The Productivity Trap

Moment of Truth: I had one of these days today.

The to-do list is long. The tasks take some time and thought, but are relatively easy to complete. You mow through them one by one, and at the end of the day, feel like you had a productive day and are satisfied with the work that got done. You look forward to the next time you are so effective at finishing your to-do list.

But…did you really get anything accomplished or did you just cross off a list of mundane tasks that had to be completed? Did you do anything to really help yourself be better as a person or as a professional?

More often than not, the answer is no. We build to-do lists, cross the items off as we complete them, and feel satisfied with our effort and work for the day. I did this today. I had a list of tasks to complete and, even last night before leaving, made completing my list as a high priority item for today. When I got through the list, I felt like I had achieved my goal.

I went for a run and started to think about my day. While I got a lot of stuff done, I only did a few things that made me a better coach and better recruiter. There were only a few things that I did that advanced my hockey program down the line. In hindsight, I should not feel like I had a great day. I had a good day taking care of necessary business, but I did not have a great day like I had originally thought.

This is the “Productivity Trap” – feeling like we did more than was actually accomplished. How do we avoid it? Schedule and prioritize things that make us better people and professionals. Block off time to spend working at things that will advance our organizations, professions and careers. Do this every day. Tackle the to-do list every day, but don’t make completing it a high priority item. Cross off a few things and add a few things every day. Make the to-do list an ongoing action item that gets some care and attention on a daily basis, but doesn’t dominate your day and your thinking. Allow there to be work left un-done, because the work will always be there again tomorrow.

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