The Paradox of Productivity

As today marks the national holiday in memoriam of Martin Luther King Jr., it's good to get philosophical.  Life, as MLK,
pointed out, is often about paradox.  It is only when I forgive that I
can move on and only when I serve others that I gain return. 

Productivity is that way too.

The productive man or woman knows this.  Here are four paradoxes that mark the lives of those who get more done:

  • It's only when I scale back that I achieve more.  As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits points out, getting 2-3 really important things done
    in a day is far better than the old system of a master to-do list with
    8-10 things on it.  The old systems left you feeling like a loser,
    having accomplished some things but not making a serious dent in what
    you really needed to get done.  Scale back, get realistic and
    streamline.  Here's a hack that works for me- ask yourself in the
    morning, "what do I absolutely need to get done today?"

  • It's only when I serve others that I become a leader.
    Rather than being a corporate tycoon who acts like the "fat cat" and
    barks out orders, the leader is the one who serves and is humble,
    especially when no one is around.  The leader takes out the trash, in
    other words.  No task is beneath his character.

  • It's only when I slow down that I speed up.  Taking time for family, to work out, to listen to music, to pray- all of these are tangible ways of slowing down the hectic pace of daily life. 

  • It's only when I reflect that I gain my voice.  Reflective people are smart enough to take a step back and ask the really tough questions.  Does this make sense?  Am I finding meaning in my work?  What does God want me to do?
    Am I making a difference?  Reflection isn't merely a personal 'by my
    self' kind of practice.  It can involve a team, project group or
    network of people.  Getting away for a corporate retreat
    is a first step in accomplishing a culture of reflection.  I find that
    people who take the time to get away and reflect are often judged
    inaccurately as being lazy or self serving.  This couldn't be farther
    from the truth!  The real story is that they know that they cannot give
    what they don't have so recharging the batteries is part of everyday

So on MLK day here in the states, let's be people of paradox.  My bet is that we'll accomplish more and stress less.