Productivity

Systems are beautiful. They organise fragmented parts of a whole into sections which can be calculated, processed and understood separately.

Systems take chaos and churn it into order.

But we can get lost in systemisation. A good system generates resource for the users of the system; the amount of time and energy it takes to run is less than that it would take to do the same job without the system. Occasionally, those obsessed with perfecting the system can end up spending more time managing the system than it would take to actually do the work.

We see this style of faffing in too many important organisations who are dedicated to doing good things; we can never afford to let our passion for process get in the way of our desires of execution.

Outcomes come first. Without them, your planning means nothing.

It’s easy, in times of great distraction, to lose sight of the things most important to our own personal senses of worth and value; but there are fewer practices more essential than those which make us who we are.

We are what we do. We should do what we want to be.

If your team can’t read your spreadsheet, it’s not a useful spreadsheet; if you’re only available to attend meetings you call, you’re not available; and if you’re only present for the conversations in which you get to have the loudest voice, you aren’t present.

Order and organisation are only worthwhile when they serve a collective.

It’s our own responsibility to ensure our ways of working and cooperating are useful to those around us.

Until you’ve mastered your craft, you will be prone to regular and potentially costly mistakes.

It is in your opponent’s best interest to force you to make these mistakes as often as possible. They do this by applying pressure.

Pressure comes in many forms. An opponent might pressure you by manipulating your perception of the time you have (or don’t have); by raising the intensity of their own play, demanding your reaction; by raising the stakes of the play, putting more on the line; or by simply apply force through leverage they have over you.

Adapting quickly to pressure is a hallmark of a great competitor; but no-one develops an aptitude for negotiating pressure without being forced into mistakes countless times over.

It’s how those mistakes are processed which separate the good from the great.

Truly great players relish opportunities to grow, seizing them with all the tenacity they can muster.

It doesn’t always make sense to buy in bulk.

Buying twenty batteries instead of five makes sense, as long as you’ve got something to put them in. But over-ordering flyers for a one time event just because you might get a better unit price is insanity. The fliers will end up in a bin, and your money in the hands of the printer for no reason.

Same goes for ideas. Rapid fire brainstorming, huge gant charts and methodical step-by-step planning is completely neccessary for certain projects, and totally unnecessary for others.

There is no margin for error or estimation in a space launch, but there is plenty in the first iteration of your website design.

We learn more by testing our ideas than we ever will be hoarding them.

What’s worse than mediocrity?Insincere competence.

If we become embarrassed by the quality of our work, the answer is not to embellish it with dishonest confidence; the answer is to do better work.

When it comes time to reveal what we’ve accomplished, the quality of our work is no longer up to us. It’s only in the doing that we have any control, at all.

Humility pays dividends whenever we could have done better; and we can always do better.

Losing is painful, but only when you could have won. Winning is invigorating, but only when you could have lost. Every now and then, a brutally fought for draw is more productive than either.

Our enjoyment of any game comes from the succesful overcoming of struggle.

We thrive when we’re on the ropes.

Re-starting or returning to an activity or craft can be harder than starting it in the first place.

We hold resistance towards the idea that we need to redo or relearn things which we’ve already invested time into attaining once.

But the resistance is always worse than the actual experience. Past knowledge speeds up relearning exponentially – and rapid growth builds momentum.

Climbing back onto the horse is a challenge, but it sure beats walking home.

The pressure, intent and passion for honing and creating pulsates through the veins of every creative mind. Jane Hirshfield painted a picture of what practice look and feels like when she said:

“Violinists practicing scales and dancers repeating the same movements over decades are not simply warming up or mechanically training their muscles. They are learning how to attend unswervingly, moment by moment, to themselves and their art; learning to come into steady presence, free from the distractions of interest or boredom.”

– Jane Hirshfield

The artists life is that of unswerving attendance. Only through genuine prescence can one articluate what it is to be alive. Repetition is not the practice, it is a symptom of dedication and focus; of the resistance of interest or boredom.

It never is. You always have until the last whistle, or the final point.

Even when that final moment doesn’t go your way, even when you lose in the most embarrassing fashion, there is always the next game (for as long as you continue to play).

The game only stops when you do. Stop after a loss, and you lose; persist, and you might just be that little sharper next game.