Your inbox is empty.
Your office is neat.
You have an up-to-date to-do list.
Your files are in order.
You prioritize like a pro.
You avoid multitasking.
You plan in 90-day periods.
You have a morning routine.
I don’t care about those things. Well… not exactly.
Let me explain.
I’ve often wondered why a lot of productivity training makes me uneasy. I mean, I teach productivity. That’s my thing.
Here’s what bugs me. “Productivity” is often taught (get ready for sweeping generalization…) as a kind of moral imperative by people who can’t comprehend how in the world you could ever have a messy desk or an exploding inbox.
There can be an undertone of superiority that sends a subtle message that these “productivity” techniques are part and parcel of good character, like personal hygiene and telling the truth. To me, much of corporate productivity training has a weird goody-two-shoes vibe.
Why does this bother me? I mean, being on top of that inbox is important, ISN’T IT?!!
It bothers me because it misses the point.
Productivity is not an end in itself. It is the means. Inbox-Zero is not the point. So, no, I don’t ultimately care about your inbox.
What I care about is your power. Productivity is about power.
Okay, let’s face it: “power” is a loaded word, and many of us have a visceral reaction to it. In fact, we shrink from it. It makes us a little (or a lot) uneasy. Why? Perhaps it’s due to the barrage of cultural messages about power.
I mean, just look at the news: it is a daily diary of abuse of power – and always has been. And so, it stands to reason that we can unconsciously conflate power with its abuse. No wonder it makes us uncomfortable. In the social, economic, or political sphere, power is a pie and everyone is vying for a tiny piece, a little sliver.
In the realm of productivity, however, I’m speaking about power in a more stripped down, basic, elemental sense. From this perspective, consider that power is neutral. Power is natural. Power is necessary.
It fuels. It energizes. It plows the field. It turns on the lights.
It’s hard to get up in the morning without power.
Why do I teach productivity? I teach it as a means for people to access and exercise their natural, inherent power.
What is power? Power is freedom and impact.
Power is about agency – the capacity to affect an outcome, to move a needle, or to find it in a haystack.
Power is the capacity to make a difference, or a “dent.” Power is potent, but not flashy. This natural power I’m talking about is generative, beneficial, constructive. You might say, productive.
The reason I teach productivity is encapsulated in that moment when I’m working with someone to set up a way to manage their email and tasks and it happens: I see this flash of light in their eyes (I’m not kidding.) It’s that split second they realize that there’s a way to regain control over what has seemed out of control. I adore that moment.
What is that flash of light in their eyes really? It is the recognition of their power. The power is back on. Lights on. Game on. They can see their way to greater agency. And that translates to greater impact, contribution, fulfillment, and meaning.
For me, that’s the magic. Something as mundane as getting an inbox under control or upgrading a to-do list or planning or managing one’s energy opens the door to a reservoir of personal power.
This isn’t power you store up to use in some dramatic effort. This is the day-to-day power of making choices, taking action, and giving your best right where you are.
So, yes, I actually do care about your inbox, and your office, and your habits. I care about how you ignite your motivation, manage your mindset and your energy. I care about how you connect and communicate. And I care about the method you use to fulfill your commitments, goals, responsibilities, and aspirations each day. I care about your productivity.
But not as an end to itself.
It’s about what that productivity enables. The work and life it powers.
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Originally published at www.lindsaysatterfield.com