The Mindset for Productivity vs. Busyness

Do you sleep with your phone?  Continually find yourself distracted from an important project or even worse, a personal conversation, because of the beeps from texts, e-mail, and notifications?

If so, it’s not entirely your fault.  In the 1980s, no one called you at the grocery store.  In the 90s, very few people received more than 10 e-mails each day.  And if there were apps in 2000 (Snapchat, Instagram), I didn’t have any.  Today, the tools that can be great enablers of freedom and accomplishment (ever done e-mail on the beach?), have also driven distraction, difficulty planning and focusing on a task, and a frenzied “busyness.”

There is no effortless, “feel mentally focused while getting it all done” magic wand.  There’s not even a way to get it ALL done.  But to accomplish the most important things at work and in your life, I suggest you look at your underlying narrative, your story about what is getting in the way–how you make decisions and how you manage your attention.  You can’t entirely stop what comes your way, but you can influence it significantly.  To make a shift, your mindset needs to change before any behavior strategies will help.

As a starting place, do any of these sound familiar?

  • Are you addicted to busyness?  It’s a real thing, with dopamine (a neurotransmitter that drives happiness) and everything.  Responding to e-mail, texting, Snapchat, allowing constant interruption– they denote that you’re important (people are sending you things!), and dang it, you’re getting things done by responding.
  • Do you dismiss the idea of working on your brain?  Is your brain like a white-water river or can you mentally drop to the calm, cool spot at the bottom of the river and observe the white-water above you calmly in order to make decisions based on importance vs. urgency?
  • Is it all someone’s else’s fault?  Let’s assume for a minute you have a demanding job and equally demanding family obligations, you probably do.  Is it an acceptable answer to complain a lot and accept this is just how life is?  Or are you willing to influence what you can . . .

If you make the conscious choice to overcome urgency addiction, work on your brain, and take responsibility for your Decision, Attention, and Energy Management, there are 5 Choices and accompanying strategies that can make a tremendous difference in your ability to achieve your most important goals, avoid burnout, and to rule your technology instead of being ruled.

But those choices will only help if you’ve worked on your mindset.  For the next week:

  1. Challenge yourself around how often you check your phone and e-mail.  Commit to longer breaks in-between the “look.”  Start with 5 minutes if you have to.
  2. Notice if your brain is on speed-dial and work on strategies to be calm in the face of the storm (meditation helps, deep breathing, focusing deeply on a conversation).
  3. Take accountability for at least 30% of where you invest your time, allowing the other 60% to be dictated by outside influences like your boss and your family.  As a starting place for some, 30% will be incredibly freeing.  Gradually work to reverse the ratios.

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