Much of our current world is organized and operated around the productive - efficient culture: notes, checklists, calendars, schedules, todos, appointment books... We go through our daily activities planning, making goals, scheduling, crossing off to-do items or check lists. So many books and talks have been about time management: how to be more efficient and productive, how to accomplish more in less time, etc.
What if the challenge is not to manage things, methods and time but to manage ourselves, our relationships and to produce results ?
I made this productivity mistake when starting my career by focusing all of my time and energy on doing more, saving time & achieving goals while neglecting other aspects of my life. I was productive but I wasn't effective. All sort of productivity whimsical ideas like the pomodoro technique, daily journal, chunking, prioritization, reminders, oblique cards, performance reviews, achieving FLOW (the state of mental clarity, a concept by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) ... while certainly helped me to increase my ability to learn and work more, did not help me to figure out that I am working on the right things.
This makes me think of productivity vs effectiveness is like management vs leadership. My college advisor used to emphasize the importance of doing the right thing (leadership) over doing the things right (management) by repeating this quotes from Peter Drucker - The Effective Executive (a classic leadership book):
The effective executive focuses superior effort on those few major areas that will produce outstanding results.
Being productive is doing more things in less time in a quality manner. It is undoubtedly productive and efficient to break up with someone over text, or fire someone over email but it's not effective and human to do so. Being effective is asking yourself the question: what are your purposes, visions in life, what is your value system and which of 20% of the time will produce 80% of the results ? (Pareto Principle). Being effective is understanding the yin and yang of your life's goals, emphasizing human relationships over strict principles and achieving balance.
I like this Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey, that effective people focus their life activities on maximizing Quadrant II. We will achieve balance and happiness by working on the important but not urgent which have long term benefits like prevention activities, improving ourselves and building relationships
Results and happiness come from working inside out: understanding yourself, your values, your desires before setting and achieving goals. Perhaps a better question to ask right now, according to Stephen Covey, is:
What is the one thing could you do in your personal or professional life that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life ?