|Today, I’m pleased to introduce guest-author Michael Sampson, a workplace collaboration expert and accomplished author. In this post Michael puts a unique spin on maximizing your own productivity.|
As an author, my favorite line in the Lord of the Rings movie is spoken by Bilbo, after Gandalf has turned up at Bag End. They’ve briefly talked about past deeds, and then Gandalf asks Bilbo where he’s going next. Bilbo’s answer has become a line I repeat frequently to myself – with the same far off look in the eye too: “I just want to find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.”
The line has become meaningful to me because I’ve come to appreciate the deeper meaning of the word “quiet.” And for anyone wanting to be productive and effective, embracing the meaning of the word quiet will have a major impact on what you get done.
First, Bilbo needed somewhere quiet on the ears.
External noise – be that just sounds that enter our physical ears, or interruptions from people demanding a slice of our time – blunt the sharp edge of great work. Being able to sit in the quiet libraries at Rivendell, while enveloped in the natural white noise emanating from the waterfalls surrounding the elfish stronghold, was good for Bilbo’s productivity. Constant knocks on the door from neighbors – “hanging on the doorbell” as he put his reality back at Bag End – became a thing of the past. The book got written.
Unfortunately, finding your own Rivendell is getting increasing difficult – cell phones follow us and provide an interruption wherever we are, wireless email and text messaging means we are always in touch, mobile devices like the iPad provide great opportunities for getting work done … or being drowned in a sea of interesting material on the Internet, YouTube, the App Store, the Amazon Kindle Store, and the list goes on.
The simple answer – for as long as you can, turn it off. Turn off your phone, your BlackBerry, or your iPad and focus on what you need to get done. If it’s a long project, check back in every couple of hours, but stop allowing yourself to be interrupted every 10 minutes.
Second, Bilbo needed somewhere quiet on the soul.
Rivendell offered a place of safety, away from the threats of Mordor and the inherent risks of owning the one ring. In this quiet environment, Bilbo was able to put his full concentration into getting his book written.
You and I need that place of safety too. Perhaps it’s a safe place – with a friend or two – to discuss wild and wacky ideas without fear of ridicule. Perhaps it’s a safe place – having enough money in the bank to cover the bills for the next 2 months – to really focus in on the major project, to write the draft of your book, to develop the next big thing in technology.
Perhaps it’s a safe place – closeted away in the corporate library away from your desk and the never-ending ding of email – to mind-map your presentation for the upcoming industry conference. Creating the conditions of having a quiet soul is vital to productivity.
Third, Bilbo needed somewhere quiet on the mind.
After he gave up the “one ring,” he headed to Rivendell to work on his “one thing.” One priority – getting the book written. One focus point – getting the book written. One deliverable – getting the book written. After I landed my first job out of university with a major corporate company inNew Zealand, I remember being shocked during a small group discussion with the CEO that he had “only 5-6 things to work on each year.”
At the time, I recall thinking that I had 5-6 things to work on each day – let alone each year – and that the CEO must be very lazy! With the passage of time, and the deeper appreciation for what he was saying, I’ve come to describe my work each year as being “5-6 things,” or ideally even less.
Perhaps 2-3 things are enough – doing great research, getting the next book written, and serving current and new clients with excellence. Competing priorities, having too much to do, trying to attempt too much at once – all of these decisions we make put us off balance, and leave us feverishly trying to … catch up, so we can keep up, so we can catch up, and keep up, and catch up, and stay on top of things. It’s a recipe for a lot of noise, unproductive behavior, stress, and ultimately burnout.
Perhaps unlike Bilbo, you’re not an author. But I’m pretty confident that you are like him in the ways of productivity – and his statement of ultimate productivity could be yours too. “I just need to find somewhere quiet – on the ears, on the soul, on the mind – where I can finish … my great work.”
Ask yourself: What are you doing to make it come true?
|Michael Sampson is passionate about helping organizations to make collaboration work. Based in New Zealand, he is globally recognized as a thought-leader on collaboration tools and strategies. He is the author of multiple books, including Seamless Teamwork (published by Microsoft Press), SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration and User Adoption Strategies.|
[photo by C. G. P. Grey]