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Is getting your productivity under control on your list of New Year’s resolutions? Probably not.
The word productivity strikes fear in our hearts. We imagine the taskmaster hovering over our desks, cracking the whip, demanding more, faster. Productivity really equals burn-out. The word makes us feel helpless, like we’re one again stuck on the out-of-control hamster wheel of tasks and to-do’s.
If you have not found your productivity sweet spot, there is a comfort in the methods you’re using now. Even the pain of missing deadlines, letting others down and details falling through the cracks is preferable to the oppressive idea of adopting someone else’s method for accomplishing more. You might think, “Changing my methods will slow me down! A different system will stifle me! I can barely cope as it is and now you want me to change my methods AGAIN? You can’t make me and I’m not going to let you know my weakness that I might be worse from trying to change! Stop pushing me!”
“Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t!”
Reality is so much different from the productivity monsters in our heads. Your current methods are familiar and comfortable, but your brain is begging for a change.
The human brain craves a framework. It wants parameters; it wants walls and a roof over its thoughts so it can eliminate outside distractions. Our creative right brain might buck the framework, but the greatest creative geniuses the world has ever known knew that a framework and a plan was the key to unlocking their creative potential.
There is a famous story about how Michelangelo approached the block of marble from which he would carve his statue of King David. Unlike other artists, he viewed the marble not as a block to be chipped. He viewed it as David, covered in extraneous marble. He chipped away the unnecessary parts to reveal the David that was always inside.
Your productive process is like Michelangelo’s David: Your best is inside. It just needs to be uncovered by removing the layers you no longer need. When you streamline your processes, you’ll unveil your productivity sweet spot. That sweet spot is calm and smooth. The beauty of your professional and personal best is unmistakable to all who see it. You are your own Michelanagelo; your productive process is your David. And your version of artistry is unique to you alone.
Michelangelo operated within a framework. He had a plan, a vision, and the right tools. He didn’t just start hacking away to see what would appear. He first envisioned his results and then cleared away anything that was not David much like keeping your sights on a sales goal and then looking to see what bits of marble need to be cleared away to reveal the end result.
96-98% of everything we create is first created in the subconscious mind.
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” Michelangelo
Productivity has nothing to do with working faster, harder, or longer. It’s not about cracking a whip or working until we reach total mental exhaustion. We experience pain, but it’s not real pain – it’s an illusion of pseudo-productivity.
Real productivity is about tools, process, and framework. It’s about freedom and flow. It’s about better job performance, more promotion opportunities, bigger sales numbers, and more satisfaction at home and every aspect of your life. It is authentic workability.
People who devote a portion of their creative energy to their productive process as a craft, like Michelangelo did with his artistic self-expression, find it not just painless, but extraordinarily gratifying.
As we launch the New Year, why not try out productivity as an experiment? Play with the tools at your disposal, practice a new mindset, learn some ninja tricks, and see which parts suit you. It doesn’t have to feel like an insurmountable feat. Let it be sort of a fun dating process and less of a lifelong commitment for now. You can always check in each quarter to change tact and note progress.
The truth is, it’s not better the devil you know, because there IS NO devil here. Michelangelo carved a king, and we are still marveling at his masterpiece centuries later. What kind of masterpiece lies inside the empire of your mind? Let this be the year to start finding out.