There’s a lot of talk about saving time, getting more done, and being more productive. But what would you fill up all that extra time with?
My last two blog posts have been about decreasing your workload and freeing up your time. However, if you don’t make a conscious decision to fill that time with something specific, you might just find more “busy work” drifts in to take the place of whatever tasks you’ve ditched, decreased or delegated.
I’m talking ancient wisdom here – as philosopher Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Because it requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something just air. I believe the same phenomenon happens with time.
The promise of having more time on your hands can seem like a gift from the gods. Its one of those things we all wish we had, along with more money and more love (and/or sex).
I know a lot of female entrepreneurs who complain about not having enough time to get everything done but those same women are actually very productive. They get a lot done to the point of seeming super-human to the outside world. And they are doing a lot of things "right" like having automations in place to decrease the time certain tasks take up and delegating to one or more Virtual Assistants.
Yet still they are exhausted and overwhelmed by everything they “have to” do. This can be a dangerous side effect of focusing on productivity.
The problem with productivity is also promoted as a benefit – get more done and achieve your goals faster. Yes, it's great to get more done in less time, but productivity for the sake of productivity can mean that you just end up doing more... and more.... and more....
Staying busy for the sake of being busy rather than doing the things that build your business (or build you up) can mean that you end up burning out - which does nothing for your productivity, trust me!
I believe the purpose of productivity in your business should be to create more time for those things that bring you pleasure, purpose, and profit. But what does that mean in reality…
This is not just about the work that gives you pleasure. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is fill the time you free up for non-work-related activities, whether it’s spending time with your kids, going dancing, or to taking a proper holiday once in a while.
But of course, doing the work that brings you pleasure is essential too. If you love to write, deliver talks and training, or meet clients on a 121 basis, fill the time you free up for more of those things. Ditto if you love to get your head down over a spreadsheet full of formulas, create systems and processes, or get deep in the nitty gritty of a new technology.
Doing things that bring you pleasure will feed your soul and energise you, so that you work better and enjoy your business and life more!
We all have a “Why” behind our work, whether it’s empowering women, ending world hunger, helping your clients to live better lives, or creating a better future for your family. If you begin to dedicate more time to things that help you to make progress towards something meaningful to you, you will get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of your working day.
Science backs this up. A research study revealed a phenomenon called the progress principle finding that, “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”
Look at all the activities that you do in your work and decide what actually brings you more paying clients - those are the things that to focus on.
Perhaps your clients have all come to you as a result of giving talks, networking and client referrals. Or maybe you’re a whiz at blogging and social media marketing and most of your paying clients come to you online. Whatever your “thing” is, this is what you want to fill your working hours with as you get more productive and free up your time.
There is one caveat – do not fill your time with things that bring you profit if they do not also bring you pleasure and/or contribute to your purpose, or if it means you sacrifice those things. Otherwise you will feel unfulfilled, exhausted, and eventually burnout (this is where processes, automations and delegation comes in.)
However, if you get pleasure and purpose from your profitable activities, you’ve hit the jackpot!
I love the story that Shonda Rhimes tells in her fabulous Ted Talk. Shonda talks about “the hum” – that feeling you get when you love what you’re doing and it is feeding your soul. For a long time she was getting that feeling from her work, writing and making TV shows.
Then one day the hum disappeared which left her feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in her work. That is, until she decided to say yes to playing with her children one busy day. The love in that experience (which she realised was the real hum) made her decide to say yes every time her children asked her to play… and slowly the hum began to return to her work too and she became more productive and creative than ever!
I’ve paraphrased, probably badly, so I’ve included Shonda’s TED Talk below so you can watch it for yourself – a great watch if you want some inspiration from another busy businesswoman who loves what she does.
This is a perfect example of the 3 P's in action – pleasure, purpose and profit. However, it didn’t start with productivity and “getting more done.” It started with a small activity that gave her pleasure and purpose – playing with her children - which in turn had a positive impact on her profit (i.e. her work).
What would you love to do with your free time? What brings you pleasure, purpose and/or profit in your business? I love to read your tips, tricks and insights, so please share in the comments box below.