Productivity in a World of Disorder

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The universe is full of expanding disorder.

Don’t believe me, believe the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that the level of disorder in the universe is steadily increasing.

Through the use of human knowledge, we have created pockets of order within this universe of disorder. For example, while it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, it’s a comfortable 73 degrees in my office — thanks to human knowledge, which created climate control technology.

Knowing this, it’s important to realize there are things we can control (the climate within my office), and things we cannot control (the weather outside).

Human anxiety is often exacerbated when we focus on the latter — constantly thinking and worrying about those things outside of control. Worrying about the disorder. Perhaps thinking (wrongly) that we can magically create order throughout the world.

For example, when we first moved to Charleston, SC after having lived in the landlocked Midwest for most of our lives — we paid close attention any time a hurricane formed in the Atlantic Ocean. We would remain glued to The Weather Channel for a week before the storm hit (or didn’t hit), growing anxious as we watched the path of destruction of the storm in the Caribbean and Florida.

We learned to tune out.

It’s not that we don’t care about what’s happening to the victims of the storm. It’s that we can’t do anything about it. Instead, we now focus on the things we can control — evacuation plans, preparing the house, etc.

Social media and the 24/7 cable news culture makes it easy for us to focus on the disorder of the world and those things outside of our control. Despite the fact that the world is improving — global poverty and violence have plummeting over the past century — news and the Internet bring us the worst news from across the world almost instantaneously.

It’s not that we don’t care about people in pain, or in poverty, or victims of shootings — it’s that there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome of these situations. And, if we go by what is reported, we’d think these instances are growing when, as I stated before, poverty and violence in the world are decreasing.

So then we come to the issue of our productivity. Often, we are unproductive — victims of “busy” —  because we’re focusing on all the things we can’t control. We pile disorder (a daily task list of 20 things) on top of the disorder that already exists in our day. 

How, then, can we create little systems of order in a disorderly world?

Superpowers: Instead of spending your days working within activities and tasks that for us to work in our zone of weakness, truly define our talents, invest in them to turn them into strengths, and amplify them to turn them into Superpowers. When we’re in our Superpowers Zone, we’re more efficient, things come more naturally, and we have a better quality of life.

Vision: Instead of going through life (and our days) like a pinball, bouncing from tactic to tactic and objective to objective without a clear guiding star — have a clear vision that serves as your desired destination.

Alignment: Truly define what you want your life to look like — a life in which your relationships, family, and self are aligned. Parkinson’s Law holds that the time to complete a project “magically” equals the time we allot to it. So if you allot 10 hours per day for work, you’ll string out your work and fill that time. If you define hours in the day for your self-care and relationships, however, you’ll limit your time at work, be more efficient, and be truly productive.

Outcomes: Know the three outcomes you need to achieve each day/week/month/year. Yes, just three. This allows you to know what it takes to win the day — and it allows for the unpredictable disorder that will happen during your day. When you plan for 20 to-dos, but then the bridge goes out on the way to work, your kids get sick, the electricity goes out, etc. you’re setting yourself up for failure by failing to acknowledge that disorder happens. Three outcomes. That’s it.

Flow: The cumulative impact of the first four points above will put you in a stsate of flow. The “hustle and grind pornographers” would have you believe that the grind is good. Well, the grind is disorder. It’s why so many people fit the hours of work in a twelve hour day. When you flow, you’re truly productive, instead of…well…disorderly.

You’re never going to bring order to the entire world. It just isn’t going to happen.

By following the principles above, however, you’ll be able to create pockets of order within your life to become truly productive.

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