I remember the story told to me as a student in school, of the fast hare and slow tortoise. In the story, the speedy hare started the race strong, but the tortoise was ultimately able to beat it slowly and steadily. Although I found the story interesting, it failed to leave a mark on me.
My personal experience seemed to suggest the opposite–the fast hares tend to win consistently while the slow tortoises struggle along forever. I recently read a book, however, which has made me believe the hare and tortoise story.
The book, titled Longevity Plan, narrates the lives of centenarians living in a Chinese village. After reading about longevity village, named for the high number of centenarians living there, I have faith in the slow and steady path. This is because, the book suggests that one way of living beyond a hundred years is to keep calm and carry on, as a famous car bumper sticker also proclaims.
The principal author of the book, Dr. John Day, is a cardiologist who used the lessons learned in China to transform his health and lifestyle. He explains that before his visit, Dr. Day falsely believed that he had a healthy lifestyle and the Chinese experience taught him a different approach to healthy living.
In this book, he outlines these as seven life-changing principles. I have used his lessons to create a template about how anyone can become more productive slowly and steadily, live a more wholesome life and not burn out.
Just like Dr. Day looks outside the box, to come up with a new game plan regarding health, my model of productivity takes a different approach compared to more mainstream beliefs regarding what it takes to be productive.
Step 1- Have a broader vision
This is more than just a goal. It is an awareness of an individual’s ultimate destination, and the ability to look at immediate tasks using the lens of this plan. When someone has a sense of where they are going, it is easier to keep up the effort of following incremental productivity strategies.
The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel not only seems nearer, but the path to that goal is more apparent than it would have been otherwise. A broader vision also helps to light up the passion when the going gets tough, and there is a desire to give up on daily tasks.
Step 2 – Have a master plan
While the vision is an idea, the master plan is the implementation of this idea. If your larger image is to work for ten years and then become a teacher or coach, the master plan would be a yearly breakdown of how to achieve this goal through strategic action.
Daily tasks will flow out of the master plan, which is a high-level outline to reach the desired target while the functions address the actual specifics that need accomplishing.
Step 3 – Achieve goals regularly
This implies that one should not stop performing, no matter what the circumstances might be on a given day. Even if one can implement only one of many productivity strategies, like the slow and steady tortoise, the objective should be to keep working at it.
A constant assessment of goal achievement should also be part of the plan. Daily productivity actions should ideally lead to the accomplishment of goals set earlier.
Step 4 – Create a dedicated team
A sense of belonging adds to the feeling of accomplishment derived from a productivity strategy. Group work is more rewarding, in other words than being solitary. In certain situations, however, team building may not be a feasible option. This could be due to the nature of the tasks undertaken or the inability to pay salaries to a team.
If team building is indeed not possible, a connection to a broader community is desirable. Without a community to reach out to, the stress of a demanding routine can be a lot more taxing.
Step 5 – Produce quality work
Aiming high increases the chances of being innovative, more confident and achieving success. It is also an inspiration to work harder and be more productive.
Step – Enjoy work in all circumstances.
It is all about the journey as they say, rather than the result. Such an attitude reduces stress, keeps the morale high and lowers the chances of giving up mid-stream.
Step 7 – Take care of one’ physical condition
Health is wealth, as they say, and mainly while trying to lead a productive life. So, instead of assuming that one’s body will gladly follow the demands of a productive routine, the approach should be to maintain a healthy body shape. Your body needs to be able to support a productive life.
Good physical condition not only improves the quality of work, but it also enhances psychological well being. Physical conditioning involves maintaining a healthy diet and following a regular exercise regimen. Finally, observe your body for signs of fatigue or more serious ailments.
The overall hope is that these steps to productivity should lead to a more fulfilling life, without giving up on achieving one’s potential. It is important to remember, however, as Dr. Day also explains in the context of the Chinese village, that it is best not to overthink productivity.
Just like the centenarians who don’t scrutinize their lifestyle constantly. As implied in steps three and six above, the motto should be to keep at it and have an enjoyable time.
More importantly, this approach to productivity is neither overtly mechanical nor completely unplanned. It is calculated, planned, while also having a comfortable rhythm that allows the individual to relax. It allows you to have fun and savor the journey towards their goal.