Google “productivity training,” and you will get a swarm of results offering to teach you how to manage your time better, be productive, and get results. The majority of these trainings focus on wrangling your unclear and inefficient work habits into pristine, exact forms that hold distraction and procrastination at bay. These structures are, in part, designed to override the parts of you that are easily distracted and quick to avoid the discomfort associated with sustained effort. With conventional productivity enhancement, you make a map and surrender to it. Prioritize intelligently and focus one-pointedly and you will achieve the success you seek.
Along these lines have emerged a host of apps designed to block you from yourself. As strange as it may sound, these apps prevent you from using your own social media, text messaging, and even your email. Similar to productivity training, these are external structures designed to divide your goals from your more impulsive facets. You may have a noble mission to save a few acres of rainforest while another part of you is ensnared in a more socialized commitment of meandering your Facebook news feed. Perhaps you are simply over-checking your email while your project goes untouched and precious time leaks into the void. Whatever the distraction, self-blocking apps are tools for managing a mind that is divided between competing commitments.
Sacrificing the ebb and flow of your immediate personal desire to a greater aim is essential. In fact, to do so is to exhibit a defining feature of adult development.
However, wrangling your way to productivity in the above ways only treats surface symptoms. Consider this form of self-management to be an excessive use of force and, perhaps, a step in the wrong direction. You have a much bigger beast on your hands. Your factions are divided; you are at war with yourself. Fighting this battle day in day out takes tremendous energy; perhaps more than you’ve got. Exclusively focusing on outcomes and cramming yourself into a shape that will produce those outcomes is a recipe for burnout. Running on fumes in this way is a low-performance approach.
Caffeine, a powerful drug which operates by juicing the flight or flight hormones from you endocrine glands, pervades the professional world in an ambiance of intoxication. Sleep deprivation has become a norm that spans all age groups.1 The pharmaceutical industry is pumping out new variations on anti-anxiety and insomnia medication faster than doctors can prescribe them. This kind of physiological derailment is the worst-case approach for self-management and productivity.2 For many, unfortunately, it is the norm.
Both high productivity and burnout may be luring you away from something precious; they may be decoys.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not dissing external management structures; they’re essential. The more integrated they are, the more refined your performance and productivity. However, conventional time management, prioritizing, and effort will by themselves never lead to the satisfaction imagined and will often leave you exhausted.
There is a bigger source of aliveness and unimaginable success beyond conventional productivity. I call it your vital purpose. Vital purpose simply means what you are here to do. Parts of this can be known, others will likely always remain beyond your reach. The good news is that you‘re standing at the gate; your vital purpose is closer to you than the very text on this page. The bad news is that no external structures, be it productivity or distraction, can grant you access. You must hunt alone.
Accessing your vital purpose requires you to magnify and hone your personal and professional life towards the stalking of your own heart.
I encourage you to read that sentence again and let its ambiguity penetrate you beyond your desire to understand. Not hunting the heart of your purpose with all facets of your life, you are working in oblivion. Participating in culturally scripted purpose beyond the appropriate age is a prison for your mind. As an adult member of this complex world you are being called to inhabit a location beyond even the most noble script. All beings of this world mutely summon you to this with their suffering.
“You do not govern now only your own small, insignificant existence . . . Everything you do reverberates throughout a thousand destinies. As you walk, you cut open and create that river bed into which the stream of your descendants shall enter and flow.” -Nikos Kazantzakis
Do not write off this voice as idealistic or unrealistic. To do so is to side with a deception of nearly infinite magnitude. You must decide what your life is worth. With your death right around the corner (and it is right around the corner, perhaps closer), you do not have the luxury of stalking your vital purpose with anything less than fury. This fury is your entire life force. Every plunge of your heart valves pushes a novel demand through your body mind calling you to enact its purpose. Don’t worry, you are not in control of this process. You are being summoned to participate as its friend. Seek to find this invisible thread and pull…
Stalking your own heart will develop you. Your purpose will be clear, on the spot, moment to moment as well as towards your future vision. From this place, you and productivity are no longer in conflict; you are not separate. At your side will be a force far superior to any conventional productivity.
If you have read this far and are a little less certain of yourself, this is good; you are ready to begin hacking the code of your mind and make some upgrades that are generally not available. If you have already begun, I’m assuming you’re like me: always hungry for more upgrades.
Vital purpose means vital terrain. To gain waking access to this terrain, you will need to penetrate the experiential level beyond the fixed contents of your symbolic mind. Historically, this territory has been regarded as “secret,” or difficult to access. It is neither. It is only that few are courageous enough to enter and stay in these greater currents of aliveness and purpose. If you have made it this far, chances are that you are among these few.
Take inventory of what your life has meant to you up to this moment. How fierce is the life-force pushing through you? Anything less than an 11 on a ten scale and you may be left in cinders.
1. Most adults, teens, and even young children are chronically sleep deprived. The effects of sleep deprivation have been well studied and the results are not looking good. Cognitive and psychiatric impairments, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes have all been linked to sleep deprivation. Hereditary dispositions to certain diseases are increased +30%.
a. Carpenter, S. "Sleep Deprivation May Be Harming Teen Health." Monitor On Psychology. October, 2001. Vol. 32, No. 9, p.32. Print b. Weintraub, Pamela. "The Healing Power of Sleep." Experiencelife.com, March 2013. Web.
2. For a neurobiological view of this worst-case “stay-up-and-medicate” approach to productivity read chapter 18, How leaders direct attention. in Daniel Goleman’s book “Focus: The hidden driver of excellence”
Goleman, Daniel. “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.” Harper. 2013
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