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Why Productivity Is Failing You… (+ The Three Phases of Productivity)

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.

Tuesday, 6:46 AM
December 17, 2019

Hey friend,

So a few weeks ago we established that the biggest problem most people have is they don’t realise they have a great big productivity problem.

They spend much of their lives stumbling into battle, blindfolded, naked, armed with a soft rubber chicken and wondering why getting what they want feels so difficult.

Then last week we established that the second biggest problem people have is trying to “solve” productivity before structuring it.

They try to eat an elephant in one piece. 🐘

They collect random tools, tips and tricks; they gather mismatched puzzle pieces that don’t connect, work only sometimes or actually make life more complicated.

Then, after a couple of books/years/attempts to make it all work they give up on improving and slip back into problem number one. 👆

Now the first thing I want to tell you today (if all this sounds weirdly familiar) is that none of this stuff is your fault.

You weren’t taught this stuff in school, you haven’t had time to think deeply about it and the fact is (and I’ll come back to this shortly) I don’t think many people (including most best-selling “productivity gurus”) are approaching this right.

The second thing I want to do is start deconstructing productivity as I see it and the same way I teach all my students.

So here’s level 1…

At the top level, productivity breaks down into three phases:

  • Competence – Getting organised and getting stuff done;
  • Balance – Extending competence to every part of your life; and
  • Meaning – Clarifying why you’re here, where you’re going and why it matters.

Most of what you consider “productivity” falls within “competence“. This is the realm of task and time management; the bit that helps you be awesome at your job.

A LOT of good stuff has been written on competence (for more, check out books like Eat That Frog! or Goals by Brian Tracy or Getting Things Done by David Allen)

I’ll dive deeper into competence this Thursday so let’s leave it for now and turn our attention to balance and meaning.

Because balance and meaning are where most people struggle.

The young (25 – 38 yo) CEOs, execs and entrepreneurs I love working with are actually pretty competent. They manage large businesses, teams and complex processes with ease, poise and confidence.

And yet most of them struggle at life.

They can’t understand why success hasn’t fulfilled them; or why they feel anxious and empty; or why they can never do, accomplish or feel like they’re enough despite working really really hard.

Now, despite A LOT of good thinking on the topic (see Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey) many people STILL can’t make this stuff click.

They pick character traits or write mission statements that feel disconnected from this month or this week or tomorrow.

Or they treat competence, balance and meaning as trade-offs. “I can be a top performer OR have a life OR do something fulfilling,” they tell themselves, “but there’s no way I can have all three at once.

Which is crazy talk.

It also just plain ain’t true.

You CAN have your cake AND eat it.

You CAN be competent AND balanced AND live meaningfully.

The problem (and this is the third biggest problem people face) is simply this…

That no-one is connecting the dots.

Nobody (at least nobody I’ve discovered) is doing a great job at showing you how competence CREATES balance which CREATES meaning (and vice versa).

Nobody has a solution which gives you everything; a solution which just works and keeps working, year after year after year.

Nobody is connecting the three phases together with simple systems and processes as part of holistic, end-to-end productivity.

Which is frustrating.

Because competence, balance and meaning are like drums, strings and vocals.

YES – you can master them separately.

YES – you can enjoy each on its own.

But it’s bringing the three parts together; it’s understanding, it’s harmonising, it’s synchronising all three elements that unlocks the magic of action.

It’s connecting the dots that unleashes what no one part comes close to alone.

Now the good news is that I think I’ve come up with some answers.

Not because I’m special (I’ve been through all this stuff with you 👆).

Not because I’m better than Covey or Tracy or Allen (at least not yet 😉).

But because I turned up in the right place at the right time with the right opportunities and background to connect all their pieces together.

For an overall snapshot of the whole system (as well as a glimpse at how it’s transforming people’s lives) check out the landing page for TAoL‘s TRACKTION Productivity Masterclass.

But whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever your budget, rest assured that I’ll also keep sharing those answers with you for free, in these updates, in the coming weeks, months and years.

And that journey continues this Thursday as we break down the next level of competence.

That’s all for today. My breakfast is starting to get cold. 🤗

Until next time, have a great week, be awesome and go well 🙌

Arthur “Eat That Elephant Piece By Piece” Worsley
10:14 AM


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