I still remember the first day someone handed me the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was instantly curious. Although I was only 19 years old, I wanted to live a life that mattered. I wanted a life that was effective. Although some of the concepts and verbiage was difficult to fully grasp as a 19 year old, still much of the book just made sense.
This began a life-long journey of personal productivity for me. We only have one journey in this life. Life is like a vapor. You’re only 19 once. You get one shot at it. Now as I reflect back, I can begin to see how some of the pieces have fit together. We don’t always see that looking forward. The same is true with what I have learned about personal productivity.
There are just some timeless laws that will never change. No matter how much we want to resist them. The same is true with gravity. We all face it and we can’t defy it (unless we are Michael Jordan). This reality caused me to begin to think about what other timeless laws there are when it comes to personal productivity.
The truth is I could write a book about these laws (and I just may)! The sooner you embrace these truths, the better off you are.
The 9 Timeless Laws of Personal Productivity
#1 – The Law of Responsibility
In religious circles we call this the Law of Sowing and Reaping. Your actions lead to behaviors and your behaviors lead to consequences. We so often focus on the negative, but the same is true for the positive.
Right habits lead to right behaviors, which lead to right results. This truth will never change. It was true for Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, and it will be true for you.
As I have said repeatedly on this blog, you are the sum of your habits. Change your habits and you can change your future results.
#2 – The Law of the Path
This one is closely connected to the first, but slightly different. Whether you realize it or not, you are headed in a direction. The bottom line is either you set goals or let someone else set them for you. If you aren’t intentional about where you are going in life, you will drift. That current comes from the world’s expectations for us. Don’t believe me? Statistics say that close to 80% of the workforce dislikes their job. They see work as a necessary evil and work is only good for giving us a few days off on the weekends. They are just living the expectations the world has set for them.
You can have all the best intentions in the world, but they mean nothing. Your actual direction leads to the destination. You can have the best intentions of being a good spouse, but what you actually do is what matters most.
#3 – The Law of the Simple
This is also referred to as Occam’s law. You can look it up and research it. The essence of the law is that the easiest solution is almost always the best solution. We can often over-complicate projects, situations, products, and software. This is especially true in the world of technology that we live in. We can easily develop “the shiny objects syndrome.” The truth is the easier solution just might be the best way.
This is ultimately why the paper and pen to do list will never become outdated. There is power in writing things down by hand. That doesn’t mean we should shun any form of technology. What this law is teaching us is that for the sake of progress choose simple.
#4 – The Law of Priorities
The importance of establishing priorities in your life will never go away. There will always be a need to discover and consider the “big rocks” in your life. The Pareto Principle is a fascinating law. Also known as the 80/20 principle of productivity, it states that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your actions. Discovering those areas of focus that lead you to the 80% of results can be life-altering.
Take blogging as an example. If you have ever tried to get a blog off the ground, then you understand the type of undertaking that is involved. From the outset it seems like such a simple endeavor. You quickly discover that you can spend a ton of time on things that don’t really matter. What ultimately matters is the quality and consistency of the content you produce. Think about your work right now. What are those top 20 % of activities that make the most difference in your business? Spend the majority of your day there.
#5 – The Law of Franklin
“Early to bed early to rise, can make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” This has oft been attributed to Ben Franklin. The concept of rising early is an interesting study. Even if you do not consider yourself to be a morning person, I would strongly urge you to give it a try. One of the most powerful reasons why I believe it works so well has to do with focus. The enemy of focus is interruptions. The average worker is faced with distractions all day long. At 5:30 am there just aren’t that many distractions. No one is calling you. No one is looking for you. It’s just you and whatever you want to get absorbed into. There is something beautiful about getting your biggest tasks done for the day when most people are just starting their day.
#6 – The Law of Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. He constantly felt a pull between urgency and importance. Sometimes what is urgent is not really that important. Out of the Eisenhower Principle has come the famous time management matrix (see photo). This law helps you to establish what it is that you need to do today, what you need to schedule for later, what you need others to do for you, and what you need to avoid doing all together.
#7 – The Law of Parkinson
Parkinson’s Law is probably one of the most transformational principles of personal productivity that I have learned. The law states “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, we often make a project bigger than it needs to be. If we tell ourselves we have 12 months to write a book, it will take us 12 months to write a book. If we challenge ourselves to write a novel in 30 days, we can write the first draft of our novel in 30 days. The NaNoWriMo is a great example of this. Each year the organization challenges writers to complete their novel idea in 30 days by writing a pre-determined word count daily. This works because of the Law of Parkinson.
#8 – The Law of Momentum
Going along with the Parkinson’s law is the Law of the Big Mo. I love to work in what I call “focus sessions.” During a focus session I intentional choose not to multi-task. I have a single purpose. All other distractions can wait until I complete my focus session. Once I am finished, I take a break. I allow myself some intentional down time, which brings me to the last law.
#9 – The Law of the Sabbath
Rest is the most under-estimated principle of productivity. Have we forgotten we are human? Even the most productive person you know has no choice but to lay his/her head down daily to rest. The law of rest is universal. I like a quote from Sharon Sarmiento: ”Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to take the day off.” God instituted this principle upon creation. After 6 days of creation, God rested. Did he rest because He was tired? Nope. He was being an example for us. He was also admiring the beauty of this world and declared that it was good.
Question: What timeless laws of personal productivity have you noticed? Please share in the comments below.