Why the Internet Is Wrong. You’re Doing Fine.
Productivity Isn’t That Important Right Now
When I read posts from my entrepreneur, small business, and professional speaker peers, the message is clear: It’s time to get busy! Write that book! Start your podcast! Finish this project, start that new income stream, go go go! Prepare yourself and your business for a fast start when things “get back to normal.”
For many of you (us!), this advice is wrong. Or at the very least it’s incomplete. You’re doing great in your imperfect struggles during this wacky blip in world history. You’ve got this. You don’t have to change a thing. And focusing on productivity might be taking you away from what you should be doing. Curious? Read on.
Warning: if you’re skimming, make sure you don’t miss the end: that’s where we talk about Hope. (Spoiler: I have a lot of hope!)
Let me tell you a story about me— which is actually about you.
A decade ago I moved my family to Mexico for a year. We enrolled our kids in a Mexican school, we rented a house, and we started an adventure which by every measure was more difficult than we had anticipated. None of us knew Spanish before we left, we didn’t understand the culture, and the list of things we did not know or understand was too long to give justice to here.
I still worked as a professional speaker while living in Mexico. I commuted to the United States to do an occasional keynote here and there. So I was still working… But I abandoned huge portions of my typical work routine.
In my small business, and I bet in yours, there are two types of labor*. One type is your primary job, and the other type is all of the myriad of things you do in support of your primary job. For me, as a motivational speaker, my primary job is answering the phone from interested potential clients and delivering excellent keynote speeches. Aside from some basic customer service for existing clients, everything else is extra. Content creation, social media, newsletters, writing books and articles, creating video, selling digital information, etc. All of these things are vaguely in support of my normal job, but they are extra. Marginal. Tangential.
During my year in Mexico I did almost zero of this peripheral work. I took care of my existing clients, and worked hard to deliver way above average keynotes. But otherwise I didn’t do much work.**
What was the net effect to my business for not doing any of this marginal labor? Nothing. Even without doing these tangential tasks, my business grew. Two years later my fees were up, my income was up, the number of keynotes I delivered was up, and the amount of repeat and spinoff work was up.
The Lesson? All of the tangential work I did before Mexico was not as important as I believed it to be. What was important was delivering a quality product. My primary work mattered; the peripheral work did not.
In this upside down, the only work available to most of us is this peripheral work.
And that fact gives me hope. Read on.
Here’s the thing.
The best task you can do right now is take care of you. And let’s be honest…you need more care now than usual. It’s been hard. It’s been REALLY hard.
You’re overwhelmed. You feel powerless. You’re scared. You worry about your friends, your family, and the barista at your favorite coffee shop. You worry about your bank account. You’re worried about your aging parents. And that line cook at Dennys. And, and, and…
So I say take a breath. Don’t worry about The Things You’re Supposed To Do. Do a bit more of what you want to do. And if it feels right, do a bit more of nothing. That other stuff will still be there if and when you need it… And remember, it’s not as important as you think. Sleep in and read Harry Potter. Allow yourself to just….process. Sorting through our new world is exhausting. Give yourself permission to not accomplish anything. Productivity schmoductivity.
If working gives you mental relief, then feel good about doing that work. But go ahead and admit that all of those projects you’re doing might fill your days, but they probably won’t be as pivotal to your future as you’d guess. You can opt out of the the added stress from Getting Things Done.
We’re seeing world history in the making. This is big. It’s ok to be sad. It hurts. It’s scary. And the uncertainty we face is a challenge to everything we know. So again, give yourself a chance to be still and just process. To heal. To take care of you.
I have hope.
You’ll get through this. Answers will present themselves. Things will start up again. You’ll adapt and adopt. Neither of us know what your future is, but I KNOW you’ll be ok.
And you’ll be busy again. REALLY busy. That phone will start ringing, you’ll be serving your clients again and making a difference again. I promise.
And when this darn thing is over, you’ll be glad you didn’t push too hard. Because when it starts again, you’re gonna need the extra energy.
Understand that there is no wrong answer. If you wanna start a big project and it gives you joy, go for it. If you want to focus on drinking hot cocoa, that’s ok too. Both paths lead to the same place.
All of that peripheral stuff is optional. But taking care of yourself is not.
Here’s Why You Matter
I’m a motivational speaker. I’m supposed to know the right things to say and write. But I don’t. I don’t have the answers…. Except for one.
The single thing I KNOW to be true now more than ever is that the most important thing you can do is to help others. They are even more overwhelmed than you are. They are even more upset than you are. They need somebody to care for them, to encourage them, and to love them.
And you’re good at helping others.
And best of all, as I teach in my keynotes, helping others is selfish. Sure your positivity helps them, and that’s important. But the very act of serving helps YOU even more. It increases your sense of meaningfulness and purpose, and that leads to a bump in your scientific level of happiness.
So make that encouraging call. Be a listener. Be a source for positivity. Because you have time. Because they need you. And because you need to be useful.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Next time you read about how others are creating amazing new programs, books, curriculums, learning new languages, mastering French cuisine, and doing 1,000 push ups a day, feel free to call Bull. Productivity is not the most important thing during this zombie apocalypse.**
The most important thing you can do is to stay safe, stay sane, heal, and be a leader in helping others.
You’ve got this. I believe in you.
* Yeah it’s an oversimplification…but you can forgive me, right?
** I did, however, fall in love with Mexico and Mexicans, and learned how to make an awesome Michelada.
*** I still have a few copies of HUMOR COLLEGE in the basement. Hit me up and I’ll make you a deal!
**To be fair I haven’t seen an actual zombie yet. But looking for them gives me something to do.