Hello, my friends.
We’ve just completed a six-part Productivity series – lessons from our archives tied to the subject of productivity. There’s one more archive I want to share, and it is the foundation of why productivity matters so very much. It’s not about checking off a list. It’s not about getting more done in less time, and it’s certainly not about getting more done in more time, which is the default for many. It is about something much, much bigger.
As a speaker, corporate trainer, and an executive coach, I get a regular opportunity to talk to people about their level of performance, how they’re achieving, how they’re showing up, and what they want to get done in a particular period of time.
More often than not, they think, “Okay, we’re ready to talk about goals.”
“Goals” is such a misunderstood term. This lesson is really about “Purpose, Priorities, and Intentionality.” I’m a fan of goals, but not at the beginning of the process. Goals come at the end of the process.
Blind setting of goals without real reflection on a deeper level is ineffective.
There are New Year’s resolutions, often made in the drunken fog of haze: “I’m going to make a commitment – a lifelong commitment of change – starting tomorrow morning.”
Of course, by January 10th, the vast majority of such people have started smoking again. They are eating the wrong things again. It’s all just a platitude.
There are so-called SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Although I am a fan of all those things, if you do it outside the context of the bigger picture, you’re very unlikely to achieve your goals.
So let’s talk about purpose, priorities, and intentionality. These are about connecting with who you really are first. If you think this is unnecessary pre-work, you are mistaken. This is what is going to make it far more likely that you actually achieve the kinds of results you want in your life.
Think about your purpose.
Who are you? What are you here for? What are the roles you play in this life? For me, it is husband, father, son, brother, neighbor, coach, speaker, business partner, professor…and I could list many, many more like friend, cousin, and confidant, for example.
In all those roles you play, how do you want to show up? What kind of difference do you make? Think about the Steven Covey principle, “Begin with the end in mind.”
You know we are all going to die. And if you’re blessed with time to reflect on how your life has been, in my experience, and what I have heard from many others, you are going to fall into two camps. You are either going to be full of regret or full of satisfaction with regard to your life and achievements.
It’s either regret – the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” – for the things you should have done but didn’t take the time to do; regret for the times you didn’t forgive or didn’t ask for forgiveness; regret that you didn’t mend a relationship, that you didn’t take that risk when you had the opportunity; regret that you were fearful, waited, and an opportunity passed you by.
Or you have a sense of satisfaction – not arrogance or conceit – just a sense of satisfaction that you did the best you could, and that’s a really great feeling. I’ve heard this face-to-face and in very emotional ways from people who are nearing the end of their lives. They have a strong sense that they showed up in a positive way for themselves, their families, and for others.
This “end” is really the “beginning” of the process.
What is your purpose? Define it now. Write your own obituary. Write your own eulogy. I mean that literally. What would you want people to say that’s truthful? Not something like, “Ed was an all-star second baseman for the Boston Red Sox.” For the record, I was not.
This exercise helps people get in touch with their real sense of purpose.
Priorities are the things you use in order to fulfill your purpose. For many people, priorities are their families, faith, fitness, finances, intellectual development, emotional development, and spiritual health. It is all those things, the so-called slices of the wheel of life. Those are your priorities, and they typically show up in two or three places.
The first place they show up is in your heart. You can just feel it. You can’t tell anybody else what their priorities are. You can ask questions about it, but only you can define what your priorities are.
Priorities also show up in your checkbook and in your calendar. As a coach, I tend to focus on the calendar. Are you putting in your schedule those things you say are your highest priorities? If you are not doing that, can you honestly say to yourself and others that those are your priorities? If you say your family is a priority, your fitness is a priority, your faith practice is a priority, or your work is a priority…where do those things show up?
With a clear sense of your purpose (why you are here) and what your priorities are, what do you intend to do to get from where you are today to whatever level of performance you are aspiring to? Determine that, and then you begin each day with a strong sense of intention that, in alignment with your values, principles, and purpose, you are going to execute these priorities today.
End the day with accountability. Be honest. In some cases, tough love and brutally honest accountability for how you did today is needed. Was your day a ten? Was it a two on a scale from one to ten? How did you do?
And then do your preparations for tomorrow because, if you’re blessed to wake up tomorrow morning, then you have an opportunity to do it again.
The main point is, don’t just sit down with a blank sheet of paper and start writing down goals. By and large, history shows us it is a waste of time. But if you start instead with your purpose, then move through your priorities, and then to your intentions, the goals will flow very naturally. With the “why” behind the “what,” and the meat behind the sizzle, you are far more likely to achieve the results to which you aspire.
Congratulations to Lynne G., the winner of our Productivity Comment Contest! Her advice, related to taking back several hours in your week, is to “stay strong and just say “no” when the rules aren’t observed. We also have to model effective meeting behavior so others will follow (when they see it works).”
Lynne will receive my Top 10 Productivity Tips course absolutely FREE! Well done, Lynne G.!
Thank you to all who shared comments and ideas throughout the series. I have truly enjoyed reading them, and the sharing of ideas has been great!
What can you do next to increase your productivity – and improve the course of your life?
Here are some additional resources:
1. If you haven’t already done so, get My Daily Edge (the tool I use every single day). With it, you also get the Daily Edge mini-course and weekly messages to help you stay on track. If applied consistently, you could call this the Productivity Power Pack…and it’s FREE!
2. If you’d like to purchase the Top 10 Productivity Course, you may do so here:
3. If you missed the Productivity series, here are quick links for you. Enjoy!