As a depth-oriented executive coach, one of the first conversations I have with prospective clients is about productivity. In particular, I highlight how my unique approach to coaching results in the clients achieving their desired growth.
The reason I discuss productivity in the first place is because there are many myths about progress. Most articles and motivational speakers emphasize the wrong components of achievement.
They tell you to “keep your eye on the prize.” To spend long hours each day grinding. And in doing so they often overlook two of the most fundamental aspects of sustainable progress.
First, they overlook the value of time off.
Too much of a good thing is problematic. And because every positive contains a negative, overworking results in too much energy lost and not enough energy taken in. In other words, doing too much is depleting.
That’s why so many people are addicted to stimulants. That’s why their nervous system is so keyed up that they have high blood pressure, headaches, and muscle soreness. That’s why they’re emotionally closed off to their loved ones.
And that’s why slowing down is so terrifying–they’re completely out of balance. Their system is used to overworking to such an extent that it ends up restricting their ability to feel genuine happiness and fulfillment for more than a few seconds at a time.
This hypomanic emphasis on “grinding” doesn’t allow for input. It’s yang over yin all day every day. And it’s toxic.
In order to achieve maximum productivity, there needs to be balance.
While everyone’s ratio of input to output is unique and each person’s balance looks different, relationships are generally a good measuring stick to determine if you need more down time.
Are you showing up the way that you want to with friends and family members? Or, are you so overwhelmed from sprinting through each second of the day that you find yourself feeling frustrated, demanding, or short with your partner? Are you feeling unsupported and like you’re the one having to run every aspect of your life?
If so, you need more input. The common factor isn’t just the people around you–it’s your emotional state.
That input–or time to recover and replenish your mental and emotional energy–is vital to having more fulfilling relationships. And it also impacts your productivity.
When you’re running on empty–even going full speed–the quality of your work decreases. Yes, you can check more boxes off the list. But it’s certainly not your best work.
And while volume is important in today’s market, the demand for quality has never been higher. Volume raises your floor, but quality raises your ceiling.
This importance of input–by the way–is why I only meet with clients once per week. Yes, we could have a session every day, but sometimes the most important parts of our work–when it really deepens–is outside of our conversations.
The brain needs time to process. To think things over. To notice thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior that were discovered in the coaching session. And for clients to come up with new things to discuss in upcoming appointments.
Down time, in other words, leads to higher quality sessions that end up being far more productive.
That’s why input is absolutely crucial to productivity. The time off builds emotional energy that helps your mind increase insight, develop more creative thinking, and integrate new information.
And while input is clearly pivotal to output, there’s a second aspect that most people overlook when it comes to productivity–focusing on the outcome instead of the process.
In my first call with clients, I share that I value the process more than the results. Because I know–without question–that focusing on the process leads to the desired outcome. Every single time.
Yesterday, I was on the phone with a prospective client. They asked me, “What is the process?”
In coaching, the process is our relationship. It’s the quality of our communication with one another. Our openness, our defensiveness, our avoidance, and how trusting we are of one another.
Focusing on that–building a quality, depth-oriented relationship while discussing important aspects of the client’s life–brings quality results. Every single time.
Everything from productivity to emotional intelligence to communication improves. And that’s just one example.
Another example is archery. Now, to be perfectly transparent, I don’t shoot a bow and arrow, but I really like the metaphor.
When shooting a bow and arrow, if you’re too focused on the bullseye, you may overlook the process and miss your target.
The process, in this case, involves keeping relaxed stance and grip on the bow, maintaining proper finger position, preparing the shot, smoothly drawing the bow, anchoring to improve accuracy, aiming, letting go, and following through.
If you were a professional–someone who’s done this process thousands and thousands of times–perhaps muscle memory would take over. And at that point you could focus on your breath and the target.
But when you’re learning a new skill, it’s important to build that muscle memory through repetition. And like my coach used to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
And to have perfect practice means to fall in love with the process–the details. Allow the fundamentals to consume your thoughts, feelings, body, and breath. When you approach a task in this way–with full immersion in the process–the results naturally follow. Every single time.
And that’s why, whether it’s a new experience like coaching or another demanding task in the course of your day, you need to change your mindset. You need to change the way you think about productivity to become more productive.
First, prioritize down time. Know that taking time off improves the quality and depth of your work.
Then focus on the process. Trust the process. Fall in love with each repetition–each small aspect of the task. And believe that doing so will improve your productivity.
Because it will. Every single time.