Taking time to live life will only inspire your work.
Maximizing one’s personal productivity is a life-long and deeply individualized endeavor. Furthermore, what it means to each of us changes over time.
When I was young, I had a singular focus. From the time I began high school until early adulthood, I identified myself as football player. I spent the vast majority of my energy and effort trying to become a great football player.
Referring to the chart above, football was my business and I was working near the top left corner of the chart – most of my productive hours were spent training for, learning about, and practicing football. I wanted a football career and little else.
During those years, time spent maximizing my capacity as a human being, as represented by the green arrow at the top, was minimal. Since most of my time was focused on football-related activities, I spent very little time on scholastic activities, developing friendships, family activities, the arts, cultural activities, social events, etc.
I was not what people considered a well-rounded young man. In fact, my parents received direct criticism from well meaning friends for encouraging my singular focus on my football dream.
By age 24, I was married and had a beautiful baby daughter. I had one semester remaining in college and had been cut by my third professional football team. My football dreams came to an end, and my focus abruptly switched to raising a family and building a more traditional career.
It didn’t take long before I was once again immersed in a singular focus. I was working 70 to 80 hours a week trying to build a career. Again, I was stuck near the top left corner of the chart. It’s a condition many people find themselves in – with most of their waking hours dedicated to doing their job. It leaves little time or energy for romance, family, personal health, exercise, cultivating a hobby, broadening one’s knowledge beyond the scope of their job, or just plain leisure.
It was many years ago when I recognized that I had to change. Actually, I realized that I had changed. What I wanted was different. Yes, I wanted to have a great career, but I also wanted to be a great family man, to be in great health, and to have great friendships and great adventures traveling the world. I wanted a great life, not just a great job. I made a personal commitment to seek balance.
Then I discovered something unexpected – the sweet spot between the two yellow lines in the chart. When I traded some work time and spent it on personal productivity instead, I found my overall capacity began to grow. As personal activities began making me a happier, healthier, stronger, smarter and more experienced person outside of my job, I was building internal strengths that optimized my productivity on the job.
I’ve learned the healthy way to develop professional capacity is by finding the sweet spot and steadily moving to the right side of the graph. You do this by deciding what is important for you. You must decide what you want in life. Then seek the unique balance between professional and personal life that suits you. Work hard, work smart, and enjoy your time working. Love hard, play plenty, and do things that bring you joy during your personal time.
When you spend too much time on the job, you get stuck on the top left corner of the chart because your personal productivity and capacity suffers. Likewise, if you take too much personal time, you get stuck on the bottom left corner and the job suffers. When you find that sweet spot, you will feel yourself being pulled to the right as the magic of capacity building happens. That’s when life gets easy.
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