Over the last year, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of productivity & efficiency. If you aren’t familiar with the definitions or don’t feel like looking them up right now, it’s this:
Productivity – Output per unit of time.
Efficiency – Best output per unit of time.
For the last couple years, I would experiment with every technique I could find regarding how to improve my productivity in hopes that I can be a bit more productive with each new day. This served me quite well after finding different frameworks for approaching this problem. I found tools like:
- Getting Things Done (David Allen)
- Eat The Frog (Brian Tracy)
- Time Blocking
- Don’t Break The Chain (Jerry Seinfeld)
- Pomodoro Technique (Francesco Cirillo)
- 1-3-5 Lists
- Kanban Boards
- Biological Clocks
- And many more
Some of these tools worked really well, and others wouldn’t stick for longer than a couple days. Ultimately, you’ll find your own toolset that works best for you, but here’s mine for reference:
- To-Dos (Todoist) for daily, weekly, monthly planning, prioritization, and backlogging.
- Time Blocking (Calendar) for daily deep work sessions (2x a day for 2 hours each)
- 1-3-5 Lists (Todoist) with priority 1 (1), priority 2 (3), and priority 3 (5) to work on what’s important in order.
- Biological Clocks / Eat The Frog (Early Morning) for getting my number one priority done first thing in the morning.
Alongside that journey, I found myself in parallel learning about a few Japanese concepts known as “Yugen”, “Kaizen”, and “Mushin”.
- Yugen – Eager for change.
- Kaizen – Change for better.
- Mushin – No Mind.
These concepts have held as mantras in my life for quite some time now even though I didn’t really understand them at first. Although I don’t claim to really understand them any further today, I feel like there’s a breakthrough in terms of balancing one’s productivity & efficiency in a delicate way.
The way I’ve primarily discovered this feeling is this. Productivity on its own can be quite destructive. It can lead to burnout, lost passion, and even believe it or not; not getting anything done. Efficiency on the other hand is bringing in more consciousness into your work. These concepts are more about emptying your mind, practicing mindfulness, and falling into a zen-like state.
This last year, I spent much of my time getting to understand the conscious side of efficiency. I started to look outward at many of the things I cannot control (life, work, people) and then inwards to things I can control (emotions, feelings, attitudes). What I realized is that productivity is subject to the things we cannot control. Life will interrupt you, work will stop you, and people rely on you. Whereas efficiency is subject to the things we can control. If you’re in the right mindset and have a positive attitude, you can achieve anything.
That brings us to the three Japanese concepts above where each have a place for being efficient.
- Yugen makes us feel uneasy at first as we’re not sure why we’re feeling what we’re feeling, but ultimately we know we must change.
- Kaizen makes us feel excited to make this change in a positive way.
- Mushin makes us feel completely free & present with full awareness of our self.
What resulted from embracing these three concepts was more efficiency than I have ever imagined before. I’m no longer on a quest of being more productive & finding the tools to do so. Rather, I’m on a quest of being more conscious and letting my feelings lead me to my best means of practicing everyday.