Four Ways To Work Productively Without Struggling or Being Miserable

An Atypical Writer’s Note: I would love to tell you that I discovered these principles in ancient texts or through my award-winning research studies on working effectively. However, the fact is I discovered them by doing the EXACT OPPOSITE OF EACH ONE. I have changed the names and exaggerated the details of each example in this post for the sake of protecting the identity of the person involved.  (But let me just say his first name might rhyme with mason.)    

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I have come to believe that working productively involves understanding how to work Consistently, Effectively, Efficiently and Joyfully.

Consistently means not working to the point of exhaustion and then being out of commission for a period of time because of fatigue or sickness, but rather working fewer hours, so that you can work in a steady and productive manner.

For example, Stanley’s boss is focused on productivity and doesn’t care what hours his employees choose to work as long as they get their job done.

Stanley wants to show the boss that he’s exceedingly motivated so he chooses to work 75 hours each week for three weeks straight.

Then at the end of the third week, he falls asleep on the way home. Luckily, he only hits a guard rail, throwing his back out.  This injury puts him out of commission for the two weeks he spends recuperating.

Now Stanley’s total amount of work is 225 hours in five weeks, 75 hours each of the first three weeks and zero hours for each of the next two weeks.  In addition, Stanley was only productive for 50 of the hours during each of the weeks he worked.  During, the other 25 hours he felt exhausted, miserable and strongly disliked his job.

So in grand total, Stanley put in 150 productive hours in a five-week period.  One hundred fifty productive hours, divided by the five weeks equals an average of thirty productive hours of work a week over the five-week period.

So, Stanley could have gotten the same amount of productive work done a week if he had worked just thirty hours a week for the five-week period.  He also could have probably avoided an auto accident, damage to his car, throwing his back out, pain, and recovery time.  If Stanley had worked fewer hours each week, he would have also had ample free time to enjoy his life during those five weeks.

Basically, by working less, but working smarter and more consistently, Stanley could have given himself and his boss a just as productive if not more productive five weeks.  In addition, he could have provided himself with a joyful five-week experience versus five weeks of struggle.

Effectively means you apply your focus to the task at hand.

For example, one of the things Gloria loves about having her own business is the freedom to make her own rules.  A few months ago, she was listening to a mystery book on CD while she did the monthly book-keeping for her business.  Gloria took her time because she was enjoying the audio book and finished her book-keeping in two and a half hours.

Although she is great at accounting, Gloria was so engrossed in her audio book that day a few months ago that she is now finding errors in her calculations, errors which are currently costing her many hours of extra time and a great deal of stress to figure out.

Alternatively a few months ago, Gloria could’ve chosen to totally concentrate on the book-keeping without distractions.  By totally focusing, she could have gotten it done and double checked in an hour and half and avoided all the extra time fixing mistakes, time she could have used to read the mystery books she loves.

Efficiently means that you make use of time-saving technology when it is available.  (The following is an extreme example.  There are many more subtle examples in our work environments.)

For example, Tim’s boss asks him to copy fifty pages of text and doesn’t care how this job is done just as long as it’s accurate.  Tim has the choice between doing this job in ten minutes with a copy machine, or spending a whole day copying the pages long hand.

Whichever way Tim chooses, he will do a great job meeting his boss’s specifications.

However, copying by hand takes seven hours and fifty minutes longer than using a copy machine and would be exhausting, tedious and most likely full of struggle.  Plus, Tim would have missed 7 hours and fifty minutes of opportunities to do other work.

Joyfully means striving to be happy as you work.  This is a gift to yourself, as well as those around you.

Susan just doesn’t like end of the month inventory.  Her co-workers know the end of the month is coming because Susan is cranky, angry, and critical for the whole week before inventory.  And on the day of inventory, watch out!   Stay out of Susan’s way!  If one of Susan’s co-workers forgets and makes even the smallest joke within the range of her hearing, the outcome isn’t appealing.

Alternatively, Susan could focus on smiling and laughing on inventory day, as well as the week leading up to it, even though she knows that in the past these times have been tedious and stressful for her.  Then as Susan’s co-workers see her smiling and laughing, they are more likely to smile and laugh, which would empower them all to work as a team to lighten this task.  This jovial atmosphere would probably eventually result in inventory day being less tedious and stressful for Susan.

Game of the Day

What ideas in this blog could you use to make your workday more productive and enjoyable?

How can you begin to use the ideas that you like today?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com

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On The Days when Opportunities Knock With Overwhelming Force And There Is Just Too Much To Do

Some days the opportunities that other people offer us seem to cascade down on us with amazing force.  These are wonderful days, days when our ship has come in and days of easy abundance.

