What kind of life do YOU want to live?

Project TGL’s tag line is “Productivity skills that help you live better – not faster”.

Why the emphasis on living better?

Because a lot of people (including many productivity “experts”) seem to focus on productivity and efficiency because they want to be better at doing things.

Maybe they think that getting more things done overall makes them a better person. Maybe they want to impress their boss. Maybe they feel just so overwhelmed by the demands life makes on their time and they just want to feel a bit less overwhelmed.

What’s wrong with these approaches?

They don’t actually improve your experience of life. As Oliver Burkeman says:

“It’s really clear from personal experience, from research, that if you get really, really efficient at doing stuff, you just get busier.”

So does that mean that we should throw productivity out the window?

Oliver Burkeman doesn’t think so, and I don’t think so either. Instead, we can build productivity skills with a different end goal in mind: because we want to live a better life.

I recently got an email from a client, anticipating attending one of my upcoming workshops with her team. In the email, she said “I’m getting really excited about being able to take part in your full seminar! That’s some ‘us’ time, rare but needed.”

And I thought: She really gets it!

Productivity skills work best when they come from a place of doing it for yourself. Doing it to get some ‘me’ time.

Productivity skills work best when they act in service of living a life aligned with your deepest interests and values.

The problem with ‘me’ time, though, is that if you haven’t had much of it for a while it can be difficult to work out how you actually want to use it. When you do get a few precious moments of down-time, you end up aimlessly wasting it.

The problem with “living a life aligned with your interests values” is it’s hard to do unless you actually know what your interests and values are.

If you don’t know what you want to get out of having additional time for yourself, then you won’t get much out of it. (And you probably won’t be motivated enough to actually learn new productivity skills.)

So here’s what I recommend: spend some time reflecting on what kind of life you actually want to live. Grab a notepad, sit down in a quiet corner with a bit of time, and put pen to paper.

Here are some questions to get your thoughts flowing:

  • What would I like more of in my life?
  • What would I like less of in my life?
  • Who would I like to spend more time with?
  • How do I want to feel, day in and day out? (Follow-up: what makes me feel that way?)
  • How would I ideally like to spend my time if I didn’t have to earn a living?
  • Can I list 3-5 times that I have felt at my best? (Follow-up: What did those times have in common?)
  • What would I like to do before I die?

Don’t worry about being realistic! If, like me, you think I want to feel relaxed and unhurried all the time, write it down! Sure, it’s not realistically going to happen. But we’re brainstorming here. All ideas are good ideas.

Once you’ve answered a few of these questions (in writing!), you can start looking for common threads.

If one of the times you felt at your best was when you were on a 3-week hike, and your ideal I-don’t-need-to-earn-money life involves travelling to the world’s natural wonders, then maybe being outdoors in nature is important to you!

You may not be able to regularly spend weeks at a time outdoors, but with a few small tweaks you could free up enough time for a 30-minute walk each day.

Now that’s a good reason to learn new productivity skills

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