On vs. In: Being "Productive"


We have all done it, you know, spend an hour, two, maybe an entire morning working in a frenzied pace. On emails, tasks maybe even a short 15 minute project, darting here and there, “doing” the work that we do. But were we productive?  Can we come to the end of this time and really feel satisfied by what we produced?  Did we just spend our valuable time working “in” the business?

Technology, Health Care, Politics, the Economy, no matter what the subject or industry, we are all subjected to increasing amounts of content that contain unprecedented changes.  ACO’s in health care, Web 2.0 in technology, Philosophies within the political parties and Local vs. Global economic shifts in buying and selling of goods and services, all issues that have the potential to change nations, companies, not-for-profits and most importantly people.

With so much happening in our world it’s easy to get caught up in the do!  There is so much access to information, after all we are living in the “information” age. In Mindy Holahan’s column Cultivating Deliberate Focus she references a section of Todd Henry’s book, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice“Because we tend to gravitate toward possibilities…We can quickly become fascinated with new ideas or bounce from unsolved problem to unsolved problem without really solving any of them…The only solution is to stop living reactively and instill a new practice for thinking deeply about your work” – The Accidental Creative, pages 69-70

I prefer to reference this shift as working “on” instead of  “in” your business, work, job, etc.  Sure, you have responsibilities, duties and tasks, but we are all paid to produce, whether we delight in the thought or not, there is a reason one of the most salient of economic indicators is the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.  The problem evolves over time as our productive processes include getting feedback.

The feedback or stimulus becomes incessant, email relentlessly pinging our desktop, has added to, not replaced the paper based inbox.  Meetings offer an exchange of ideas or information rarely producing an outcome.  The point is to recognize your surroundings, as Mindy suggests and I would agree that the solutions sound simple however you must recognize the problem, then act.  Many tools are available, systems written about, but the 1st step is the 1st step.  Recognize that your current process is forcing you to work in your work not on your work.

At that moment, whatever system, process or tool you engage will be focussed on creating, designing, and liberating a more productive you.