In 2007, a woman collapsed in her office due to severe exhaustion, resulting in a broken cheekbone and stitches to her eye. This traumatic event opened her eyes to a change that needed to happen. This woman is Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post. Huffington has been identified as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People and has made Forbes's Most Powerful Women list. There is no doubt that we should take note of any advice she has to offer.
Simply, Huffington suggests that the key to productivity, inspiration, and joy is to get enough sleep. While this may seem like an obvious idea, this concept is lost on so many people trying to achieve success. In fact, it is common to hear people brag about how little sleep they get because of all the things they have going on that keep them so busy.
In our culture, more is more is more. Time and time again, people straggle into my office overwhelmed and overworked and not able to get off the hamster wheel. A difficult societal norm for people to overcome is that being busy somehow means being successful. Being busy isn't the key; being productive is. Successful people have learned that being busy is a waste of time. A huge waste of time. In my experience, the most successful people are those who get the most important things done every day--not the most things--and then get out of the office.
Let me be clear that my definition of success does not only include financial and career pursuits. I define success as someone's pursuing and achieving excellence in the areas of life that are most important to him or her. For most people, these areas include their relationship with self and family, and their career. Success is achieving it all, and achieving it in a manner that does not leave one fried, exhausted, and empty inside.
Take these four steps to be productive toward your success in life, not just busy in your day-to-day:
- Get out your calendar and schedule (yes, schedule) at least one full day off every week. If this is not possible for one week, give yourself two full days off within the following week. In my calendar, every Saturday and Sunday are booked as "Family Time." I take this appointment as seriously as any other in my calendar.
- If your schedule currently will not allow for this time for yourself or your loved ones, this is a sure sign that you need to eliminate some tasks. Make a list of all the commitments on your calendar, and rank them from most important to your success and well-being to least important. Start eliminating them from the bottom up until you can fit in at least one day off per week.
- Each morning at work, make a list of the top three most important tasks for the day, and commit to getting these tasks done first. Successful people do not get everything done in a day, but they do get the most important things done in a day. Productivity is getting the right things done well.
- Get comfortable not getting some things completed. Identify three tasks you should not be spending time on. If need be, delegate them, but no matter what, make certain you do not put your time or energy into completing your "not to do" tasks.
Substituting productivity for busyness can be intimidating, because limiting yourself to a few important tasks means that you should be giving them more focus and attention. More focus and attention on a task puts more pressure that it be done well. It is easier and less pressure to divide your attention among multiple things. Again, in many ways, it is easier to be busy. Take the challenge to stop glorifying busyness in your life, and start prioritizing and attacking only what is most important.