November 3, 2015

What is Productivity?

With the job search going poorly, Hubby and I have made the decision to switch focus to growing the store. We lost a lot of momentum when I went to work on site full time in late 2013, and it is going to take a lot of work to get back to the point we were at then and keep growing. Experience and research has taught us what needs to be done, but knowing what to do and remembering to do it when you're years out of practice are two different things.

That's why I spent almost the entire morning yesterday planning. I found several conventions in the area we've never attended and reached out to them about obtaining a table or booth. I set up reminders about our scheduled and tentative shows, days I need to start making, release, and remove seasonal and holiday items, sales dates, writing and editing deadlines, and any other task I must remember to complete by specific days for the next eighteen months.

I was busy all morning long. I know booking conventions and speaking engagements are an important part of marketing both for the store itself and my books. I know I'd never keep up with all the different seasonal and holiday items or sales unless I set the reminders. Yet, at the end of the morning, the only concrete evidence I had anything at all was done were notations on a calendar and an answering email in the inbox. I'd accomplished a good bit of "housekeeping," but it felt like all my work amounted to nothing.

So, it's got me pondering. What is productivity?

I've seen blog posts and videos by business gurus saying to never write or answer emails in the morning, and avoid all social media until at least halfway through the day. The reason they give for this is these things are time sucks, and they reduce productivity throughout the day.

Is that always the case? True, I ran out of time to restock the eight or so mini batches of soap I had planned, and I only managed 711 of the 1700 words I'd hoped to add to The Icarus Project rough draft. It certainly felt as if I'd wasted the entire morning. But where would I be if I always put off reaching out to conventions, updating my calendar, and being present on social media in favor of making something?

I'm an artist with a backlog of ideas it'll take me at least a decade to get through. If I waited until all of them were finished to handle any of this "housekeeping," I wouldn't have a business when I got there. While there's no physical evidence anything was done, planning and paperwork are essential. Yet if planning and paperwork are all that's ever done, actual production doesn't happen either.

Maybe that's it. True productivity is a balance between housekeeping and making. Finding that balance is going to look different for everyone.

Personally, putting off the housekeeping until late in the day and using the morning to produce doesn't work so well. My most productive hours tend to be in the late morning and early afternoon. No matter how early I wake up, I don't really get going until around 10 am, and I start flagging around 4 pm. So tending to the literal housework, emails, and social media from 6-10 am works for me. It gives me time to wake up and loosen stiff joints, especially now that the mornings and evenings are turning cool. That makes me less likely to drop things or make silly mistakes when I start soaping, sewing, or writing during my peak hours.

We humans have rhythms unique to us as individuals. Some people really are more alert and productive early in the morning. Others aren't at their best until near midnight no matter when they go to bed or wake up. It's how we're made.

Traditional schooling and many jobs ignore this and treat us all like we're identical cogs in a machine. Perhaps the best thing about working for yourself and homeschooling is the ability to work with your unique rhythm. No matter what it is you do, you can maximize your personal productivity by doing so.

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