These are the days when instead of three new clients calling, fifteen call; instead of one job offer you get five; instead of a few friends calling you, twenty call you.  They say, “When it rains, it pours” and on these days it DOWNPOURS.  These are days of AMAZING OPPORTUNITY after AMAZING OPPORTUNITY and there are so many of them, ALL AT ONCE.

We can at once be both VERY APPRECIATIVE of these days AND, at the same time, THOROUGHLY OVERWHELMED!!!   On these days, we often feel like we are spread too thin.   Each opportunity seems to require a certain amount of attention, but we don’t feel able to give any of them the full amount of attention they desire.

Suddenly even though we are surrounded by abundance, we are utterly stressed out, exhausted and miserable.

Suddenly, all these new opportunities don’t feel like an adventure or even a blessing but a very uncomfortable and out of control situation.

So frustrating!  What to do?

OPPORTUNITY OVERWHELM can turn into a huge obstacle because there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day for us to accomplish all that we need to accomplish.

The great news is OPPORTUNITY EASE can be CREATED out of OPPORTUNITY OVERWHELM.  I say CREATED because each opportunity comes to us in a certain package.

The opportunities that other people offer us naturally come in an OPPORTUNITY PACKAGE designed by them.  Often included in the opportunity is an idea of how much time we should devote to it and when we should devote this time.  (It’s interesting to note that these specifications are actually part of what makes an opportunity an exciting opportunity, rather than a vague “I want to do something with you someday” opportunity.)  However, these same specifics that make an opportunity an exciting opportunity can also lead to OPPORTUNITY OVERWHELM.

OPPORTUNITY EASE comes when you work with the person who gave you the opportunity to show him or her that you appreciate the opportunity being offered, while at the same time, working with him or her to revise the specifics of the opportunity so that the specifics don’t overwhelm you.

Think of your opportunities as water and your day as a glass.  Say a full glass symbolizes the maximum amount of work you can do in a day while being focused, productive and happy.  Now you want to schedule your opportunities to fill your glass to full but not overflowing.   Over-scheduling will lead to more water than your glass can handle, a mess, waste, and exhaustion.  So the art-form is knowing how full you want your glass on at daily basis and then revising the specifics of the opportunities people offer you together with them, so that your glass is not overflowing or too empty, but filled with just the right amount of abundant opportunities to grace your days.

Game of the Day

How could you create more OPPORTUNITY EASE in your life?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com. 

When Too Many People Offer You Too Many Good Opportunities All At Once: Five Tips For Turning OPPORTUNITY OVERWHELM Into OPPORTUNITY EASE

Realize That The Opportunities You Are Offered Are A Good Sign

Opportunities are exciting and a sign you are on the right track.

But sometimes there’s so much going on we start to feel short of breath and we begin to struggle with our opportunities and push them aside, almost as if our opportunities are our enemies.  At these times, it’s worthwhile to remember that opportunities are what we want.  We want to embrace our opportunities while, at the same time, managing them.

Appreciate All The Opportunities You Are Given (Even If You Decide Not To Take Some Of Them)

Let the people giving you opportunities know how grateful you are.  This is as simple as saying “I really appreciate your offer and I look forward to having a chance to think it over.”

Decide Which Opportunities Are A Good Fit For You

The opportunities that people offer you will likely require your time, energy and money.  Before taking someone up on an opportunity, really think about if you are interested in it; if it is in-line with your goals and dreams; and if you want to devote your time and resources to it.  If the answer is “Yes,” proceed with confidence.  If the answer is “No,” find a way to say a polite and definite “No Thank You.”  This “No Thank You” frees you from your obligation to engage in the opportunity.  And just as importantly, your “No” frees the person who asked you to find someone who is truly interested in his or her opportunity.

Schedule So That Not Everything Needs To Happen All At Once

If you decide to take an opportunity, schedule with the person offering you the opportunity so that the opportunity is manageable For You.  You are doing yourself a great service, as well as the person offering you the opportunity, because if you are overwhelmed it will be much harder for you to give their opportunity your full attention.

Write Opportunities You Decline Down To Give You More Choices Later

If you choose to express appreciation for an opportunity someone has given you while, at the same time, declining it by giving them a polite and definite, “No Thank You,” you might consider making note of the opportunity and then making a notation on your calendar to reconsider it in a month or two.  When you reconsider it, you may just reconfirm that you are glad you said, “No.”  Or you may realize that while you are glad you said “No” the first time, the opportunity now sounds good to you.  In this case, you have the information to contact the person and tell them that you rethought his or her offer.

Game of the Day

The next time you experience OPPORTUNITY OVERWHELM how will you use these tips to turn your overwhelm into OPPORTUNITY EASE?

