Everything you do is built on a triple foundation of: 1) human development, 2) culture, and 3) your personal environment.
Human development includes and reflects all the years that mankind has been learning, evolving, and developing all our current knowledge and capabilities.
Culture reflects all the values and experiences to which we’ve been exposed, including both the family and the society in which we grew up and currently operate.
Your personal environment includes all aspects of the various situations in which you find yourself. These are partly the result of circumstances and events beyond your control, and – crucially – partly the result of choices you’ve made.
You can’t do much about human development, culture, or the parts of your personal environment beyond your control. But you can – and certainly should – take a swipe at updating and improving whatever parts of your personal environment you can control. If you do this right, you can make changes to help at least this part of your personal environment better support your productivity and success.
Here are some ways to getting started:
People are profoundly important to your productivity and success. Most directly, they can be helpful both advising and working with you to tackle your tasks, projects, and goals. Through a combination of advice, information, resources, time, effort, and so forth, the right people can help you achieve far more than you could possibly accomplish on your own.
But the opposite is also true. The wrong people can hold you back, belittle or undermine your efforts, reduce your confidence, even steer you in unproductive, unnecessarily difficult, or destructive directions.
That’s why it’s important you scrutinize the people involved in your environment, and take active steps to get closer to the right ones and farther away from the wrong ones.
It’s not always easy to tell one from the other, but your gut feelings will often give you some clues.
For example, the right people tend to make you feel better about yourself, happier, more independent, and help you move closer to your goals. The wrong ones tend to do the opposite. The more time you spend with the wrong people, the worse you’ll begin to feel, and the worse results you’ll deliver.
Jim Rohn expressed this idea as: “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” This may not be literally true, but it’s a valid piece of advice, suggesting that one way to improve your personal environment for productivity and success is to upgrade some of the people in your posse.
In much the same vein, many people have said something along the lines of: “Show me your calendar and I’ll show you what you value.” This is not rocket science. It’s pretty obvious that what you choose to do (and not do) expresses, to a very great extent, what you want to accomplish.
This has certainly been true in my own life. During times of high motivation and great drive, I’ve tightly concentrated my time and effort on my most important tasks, projects, and goals. At other times – on vacation, during times of recovery and relaxation – I have spent most of my time and very little effort on idle pleasures and spur-of-the-moment whimsies. If you reflect on your own history, you’ll probably find you have done the same.
That’s why most productivity experts – and I join them in this – advocate and encourage spending time primarily and consistently on your most important tasks, projects, and goals. Just pile up the hours, experience shows, and accomplishments you care about tend to follow.
Note that being aware of what you want to accomplish isn’t enough. The trick, as I’m currently rediscovering, is also doing the necessary work.
Tools and Resources
Once you’ve got your people and your practices dialed in, you’ve more than half-won the battle. You can pump up your personal environment for productivity and success even further by assembling tools and resources you’ll need for the tasks, projects, and goals you have in mind.
Craftspeople know that the right tool makes the work go easier, saves time, and sometimes even allows you to produce results that would be impossible without it. Access to adequate and appropriate resources – whether we’re talking about money, knowledge, skills, experience, or something else – tend to grease the way for greater productivity and success.
What’s especially interesting is that these parts of your personal environment are intertwined: changing one often helps to change another, and improving just one can begin an upward spiral that carries you to heights of productivity and success in your work and your life that you may never before have dreamed possible.
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