Sometimes (maybe most times) loss of productivity is more than a matter of methods, as this guest post by Glen Gaugh illustrates. Glen is a licensed master social worker and blogger who helps families and other social workers live up to their potential. He has 7 years experience in nonprofit social service/mental health work and 9 years experience working with youth and families in need. Read his work at glengaugh.wordpress.com, and you can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.
I drove out of town headed for work on a clear Saturday morning. I soon had left the rolling crop land surrounding my home, the terrain becoming more rolling and hilly as I neared river country. As I entered one small town, I noticed a large buck in the back of a pickup truck; the owner had subtly left his tailgate down so others could admire his trophy. “I need a photo of that,” I said to myself, knowing that my hunting family members would get a kick out of it. So I hazarded my life to snap a pic with my iPhone.
Later on I topped a rise in the curving highway and caught sight of the sky, broad and hued in pink as the sun climbed higher and cast its rays through the clouds. As beautiful as that shot would have been, I chose to appreciate what I saw in the moment rather than save it for posterity. I passed a sign that advertised a trade show coming up in a couple of weeks. “I always intend to go to that when it’s close by,” I thought. Rather than let the opportunity pass me by yet again, I pulled over a short distance down the road and captured the date and location in my native calendar app, setting an alert for the day prior so I would remember to check the date.
It was a pleasant and productive morning. Productive with a small “p,” at least. I was able to recognize opportunities, capture them appropriately using effective tools, and appreciate the wonder of what was around me. When all the activities and tools of productivity contribute to effectively pursuing one’s calling, that’s capital “P” Productivity. A calling is what Jeff Goins calls “something you can’t not do.”1
In the pursuit of our calling, we can recognize certain indicators that tell us we are missing important opportunities on the road of our calling.
I divide these indicators into two groups:
- Internal indicators are judged by the level of stress experienced concerning upcoming appointments, deadlines, or tasks. On the other hand, guilt experienced when a deadline is missed or a task is marked by low performance is another powerful indicator. These emotions hopefully inspire evaluation and motivate positive change for the sake of improvement and growth. However, repeated “failures” can lead to experiencing these emotions continually, and we can’t see the opportunities around us when we feel stressed out or guilty.
- External indicators are measured in the quality of our relationships. Productivity glitches that cause internal guilt or stress can also wear on relationships with significant others. The currency of relationships is trust. Reduced effectiveness, quality, and productivity lead to reduced trust. It is wonderful to have relationships in which communication is a two-way street, the kind that are conducive to identifying and correcting trust issues early and often. But even in this kind of relationship, the limit is sure to be reached. All too common are relationships in which communication is stifled or withheld and trust issues go unidentified and unaddressed. When coworkers, supervisors, friends or loved ones withdraw, question our motives, and withhold support, it is impossible to see and seize opportunities when they arise. Diagnosing and repairing avenues of trust in our relationships are critical.
The internal and external have an interplay that can develop or destroy your ability to pursue your calling effectively. When (not if) mistakes are made on the road to your calling, having a strong support system will help you lift your vision above the momentary malaise you feel and get back on track. A clear communication system will ensure that you are communicating the most important information to the most important individuals as clearly as possible, thus reducing relational friction. An active accountability system will help you receive quality feedback as soon as possible so mistakes can be managed and relationships can be restored. So often it takes an extra set of eyes and a trusted voice to help us correct the consequences of low trust and poor performance.
The alternative is to live with a perpetual feedback loop in which negative external factors reinforce negative internal factors, destroying productivity, trust, and self-confidence.
Ultimately, it’s your call.
I may be talking to some magnificent “messes” who are driven to produce in spite of the costs to significant relationships. I also may be talking to some who have perfect balance and harmony at home but are underperforming on the road to their calling. Neither is an extreme I hope to experience ever again. I hope each of us can recognize the indicators of lowered productivity and act to correct our barriers to high performance in achieving our dreams. Our families, organizations, communities, and our better selves depend on it.
Photo credit: jcash via SXC.HU
1As found in The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins. Moody Publishing.