Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Learn a Productivity System Part 5: Evaluate Life Dreams

When we think about productivity, we might think about being busy. That is an inaccurate view of productivity.

Productivity is achieving the most important things in life while avoiding the pitfalls of busy work and unproductive meaningless time wasting endeavors.

Productivity definition

So if you’re not yet keenly aware of the most important things, then that’s a very good place start. If you’re already aware of the most important things, then it’s good to revisit them to make sure you continue to move in the right direction.

Identifying the most important things

The following two exercises will help you identify some of your core desires in life. These exercises strip away things that are just about prestige and outward appearance.  

Yes, I want to own a Porsche 911, but it actually doesn’t appear on the core list of what I want to achieve during my living years. A Porsche cannot help me leave a legacy so it is not on the ‘got-to-have’ list.

Give these two exercises a try for building your core desires. If you already have a most important list, is it time to revisit it? Compare these exercise results to your existing list. Are there any differences? 

Why do you think some things made the list and others didn’t?

Time Travel to Your 80th Birthday

80th birthday cake

Envision your 80th birthday party. In this self-created visualization consider the location, the people, and the conversations you’ll have with those attending the party. You might need to close your eyes.

For me, I placed my 80th birthday party in my backyard and visualized my wife, my daughters, my grand-kids, my extended family, and my friends. I thought about my own character and legacy and the character of my children and grandchildren. 

Another addition to the exercise would be to visualize your professional accomplishments. It could be the successful sale of a business, the retirement from a company after attaining a certain leadership position, or perhaps the accomplishment of a significant goal that impacts the world.

In your visualization you can also think about:
  • Things still on your bucket list
  • Health goals
  • Travel
These results are the core of why you want to be productive.

To discover the real dreams in your life requires considerable introspection.

Write down your thoughts on paper or in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Through the years I’ve added, removed or refined different aspects of it. Revisiting it annually moves me into a mindset where I can be more focused on the things that matter.

What Do They Say at Your Funeral?

In the exercise above, you envision a living legacy. You can see, hear, feel, and interact with your surroundings. This activity is a retrospective on your life.

There are several approaches you can take to talk about your non-living legacy.  

1.  Think about attending a funeral. It’s quiet and respectful. People are seated and someone is ready to speak at the front. But as you look into the coffin you realize this is your funeral. Consider who you would like to speak and what they would say.

2. Write your own obituary, but include more insightful things than just “survived by” and “lived at.” Go deep enough to bring out your legacy. What you want to leave after you pass on can be a serious guiding post to your core dreams.

Wow. That’s Different Than I Expected

There are some interesting things on my bucket list: trip to Italy, vacation in Tahiti, own a 1978 Porsche 911 Carrera RS, do an Olympic Distance Triathlon, watch the Formula One US Grand Prix Live, race a motorcycle, and many others.

In contrast, the two exercises resulted in things like “Happy, healthy, and wise children and grandchildren” or “a solid contribution in the market of productivity services that saved people millions of minutes over their lifetime.”

Evaluating your legacy gives a clue as to what dreams are truly the most valuable to you.  
Stephen Covey’s 2nd Habit in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Know the End from the Beginning.” It’s a fancy way of saying do some planning.

When it comes to identifying your legacy, you’re doing meta planning. That’s effectively asking yourself what matters most and then providing a good solid answer.

The Core is Ready, Now What?

Once you’ve come up with a high, tactile version of your living and non-living legacies you’re ready to address the parts that make the dream happen.

Dreams can be hard to break down into parts because achieving dreams seems impossible. Dreaming doesn’t take any special effort or discipline, but reaching your dreams requires you to decompose the dream into small bite size chucks. For some concrete steps in breaking down dreams into goals and goals into plans, see the previous article, “How to Learn a Productivity System Part 4: Goals.” 

What About My Bucket List?

Don’t throw away your bucket list. Just know how it fits into the priority of things that matter most. 

For example, I had the dream of running a marathon. It was about 5 years of small steps that finally took me to the end goal in 2014. This happened to align with my desire to lead a healthy, fit life, so it didn’t take me in the opposite direction of my core dreams.

Please write a comment about what you discovered while doing these exercises. Did anything surprise you?