The first professional training I experienced after The University of Minnesota was Dale Carnegie. After twelve 4-hour sessions, what I remember most is the phrase “rest before you get tired." In my 20s, this did not resonate with me. I always subscribed to the idea of, “to get more, do more.”
Doing more all the time
Based on that idea, I have spent my career always trying to do more. As each year passed, I found myself searching for more ways to do even more. In fact, I thought I had mastered a list of what I called my productivity tools and best practices.
- Listen to books on Audible at double speed to read twice as many books while driving or vacationing
- Check email 24/7/365
- Fill commute with conference calls
- Work out every day, even when my body is begging for a day off
- Start my day with 7:00 AM 1:1s or 7:30 AM leadership meetings
- Take meetings and calls while on vacation
- Work 12-hour days
- Travel on Saturday or Sunday
- Expect others to do many of the things I do
- Sleep 6 hours a day
- Utilize caffeine to keep me sharp and alert
- Read as little of an email as possible, often limiting my attention only to the subject line
- Create daily to-do list (even on Saturday and Sunday)
- Multi-task while in meetings and conference calls
- Interrupt as soon as I think I understand or want to respond
As an avid learner, I would read many blogs or books that would recommend the elimination of most, if not all, of the productivity tools I mastered since I left Minnesota. Over the past six months (thanks to some wonderful coaching and mentoring), I have been slowly iterating on my productivity list.
Learning the art of moderation
I rest my body when my knee aches. I have started to block off time during the day to turn off my email and am finding I do not actually miss anything. I actually get less email and I spend more time on my big priorities. I am enjoying conversations much more as I am truly listening more.
Yet, I was still struggling with anxiousness until I made the tough decision to eliminate caffeine from my diet on May 2. I am not going to lie to you; the first week was rough. For three days, I thought the back of my head was in a vice and being squeezed by all those people I interrupted in the past week, but eventually the headaches disappeared.
I found that seven hours of sleep was enough to keep me alert and anxiety-free throughout the day, and those seven hours have become very refreshing as I am not waking up throughout the night. The very thing I was using to fuel more was actually creating less. By eliminating the caffeine that I believed was allowing me to do more, I am actually accomplishing more each day.
I encourage you to look at what you are using to fuel “more” and determine if less of the fuel or moderation will produce better results. Utilize the people, technology, and tools you have accessible to find a happy medium between peak productivity and moderation to create a sustainable lifestyle at work and at home.