As I have previously written, I try to focus in this space on productivity and success, mostly in terms of techniques and ways to handle specific situations. But as with most aspects of your work and your life, there are also some extremely helpful general principles that can bring you important benefits.
I covered some in an earlier post. Let’s go over a few more of them right now:
Don’t Rely on a Veil of Excuses
Making the occasional, fully warranted excuse is OK. But if you find yourself supporting too many of your deliverables, actions, decisions, or ideas with excuses or reasons they’re not better, you’re kidding yourself.
After the first one or two, no one believes your excuses, anyway. And even when one is accepted as valid, your excuses won’t always stay attached to your work as it gets passed around among more and more people who experience and evaluate it. Regardless of what you say or do, your work essentially stands or falls on its own merits.
You’ll make far more progress toward larger opportunities, therefore, if you simply deliver your best work as often as you can and let it speak for itself.
Look Backward as Often as You Look Forward
Most of us are trained to keep an eye on the future, scanning for such things as opportunities, obstacles, and pitfalls. That’s a good strategy. But too strong a focus on the future allows you to fall into the trap of forgetting where you came from, and how you got where you are.
Looking backward has two main benefits:
First, it allows you recognize and appreciate your current situation, and how far you have come from where you started. That’s a formula for gratitude.
Second, it allows you to keep track of your successes and accomplishments, what you’ve learned and what you have proven you can do. This is important because you’re not only as good as the last thing you’ve accomplished; you’re as good as the best thing you’ve accomplished. That’s a formula for confidence.
Looking back helps you recognize and appreciate the milestones you’ve passed, the effort you’ve put in, and the journey you’ve experienced. Although you are looking into the past, the combination of gratitude and confidence this produces can help you move farther and faster into the future.
Own Your Feelings
No matter how logical, reasonable, and rational you may be, or try to be, you’re an emotional creature. That’s why you should cultivate a deeper awareness of your feelings, and try hard to accept what you’re feeling without an effort to change, control, or deny any of them.
Those emotions not only color your reaction to events in your work and your life, they can help drive you toward greater productivity and success.
Fight Against Personal Comparisons
No two people are alike. What’s more, no one else started exactly where you did, or is heading exactly where you are. That’s why comparing yourself to anyone else is unlikely to help you feel better or become a better person.
Because of the survivorship bias, many of these comparisons will yield feelings of inferiority. Others will yield feelings of superiority. Yet neither of these feelings is warranted.
A better approach is to recognize your own uniqueness and trust that other people are different from you in ways – often hidden from view – that render any direct comparison worthless, or even foolish. Instead, practice your empathy by enjoying the successes of people who seem to be doing better than you, and by offering help and support to those who seem to be doing worse than you.
The more you make use of your empathy, the less you’ll be involved in misguided comparisons.
Maintain a Bias for Action
Observing, thinking, and planning are all valuable foundations for productivity and success. But so is a bias for action.
This doesn’t mean you should run off half-cocked every time you have a stray thought. But it does mean you should avoid “analysis paralysis.”
Instead, think in terms of putting your ideas into effect as soon as you can see a sensible way forward. This way forward need not be perfect. You need not see all the way to the goal. You need not have all the resources you’ll require, nor all the skills or information called for. But every step you take creates opportunities to see more, attempt more, and accomplish more.
That’s why a simple bias for sensible action rather than continued study and thought tends to bolster your productivity and success. Sensible action produces at least some results, better information, and more experience. It also has the potential to attract support and to clarify issues that are much more difficult to resolve through research alone.
Of course, you probably can’t or won’t immediately implement all these suggestions. Some of them may not feel right for you. Some of them may be too difficult or daunting at the moment. That’s OK. The point of this discussion is simply to offer you these ideas so you can consider putting them into effect whenever and wherever they best apply.
When you do, you’ll find they generally yield major benefits as you tackle additional challenges and take advantage of upcoming opportunities.
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