about the To Do list.  You can recognize these people as the ones doing things that matter to them, working on their most important dreams, and doing their best to accomplish things that are important.  I now experience this state as one of pure joy and happiness.

Over 30 years ago I heard pianist Emanuel Ax play.  I was so moved by his technical ability, but above all by his heartfelt presence.  I remember thinking I’d have to devote my life to reach this level of mastery.  And before long my inspiration was dampened by a thought: Too bad I’m too busy to devote this kind of time to my dreams.

You see at this point I had yet to learn that it’s possible to be truly productive ~ no matter how busy you are.  My premise was that the only way to stay sane was to write a list and race to get as much done as I possibly could.  I had no choice ~ I’m a responsible person, I have people who depend on me, so it all has to get done somehow.  Sound familiar?

Still my dreams lived, waiting for the day I had time.  For example,

     • Getting healthy and fit

     • Writing a book about how to create a Best Year Yet plan

     •  Finding someone else to lead the business

     •  Creating quiet time for meditation and contemplation

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche describes what we know too well:  

If we look into our lives, we will see clearly how many unimportant tasks, so called ‘responsibilities’ accumulate to fill them up. One master compares them to ‘housekeeping in a dream.’ We tell ourselves we want to spend time on the important things of life, but there never is any time.

3 ways to become truly productive

My passion is to provide others with means to be the best they can be ~ and to make it as simple as possible for them to do so.  Hence, only 3 steps to become more truly productive.

1. Clarify my motivation.  Know exactly what I want and why.  At the top of my list are benefitting others, looking after my family, writing, being a coach, and taking care of myself.  Why?  Because doing so means I’m making the most of the gifts I’ve been given.

For the past 38 years I’ve made a one-page Best Year Yet plan because answering its 10 questions always connects me to my own inner wisdom.  Once complete, I have my guide to what’s motivating me, lessons I need to learn, fresh motivation, and my top ten goals for the year.  Without this annual three-hour process I would never have achieved what I have so far.

2. Each day identify my top three tasks.  As I do have a current Best Year Yet plan, then these tasks often come from the Monthly Goals I’ve set to achieve it. If you haven’t made a plan or not done so lately, you can get started on this step now by making a list of what’s most important to you at this point in your life.  You know.  Just ask yourself the question, what matters most to me and why?  Write down your answers, taking no more than 15 minutes at most.

3.  Delay the To Do list until my top three are completed.  A long time ago I recognized the enticing nature of tasks that just must be done today and how gratifying it can be to do them before diving into the big stuff.  Baloney.  These urgent things always get done just because they’re there.  What too often doesn’t get done are the things that really matter. Yes, it takes discipline and courage, but the fulfillment and joy that come on this path are worth whatever it takes.


Believe me I do appreciate how challenging it can be in our current environment with its divisiveness, environmental problems, and instability.  But working to be the best you can be contributes to a better future ~ while judging and worrying do not.  The more truly productive I am, the more faith I have that things are going to work out in the way we all hope.  As the genius Albert Einstein said,

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.

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