The #1 Most Overlooked Productivity Secret

When we think about productivity, the first thing that comes to mind is systems, calendars, and time slots.

It’s about devising a master formula and then rigidly adhering to it.

For me, that approach has always resulted in frustration and disappointment. I have trouble sticking to the detailed plan and then end up feeling like a failure.

For a long time, I thought the problem was me. Recently though, I have uncovered that it was the approach that was faulty, not me.

I’m not a robot. I’m a person.

Robots can be programmed to do the ‘right thing’ at the ‘right time’. Unfortunately, robots have a much more difficult time being creative and doing something original.

People are dynamic. Energy, interest, and commitment ebbs and flows. It’s this dynamic nature that makes robotic adherence to a system difficult. It’s also what allows us to creatively produce original things of lasting value.

So while I am actually a fan of using systems (and discipline) to simplify my life and boost productivity, I think it’s a mistake to start there.

Start, instead, with rhythm.

As you think about what your day, week, or even year might look like, think about designing it with a general rhythm. Make it a creative process with loose guidelines as opposed to strict rules.

For example, before calendering anything or setting any specific times, I think of my day in three parts:

  • Morning
  • Afternoon
  • Evening

I then consider what is most important to me.

As we’ve discussed before, I think that great leadership (and living) really comes down to 2 things: integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands.

Therefore, I embed those themes, along with the theme of family, into the rhythm of my day.

  • Morning: Integrity of Heart
  • Afternoon: Skillfulness of Hands
  • Evening: Family

A rhythm based approach to productivity pairs general times with specific themes.

My morning is, first and foremost, about integrity of heart.

In the mornings, I focus on being quiet and doing something creative.

I spend time meditating, praying, and reading inspirational material. This practice feeds my soul and reminds me of my purpose.

I also usually write.

I pair these two practices because it is important to me that what I communicate to the world comes from a place of authenticity and clarity. As well, my day flows better when I accomplish something important early on.

My afternoon is devoted to skillfulness of hands.

The afternoon is when I spend time working on my craft. I research, take courses, and work on my business.

The afternoon is also when I do the bulk of my emailing and social media. I find that if I start doing email before being quiet and doing something creative, my day loses its rhythm.

My evening is devoted to family.

I am much more productive if I use my evenings to unwind by enjoying time with my wife and sometimes friends.

When I am distracted by work and don’t spend time focused on my wife, it definitely shows up in our relationship. I’m learning to guard this time more aggressively.

By clearing out time specifically for friends, I’ve found that I am a lot more satisfied socially than when I used to have evening as a peak productivity time.

These aren’t the only things that happen in the three major parts of my day, and there are some days, like on weekends, when the rhythm differs or is lost.

Still, by starting with a rhythm based approach my productivity has boosted noticeably. And it’s taken a lot of the pressure off.

Question: Does the idea of a rhythm based approach to productivity resonate with you? Let us know by leaving a comment.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “The #1 Most Overlooked Productivity Secret

  1. The rhythm is a great way to think about the big picture – set aside a lot of time for “why you are doing this” and for the family. For the fine details, I love GTD view – there are projects and next actions. My brain is too small to remember all the next actions – I’d rather have computer(or paper) do so. When you feel like it, pick the next action and do it.

  2. I totally agree with this approach I work in a creative field and this
    is so crucial to a successful day. I need to begin
    my day in solitude and exercise my heart and
    spirit. Then, my extreme extrovert, sanguine
    self explodes into action, ready to communicate,
    lead, and inspire. I work hard and accomplish a lot
    during the afternoon with others on my team.
    My evenings are about celebration and community
    Enjoying or preparing a great meal with family or friends
    restores and inspires me to begin again the next day.