Do this one thing and you’ll get more efficient fast.
Odds are you sometimes feel like you’re swimming in molasses. Your strokes are good, with power in them, but you’re just not moving forward as fast as you’d like. You look at your to-do list at the end of the day, and too many items aren’t yet scratched off and will lengthen tomorrow’s list.
Quite possibly you berate yourself for this and wish you were more organized. You doggedly resolve to do better. But of course you never do.
It may be a good idea to get better at organizing and scheduling, but that isn’t very likely to produce a quantum leap in productivity. There is, however, a technique that will do just that. I am about to share it with you.
Before I do, I would like to ask you to do something for a few days. Just observe your mental chatter as you work, the internal monologue you have going on in your head all the time. Here is a typical snippet of one: “Got to finish that darn project today . . . don’t feel like working . . . Jane was supposed to give me the tables on sales broken by region and she didn’t . . . Why are people so irresponsible? . . . Now I’ll have to figure out some way to fudge those numbers or drop them from the presentation . . . ping . . . Oh! I have an e-mail . . . Wonder who it is . . . Let me check, it’ll only take a minute . . . Drat! My in-laws are coming for dinner on Friday . . . I’ll have to cook, or she’ll make snarky comments on how I’m always making her son eat out . . . Another client walked out today . . . How terrible . . . They’ll say its my fault, but it’s really the lousy product they put out, and the unrealistic pricing . . . ”
When you observe your chatter for a few days you will, in all likelihood, be unpleasantly surprised by how often you run yourself down with self-condemnation and how often you label whatever happens to you as bad. Notice that in the few moments recorded above, Melissa, I’ll call her, condemns Jane’s delinquency, feels sorry for the extra work that has fallen on her, regrets her in-laws’ impending visit, criticizes her mother-in-law and rails against both her company’s product and its pricing strategy–and, by implication, the teams of people who were responsible for them. And Melissa, by the way, prides herself on her resilience. On her ability to keep smiling even as these horrible things keep happening to her.
Do you do the same? Resilience is good. It permits you to spring back readily when struck by adversity. Melissa is indeed resilient.
Extreme resilience is even better. It allows you to snap back so fast that external observers don’t even know you were laid low. So fast that the unfortunate things that happen to you never affect you at all.
Look back on your life. Can you recall instances where something happened to you that you thought was terrible at the time but that you can now see was not so bad and quite possibly even a good thing after all? I recall an important business project that was abruptly canceled at the last minute. The cancellation enabled me to take on another assignment that led to my meeting someone who collaborated with me to produce something that proved wildly successful. Something both more profitable and exhilarating than that original engagement could ever have been.
Listen. Here is a fact of life. When you label something as bad, you are very likely to experience it as bad. In fact, you’re almost certain to. But as your own experience has shown you, you never really know at first whether what happens to you is good or bad. You may not know for years. You may never know.
So why be in a hurry to label any event as bad? It turned out that Melissa’s mother-in-law’s bridge partner’s husband owned a company that was hiring, and Melissa was well-qualified for a position that was open. A month later she was working at a new company at a higher salary and enjoying her job a lot more. Her gratitude smoothed her prickly relations with her in-laws, and that in turn removed some of the tension in her marriage.
When you refuse to label something that happens to you as bad, then you don’t experience it as adversity, and bouncing back is much easier. When you don’t fall down, you don’t have to get up.
That is the secret to great productivity. Much of the reason you don’t accomplish as much as you would like is because your mental chatter constantly tells you bad things are happening. You think you have to stand fast and fight them, and keep getting up to do so. This drains your emotional energy.
Try it for a day. Don’t label anything that happens as bad, and don’t let it siphon away your good cheer. Be like a civil engineer. When he is building a road and he encounters a swamp, he doesn’t rail against it. He simply figures out what he must do to get his road built through it or around it.
I guarantee that you will get a lot more done and with much less strain.
Srikumar S. Rao is the author of Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful–No Matter What. He conceived “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” a course that has been among the most popular and highest rated at many top business schools. Visit www.srikumarsrao.com for more information. Follow him on Twitter @srikumarsrao, join his Facebook happiness community and watch his videos on theMcGraw-Hill YouTube channel.