Monday, April 4, 2011

Finding True Productivity

Imagine for a moment the following scenario...

Bill a colleague of yours has just checked his e-mail and received a note from a person with whom he has a tense relationship. There is a recurring issue between the two of them, that won’t go away. He interprets this e-mail as “snarky” and bullheaded, so sits there at his desk his mind filling with scenarios and responses he would really like to send back. This internal “chatter” goes on for 5 minutes as he stews in his own emotions. He sends a reply in an equally “dry” tone and immediately regrets sending it, so stews further in guilt for another few minutes (say three minutes).
Total productivity loss: 8 minutes.

As he was working on something else at the time he needs to refocus his attention: another 3 minutes to build back momentum.
Total productivity loss now: 11 minutes.

As a result of this decaying relationship there is a heaviness and running conversation weighing within him he is barely aware of, that won’t go away. Total time spent in chatter, tension and loss of productive action and poor wellbeing – significantly more than 11 minutes.
Total productivity loss now: immeasurable with a significant cost to his inner well being.

Now multiply that over the number of employees that work at your company. It could run into the thousands of minutes, 100 employees translates into 1100 minutes a day (approximately 18 hours). Now I know that not all people everyday stew and keep tension inside them, so I exaggerate somewhat to make a point.

I work with management teams everyday who successfully break free of this scenario and significantly improve their productivity.

In error we connect productivity to behaviour, our actions.  Technological gadgets are invented to save time and effort; smart phones, e-mails, laptops, iPads were all designed to make our lives “easier and more efficient”. But my experience tells me that these endeavours don’t get at the answer to real and profound productivity improvement which exists within us and between us.

Let’s dissect this scenario for second. We find that Bill is unproductive because of his limited perceptions and thinking. Unable to break free of habitual responses, interpretations and judgments of whom this other person is and what happened to create this situation in the first place, he follows predictable responses that waste time and energy for all involved. And the funny thing is, if you were ask Bill if he was productive, he would say “Yes”.

Start to connect productivity to thought and perception rather than action and behaviour.

When Bill learns to examine his own thinking he is free to discover a more accurate “picture” of reality and certain things begin to occur. His mind begins to relax and open up, the resulting clarity allows him to accurately perceive situations, create options for responses and to reconnect with what is really what is really going on. With less head chatter and unnecessary emotions, Bill will be able to distinguish between actions he needs to take and those that are unnecessary.

The source of productivity is within thought and perception itself. We can perform efficient actions with the help of gadgets, but ultimately to find the final 5% of workplace productivity we will need to learn how to work with our thoughts themselves.

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