Ever since I wrote the productivity trap article I felt there was something missing. The main point of that article was always valid, of course, but there was still a little bit of fog regarding the whole productivity concept. So, after taking some time to think it over, I came up with a productivity map, which made it clearer for me. Those of you accustomed with the urgent / important diagram will be instantly familiar with it.
Let’s take it one step at a time. Will shortly analyze the 2 axis of this map and then will move to the each of the 4 squares in which you can be at one specific moment.
There are 2 main axis of the productive citizen:
- goals axis
- discipline axis
Generally speaking, the goals are the motivators, the incentives, while the discipline is the facilitator for reaching those goals.
Goals are what are making us move forward, what makes us thrilled and enthusiastic. Goals is a technical term here, it can be substituted with dreams or passions.
Discipline represents the acknowledgement of the goals and also the actions you take for reaching those goals. The term is not necessarily used in a military sense, but rather as a constant attitude towards a specific target, as opposed to inconsistency.
The Goal Axis
I chose to represent this axis vertically because I find it similar with a growing pattern. Goals are vertical milestones. Whenever you reach a goal it’s like you climb a mountain or reach a new, higher level. Goals are accumulating underneath us and makes us taller.
What makes the difference between high and low goals?
High goals are medium and long term goals, like a career, or a specific lifestyle. They spread over longer period of times, months or years. The lower you go on the scale, the smaller the amount of time spent for a goal. Low goals are day to day things you do almost on auto-pilot, things that require little or no implication from you, like going to a job or doing your errands.
High goals require and provide awareness, power and fulfillment. They require a higher degree of awareness in order to be able to understand what that goal will mean to you. They also require power in order to achieve it and they need fulfillment to feed that goal. Higher goals also provide more awareness, power and fulfillment once reached.
Lower goals are usually accompanied by lack of vision, disempowerment and they create a follower pattern. A life with lower or no goals is a life with no vision, without power and in the footsteps of someone else. The lower the goal axis, the less power and vision you find.
The Discipline Axis
I chose to represent the discipline axis horizontally because discipline is a skill you acquire and use rather than a personal quality. It’s something that goes with you, it’s not you. You can enhance it and use it, but in itself it will not dramatically change who you are. Your goals will.
Disciplined people tend to have a higher time awareness, they seem to be more time bounded than the rest of the people. They’re also highly task oriented, having the ability to break a task in smaller chunks and follow them until the task is done. Discipline is also another way of expressing determination and stability.
Lack of discipline is the source of instability and mutability. Without a proper discipline one will slowly start to get out of the flow. And by that I mean out of an understandable and manageable context: he’s “from another planet”. Undisciplined people are often dream oriented, floating around in parallel universes.
On the right side of the axis, reality will tend to be more manageable, while on the left side, the reality will tend to escape from one’s conscious power, becoming unmanageable.
The 4 Squares Of The Productivity Map
Now it’s time to look at each of the squares and see how the combination of goals and discipline can make a difference and what is the place of the real productivity according to this diagram.
1. High Goals + Sloppy = Procrastinators
You know the type: tomorrow I’ll start losing weight and the day after tomorrow I’ll become a millionaire. And the next day he’ll come with even more powerful intentions. This is the type that constantly establish high and ambitious goals but lacks the discipline to make them happen. This is the home of the procrastinators.
Establishing ambitious goals is not the key to success. It’s certainly giving you more awareness and power, but if you’re not transcending that power into a time aware and task oriented attitude, you’ll never cross the line to the 2nd square. Lack of discipline is what makes many of the people prisoners of the 1st square.
In the 1st square you tend to dream about your goals and not to do them. Dreaming can also have this effect of extracting you from the current reality and put you into an intermediary state of consciousness. And that “no man’s land” consciousness state is really frustrating. Staying too long in the 1st square can lead to serious psychological imbalances.
2. High Goals + Discipline = Producers
You have high goals and you have discipline: you make things happen. This is what I understand by “producers”, a situation in which your attitude (discipline) increase your altitude (high goals). This square is for me the cornerstone of every productivity definition. Nor high goals by themselves nor a constant disciplined attitude can lead to productivity, but a balanced combination of both.
Whenever you have the “flow” feeling while working, you’re most likely in the 2nd square. Your time aware approach along with your high goals are making a powerful force couple and you’re climbing.
The interesting thing in this square is its sustainability. In the 1st square you have a natural tendency to create your dreams, to make them real, hence an attraction to cross the line to the 2nd square. Unfortunately, the gravity force of your undisciplined behavior are dragging you down, in the 4th square. And you have this constant tension between those 2 neighbor squares.
In the 2nd square there is no tension, you’re balanced and you’re creating your world. Of course, you can do wrong: overwork yourself, establish bigger goals than your current capacity and so on. Overdoing is a danger in any circumstance. But overall, being in the 2nd square is the place to be.
3. Low Goals + Discipline = Obsessed
This is the square of the guys that are constantly reading personal development materials, enhancing their skills by using different methods, attending to seminars and reading productivity blogs. But other than that, they’re doing nothing. Zero. They don’t start that business, they don’t reach that huge goal. Because they don’t have high goals.
Having a good sense of discipline but not creating high goals is what makes you stay in the 3rd square. You may have the means, but you’re afraid of a powerful vision. You’re afraid to dream. Discipline is acting like a refuge for your lack of courage.
