Imagine you’re at a track meet watching the 100-meter dash. You’ve been watching the runners warm up. Would you bet on the manic runner who’s constantly checking the leaderboard? No, you’d bet on the runner who is relaxed and attentive to the process, with eyes on the finish line.
The business world is in the midst of a time management-obsessed culture. We’re like the runner constantly checking the leaderboard. We’re focused on plenty of time management apps and techniques to help get things done. The truth is, full focus on your purpose and on the quality of your effort is the only mindset that will help you outshine the competition.
Productivity and the Time Management Myth
In a fascinating article on why time management is ruining our lives, author Oliver Burkeman has a conversation with Tom DeMarco, who is a specialist in managing complex software projects, a former consultant for Microsoft, and a veteran of Bell Telephone Labs. According to DeMarco,
The best companies I visited, all through the years, were never very hurried. Maybe they used pressure from time to time, as a sort of amusing side-effect. But it was never a constant. Because you don’t get creativity for free. You need people to be able to sit back, put their feet up, and think.”
Productivity is in no way divorced from creativity, unless it’s the type of productivity that generates poor results. The environmentalist Edward Abbey said, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
You don’t want to produce merely for productivity’s sake. Rather, you want to create because you care about what you’re doing, you care about what it means to yourself and to the world. To be creative and productive, you need time to think, to hone in on your purpose. When that purpose is salient, creative ideas rise to the top like bubbles in a boiling pot of water.Create because you care about what you’re doing. Click To Tweet
The Purpose Driven Business
The UAB Collat School of Business offers some key questions to consider when it comes to finding purpose in the business world.
- What is it you’re producing?
- Do you promote health, safety, and the betterment of mankind?
- Are you making an effort at sustainability?
- Does your community benefit from what you do?
- Are you ethical?
- If you own a business, do you share your profits with employees?
These are some great questions, all very pertinent, but the School of Business misses a big one. What do you value? What is the number one thing you care about most in your life? What are you passionate about? Value, care, and passion are all intertwined. You can’t fail at your passion, because failure isn’t failure, it’s simply a diversion until you finally bring your passion to fruition.
Passion for your purpose causes you to be productive. As a freelance writer, my purpose is to impart ideas to others through writing. Productivity is easy in that sense. All I have to do is engage in the act of writing. But to do that, I need to focus on ideas that matter to me. Otherwise, I’m going to write a lot of really uninspired, unauthentic stuff. And no one is going to publish my work if I’m not passionate about my ideas.
No matter what line of business you’re in, there’s an overall purpose to what you do. Employees in the most menial positions may not understand that. To them, a task is just a task, something to get out of the way. If they can just get the task out of the way and not mess up too much, they can go home and do something they care about.
I used to do social work, as well as tutoring. I think motivating employees is a lot like tutoring. If employees and students understand the bigger, more abstract concepts–the purpose–they understand the reason for their menial task and why it matters to excel.
Gamification works for employees (and students) because it combines the dopamine release from hitting a checkpoint with the intellectual, purposeful drive of storytelling. If you’re a solopreneur, or freelancer, you understand the drive of purpose. But give yourself those little checkpoints to celebrate. If you’re an entrepreneur, instill your employees with your sense of purpose. Just like you are, they’re taking part in a story. Each one is responsible for the ending.