Sunday, 23 July 2017

Secrets of productivity from the Stoics



                      By Bayo Ogunmupe
    Everybody wants more of the right things done. But how does Stoicism fit into this? The word productivity seems new and sleek; and Stoicism is old, ancient. Facebook and email may be recent but people have always wasted time and their lives throughout history. But smart people have been thinking of how to stop wasting their time and maximizing their time. Most productivity advice is focused on work. 
    Following such advice feels like you are turning to a machine. No one wants to become the transformer machine. A more pragmatic approach to getting your jobs done is very useful, because sometimes you don't get your duties done early enough. You want to have fun hanging out with friends, much of which get shoved off the calendar by the work schedule. 
      As we shall see, the productivity beliefs of the Stoics are actually backed by modern science. They advise: protect your time like your money. This correlates with the old saying, time is money. If people come to you all day asking for N500. You will tell them to get lost, But people do come up to you all day in person, by email, by text messages or call preying on your time. And you just hand it over to them.
      However, the great Stoic philosopher, Seneca rebukes every time you offer up an hour of your day without thinking it through. No person hands out his money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives. We're tightfisted with property and money, yet we think too little of wasting time, the only thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.
    Moreover, research has shown that your mood drastically affects how much you accomplish. You procrastinate the most when you are in a bad mood, and think you can improve it with something funny. So procrastination is a mood management technique, albeit like eating or taking drugs, a shortsighted drive. But we're most prone to it when we think it will actually help. Never manage your mood by procrastinating.  
    As yourself what beliefs underlie your feelings and question them. Are you afraid of the task? Does the task have a knife pointed at you? Perhaps you are afraid you will do a lousy job of it. However, you are going to do an even worse job if you do not get started. Change your beliefs and you change your feelings. Change your feelings and you get more done. Better do an important task first than doing an urgent one. You usually know what's important; but often you do something else, that is right in front of you or screaming for your attention.
    Often, less than wisdom, you do what's easy or urgent, not what matters the most. The Stoics say, it is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth; for then you wont tire and give up; if you are not buying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed. Since the vast majority of our words and actions are unnecessary, corralling them will create an abundance of leisure and tranquility.
    As a result we shouldn't forget at each moment to ask, is this one necessary? Even here, productivity gurus like Peter Drucker and Tim Fernss agree that doing something well does not make it important. This is one of the problems of time management and productivity advice. A vast majority of things people do quickly should not be done at all; because they are unimportant.
    Another ritual the Stoics recommend is focus on effort, not the outcome. The  Stoics think you don't have control over anything but your own choices. And if you have no control over something you shouldn't worry about it. Worrying over things you cannot control is wasted time and energy. Always worry about things you have control over, never on other things. Always focus on the effort, not the outcome. Heavens alone know the importance of our efforts.

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