Seth Godin on why we should organize for joy rather than efficiency.
The term proactive means more than you may realize. Here is a good explanation from Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits:
While the word proactivity is now fairly common in management literature, it is a word you won’t find in most dictionaries. It means more than merely taking initiative [emphasis added]. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. [Which means that] our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
Look at the word responsibility — “response-ability” — the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.
Because we are, by nature, proactive, if our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, by conscious decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to control us.
In making such a choice, we become reactive. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.
Reactive people are also affected by their social environment, by the “social weather.” When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values — carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values.
Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.
There’s no getting around the need for hard work. It’s a given. It comes with the territory.
However, there is a big difference between hard work and workaholism. You work hard to get something done. A workaholic, on the other hand, works out of compulsion — fear of some sort. Workaholism is unhealthy and destructive. Hard work is healthy, invigorating, and can be practiced up until the day you die, whereas workaholism leads to burn-out.
We know some effective leaders who work only 40-50 hours per week, but who nonetheless classify as very hard workers — their level of intensity and concentration when at work is incredibly high. Conversely, we know some workaholics who work 90 hours per week and are basically ineffective. More is not necessarily better.
From Drucker in The Effective Executive:
The knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail. He can only be helped. But he must direct himself, and he must direct himself toward performance and contribution, that is, toward effectiveness.
The motivation of the knowledge worker depends on his being effective, on his being able to achieve. If effectiveness is lacking in his or her work, his commitment to work and to contribution will soon wither, and he will become a time-server going through the motions from 9-5.
Why even have a productivity system (such as GTD) at all? There are two reasons:
- We need the ability to prioritize and sequence tasks
- We need the ability to defer tasks without forgetting them
All of this flows from having more things to do than we can do immediately. Since you can’t do everything at once, you need an easy way to identify what is most important and sequence tasks in order of importance.
And, since you can’t do everything at once, you need an easy way to put things off to another day or time, without forgetting them altogether.
A great word from Todd Wilson:
I never tire of reading Charles Spurgeon. Virtually everything I read of his I agree with and enjoy and find profitable.
How about this encouragement I came across this morning in his little book, Counsel to Christian Workers: Don’t be a Mrs. Splitplum!
Who, you may be wondering, is Mrs. Splitplum?
She was the wife of a grocer who always cut the plums in two for fear that there would be an ounce more plum than the buyer had paid for. She didn’t want to give a fraction more than was bought.
“Ah,” says Spurgeon, drawing a lesson from this quaint anecdote, “there are many Splitplums in religion. They do not want to do more for Jesus than may be absolutely necessary.” Just so much, but no more. Just what is fair and equitable in their service to the Lord.
Don’t be a Mrs. Splitplum is Spurgeon’s point. Instead, be like the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume who spent it not miserly or calculatingly or cautiously, but lavishly, extravagantly, indeed even wastefully in the service of her Lord (Matthew 26:6-13).
“Christ’s servants delight to give so much as to be thought wasteful, for they feel that when they have in the judgment of others done extravagantly for Christ, they have but begun to show their hearts’ love for his dear name.”
Thank you, Todd!
If you create too many rules in your organization (or home, or anywhere), you start to kill learning. Marcus Buckingham states this well in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently:
“Every time you make a rule you take away a choice and choice, with all of its illuminating repercussions, is the fuel for learning.”
From Peter Drucker’s Management Challenges for the 21st Century:
- Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?”
- It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.
- Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of the knowledge workers.
- Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker.
- Productivity of the knowledge worker is not — at least not primarily — a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important.
- Finally, knowledge-worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.