Activity vs. Productivity

Somehow with school, life and all of the things in between, people started associating a busy life with a productive life. In order to be successful, you have to be busy all of the time.

But sometimes it is those useless “busy” activities that keep us from taking the time to sit, think, reflect and actually be productive.

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Just because I am doing something with my hands, thinking or moving around am I being productive? No. Here is a very simple example. Today I was at the gym sitting there, like a limp noodle, on a mat, but I was at the gym so I am athletic correct? Absolutely not. So why do we convince ourselves that being busy all the time has any correlation to our productivity?

I was listening to a podcast where Harry Kramer, the former CEO of Baxter, and now professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management discussed this topic of activity and productivity and its implications on being an effective leader. Baxter is a large pharmaceutical company that has over 60,000 employees around the world. He discussed how when we have ten things going on at the same time we can’t really think and assess what is most important to us.

It does sound like a very preachy kind of thing “think about your purpose and values,” but it does not have to happen every day all day. Kramer made the note that yes, real people do have extremely busy and hectic schedules. His self-reflection happens at midnight when he is home from work and his kids are asleep. He says he turns off all of his gadgets and thinks about his purpose and values. It is always hard to hear an extremely successful person explain this concept, but evidently the practice has served him well.productivity_activity

As a student, obviously my values and purpose can’t include avoiding homework at all costs and skipping class to spend time with my friends. I think that is the point of the self-reflection, you don’t want to avoid everything hard or annoying in your life, but find ways to rethink how you are going to execute these tasks and make the most out of them. You are going to get out of a situation what you put into it, and that part is completely up to you.

In my life right now, and every other college student, I think this applies to the internship and job hunt. People get frustrated applying to internships and jobs, getting denied and long and tedious interview processes. We are human. But I think this process makes a little more sense when you try and figure out where you want to end up. Maybe you have no idea what you want to do in life, I am not really sure either, but I understand my passions. I want to zone in on those and find companies and industries that share those values.

Maybe you don’t get your dream job, or get to live in a glamorous city, but if you did your research and thinking, there is no way this experience can’t help you, even if it is just finding out what you don’t like. Mike Snider, USA TODAY writer, spoke in one of my classes this past week and told us to just get into the stream. Maybe the job is not exactly what you want to do, but if you think it will help you reach your goals, values and passions, the opportunity is of utmost importance. That in itself is productivity, you are aware of yourself.

So take a second. To yourself. Be productive. And just think. About you.


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