“It’s simply not enough to just show up and do your work. Superior performance is not, never has been, nor will it ever be, the by-product of ordinary efforts.” -Gary Ryan
In any pursuit worth doing, there are always two battles:
- Showing up and doing the work
- Actually making good of that time
Many people like to talk about the first. However, very few people talk about the second.
You see this in today’s culture, with many people raving on about “hustling” or “putting in the hours” without any regard for what they’re actually doing in those hours.
Indeed, productivity is not doing lots of things fast, but instead, purposefully and consistently moving in a desired direction.
If you’re not moving any closer to your ideal, then you’re just spinning in circles. You’re on a never-ending treadmill; you’re doing more and more work but getting nowhere. Said Gary Keller,
“Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”
This article will detail why simply showing up isn’t enough. Here we go:
The Quality of Your Time is More Important than the Quantity
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” -Arianna Huffington
Here’s a simple truth: It’s not a matter of how much time you put in, but instead, how you use the time that you put in.
There is a big difference between 6 hours of distracted and disconnected work, versus 1 hour of undistracted and deeply focused work.
One will produce mediocre results, while the other produces extraordinary results.
Of course, some people may say this is incorrect. A phrase we often hear is that “quantity produces quality.” However, this statement is only half true.
You can repeat something for years and still be terrible at it. In fact, I know many people who have repeated college papers 3–4 times because they were never actually learning.
And without learning, you’re not growing, and thus the results will always be the same. To improve requires what Anders Ericsson has coined as “purposeful practice,”
“Purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress.”
Without purposeful practice, quantity does not produce quality, but rather, just a larger quantity of the same results.
You should focus not on the number of hours you put in on any given day, but rather, the quality of those hours. The next point will help:
The Focusing Question
“How do you come up with uncommon questions that take you to uncommon answers? You ask one question: the Focusing Question.” -Gary Keller
Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing, revolves around a very simple question, that is:
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Although well-intentioned, many people simply end up filling their days with an array of meaningless tasks that don’t actually move them any closer to their ideal. Said Benjamin P. Hardy,
“Most people lack the confidence to go big. They prefer the dopamine boost of getting lots done, even if they aren’t making any progress.”
The Focusing Question is the solution. Rather than simply seeing how much we can do in a day, we should ask ourselves: Is this the best use of my time? Or, am I settling for something merely good?
In the words of Dallin Oaks,
“We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.”
Simply showing up will only take you so far. Of course, just showing up can definitely build momentum and get you started.
However, once a habit has been established, you need to become more deliberate. You need to focus on the quality of the time you put in rather than the mere quantity.
The focusing question is the difference between being busy or being productive. So, what’s the ONE Thing you can do right now such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?