Staying in the 3rd square long enough will ultimately make you an obsessed productivity freak. Instead of conquering the world you’ll work on your discipline and tweak your lists. Wake up early, exercise and so on, but no powerful goal.
As well as in the 1st square, on the 3rd square there is a tension between having bigger dreams and taking it easier with that discipline. You understand that you must dream big and cross the line to the upper square, but the left square is calling you to decompress after too much discipline.
4. Low Goals + Sloppy = Followers
With low goals and no discipline, it’s much easier to walk on other footsteps and go with or out of the flow. A follower attitude makes you wanna dream all the time and do nothing all day. You wait for outer world impulses to start working, like the lack of money or hunger. Following means you can’t do anything out of your own awareness (low goals) and with tenacity (low discipline).
One word of caution here: this square is also the play square. When you play you don’t have high goals and keep a minimal discipline. From this angle, this square is one of the most interesting areas, and is very easy to be mistaken for something is not.
The followers square is the childish square. I don’t know yet of a kid with goals bigger than the next second, nor to mention I never heard of a disciplined kid. And we’re all perceiving childhood as a happiness realm. Sliding from time to time in this first square has this effect of traveling back to time and enjoying being a kid again.
But kids are by their very nature followers. They’re following their parents and they do that for a reason: they don’t have the experience nor the means to start taking care of their lives. They rely on their parents to feed them, take care of them and learn them all they need to know. Well, you’re past this. You have the experience and the qualities to start doing something with your life. Hiding behind the childish paradigm while staying in the 4th square is just an excuse for your laziness.
Lead Or Follow
Another interesting thing about this map is the kind of typologies it creates on each side of the axes.
On the horizontal axis, the goals axis, we see how one can position himself in regard to leading. Dreams are the heart of the leading process. No leader was born and made without a fantastic dream. The higher your goals and dreams, the highest your position as a leader.
But if your dreams are low you’re surrendering to a manipulation process, regardless of the level of the discipline you have. The lower your goals, the higher the probability to be enrolled and dragged in something bigger than you.
There is also some kind of quality of this leadership, depending on the discipline scale. On left side of the discipline scale, your leadership will be deceiving and shallow. You’re only serving empty dreams, not the capacity to make them happen.
On the right side of the discipline scale, your leadership will be empowering and fulfilling. You’re not only giving big dreams and courageous objectives, but you’re also disciplined enough to make them happen.
Create Or Observe
On the vertical axis we see how one can position himself in regard to doing. If your doing capabilities are low, you’re merely an observer of the reality. You can’t influence much around, even if your dreams are big,
But if your doing capabilities are enhanced by a proper discipline, you become a creator, you make things happening. You’re not only observing, you’re modifying.
As for the leadership, there is a certain quality to the observing and creating attitudes. If you’re an observer on the lower side of the goals axis, you’re pretty much out of the show. Not only you don’t have big dreams, but you’re manipulated and just observe other people dreams. If you’re an observer on the higher side of the goal axis at least you can expose yourself to some interesting dreams.
If you’re a creator on the lower side of the goals axis, you’re constantly creating insignificant stuff. You have the ability, you’re a creator, but the lack of courage makes you waste your energy in smaller activities, most of the time in a job, as you’re not a leader either. On the higher side of the goals axis, your creativity meets your leadership capabilities. Now you’re a star, and of course, you know it.
The 4 squares have also some kind of tensions, with the 2nd square being the exception. Already mentioned the fact that the 2nd square is the most sustainable of all, but let’s see how the tensions works for the rest of it.
In the 2nd square you’re dragged down by your lack of courage and dreams, while you’re eager to cross the line to the 2nd square, to become a producer. This is an imploding tension, at some point you’ll cross to some of the attracting squares.
In the 3rd square your discipline will make you able to accomplish stuff, but your lack of vision will attract to the 4th square. You’ll want to climb, to become more courageous, but the pressure of the doing will attract you to the laziness of the 4th square again. This is also an imploding tension, at some point you’ll either become a producer, either a follower.
And finally, the 4th square is having an exploding tension, meaning it will do the best to take you as far as possible from any other square. It will drag you away. If your dreams are small and you don’t care about your discipline, expect to forget who you really are. Will lose your identity, self-respect and self-trust.
I confess I was an obsessed productivity freak for many years. I read tons of blogs about productivity, I started challenges, I did a lot of stuff all day long. But I didn’t have the courage to dream bigger. I was keeping myself into a controlled realm (my company) and insanely trying to optimize it. It was only when I decided it’s time to want more than I crossed into the 2nd square.
Don’t get me wrong, my company was a very successful one on this market, but the thing is companies are like clothes: if you grow bigger they tend to remain smaller. It was time for another set of clothes and for another set of dreams.
Another thing I want to confess is that I don’t stay only in the 2nd square. In an ideal world, I think it would be great to stay there, but we don’t live in an ideal world, and I’m not an ideal person. I’m just me. So, I spend some time in the 1st square, especially when I establish new goals. I may spend days there, only dreaming or contemplating my ideas, and not doing much.
I also have short holidays in the 4th square, but those are extremely short. The 4th square is associated with a kind of numbness which might be enjoyable after a whole week spent in the 2nd square, but I don’t like being there too much. It’s boring.
In which square are you spending most of your time? Are your dreams big or small? Are you a creative leader or a manipulated observer? What are your tensions? Would love to hear that in your comments.
Translations of this post: Romanian – Coaching Perspectives