Instead of Working Hard All Day, Work Nice and Easy

A few centuries ago, before the railroad, pioneers with covered wagons had to WORK HARD to get from New York to LA.  Between tending the horses, hunting for food, finding water, pioneers were exceedingly busy people.  (Did pioneers actually ever travel directly from New York to LA in covered wagons?  I have no idea.  We may be talking about hypothetical pioneers, but please work with me for the sake of this example.)

These pioneers could indeed say we are lazy for flying across the country instead of hitching horses to a covered wagon.  But we still gladly choose to fly across country in under six hours, instead of enduring months of hard, risky work in a covered wagon.  In choosing to book a flight instead of hitching-up horses, we are choosing to WORK NICE AND EASY.

I say we choose to “work nice and easy” instead of we choose to “work smart” because our pioneer friends were very smart.  They had to know how to tend horses, how to navigate a nation (without the aid of Google Maps) and how to survive (as in how to avoid being eaten by grizzly bears and the like).  Successfully accomplishing these tasks arguably took more skills than whipping out a boarding pass and walking down a jet bridge.  So the pioneers were working very smart but still very, very hard.

I’m thinking about the concept of WORKING NICE AND EASY because I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ve worked hard mostly to feel like I’m a hard worker.  I’ve worked hard at busy work.  I’ve worked hard at doing things very inefficiently.  Sometimes, I’ve even worked hard at doing things the “old fashion way,” as I avoided the technology that would make the job five times as fast.

This is all CRAZY!

Unless we simply want to engage in the activity of working very hard, why not do a little PRE-WORK before we actually work? Why not first spend some time choosing well-thought out work, work that has a high potential of being useful, work that gets us from point A to point B in a very efficient manner? 

Now I’m not suggesting we take short cuts that compromise the quality of our work.  Our planes still have to traverse the same distance as the pioneers’ covered wagons did.  To take a plane is not to take a short cut but simply to make wise use of the options available.

Taking a plane versus a covered wagon is a very dramatic and obvious example of the wonder of WORKING NICE AND EASY.

It can be very rewarding to discover both dramatic and far subtler ways of WORKING NICE AND EASY.

If you still desire to feel like you are working hard, you can even say to yourself (and other), “I’m working hard at WORKING NICE AND EASY.”

Have an amazing day of WORKING NICE AND EASY!

Game of the Day

What ways can you WORK NICE AND EASY at home?

What ways can you WORK NICE AND EASY when you are at work?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com.

Our Lives Are Our Free Time

Ok, here I am at Subway about to write a blog entitled, “Our Lives Are Our Free Time.”  Suddenly, I catch myself thinking, “I HAVE TO eat fast, so I can get going on this blog.”

In the moment, I say, “I HAVE TO eat fast,” I realize that I’m not allowing myself to be free.

In truth, I could choose to spend the next seven hours in Subway savoring each morsel of my sandwich.  Then I could spend another couple of hours at home eating the leftovers.*

Now my recognition that I am free to take as long as I want to eat my sandwich is admittedly a small recognition in the grand scheme of recognitions.  However, it’s amazing to think of how often we speak to ourselves in the language of “I HAVE TO,” instead of the language of “I choose to.”

When we insist to ourselves that we have to do this or that, we fill our lives with self-created burdensome obligations instead of noticing that we are actually free to choose what we do.

One of our biggest areas where we say, “I HAVE TO” relates to work.  How often have you said, “I have to go to work”?

I know being self-employed as a professional speaker and writer; I find myself saying “I HAVE TO” work on a regular basis.

It is often easy to complain about having to work.  But when we say we have to go to work, we drastically reduce the hours of our lives in which we have the opportunity to be free.

There are two solutions that I can think of to this dilemma.  One solution might be that we could all in mass just decide not to work anymore.  (This would probably create worldwide chaos.  So, let’s not try it.)

Or we could start considering our whole lives as our free time, even the portion of our lives that we chose to devote to work.

And think about it, we really do choose to work.  We choose to work to make the money we need to support the lifestyle we want to live.  There is no law saying that we have to live the lifestyle we do.   We choose to live the lifestyle we do, so we make the amount of money we need to make to live out our choice.

Seen from this perspective, our lives are our free time.  With a portion of that free time, we choose to work.  This is a unique way to think about work.  May it help us recognize our freedom in everything we do.

* (Note the idea of me eating a sandwich for nine hours is purely hypothetical.  At this point in my life, I’m far more likely to spend nine minutes eating a sandwich.)

(Can you imagine what a person would learn about life by spending nine hours eating a sandwich?)

(I can’t.)

Game of the Day

The next time you are at work, try thinking to yourself, “My life is my free time and I chose to use some of that free time to work.”

For bonus points, say this to three people at work.