The Paradox of Productivity

Share This Article

Rudyard Kipling provided us with a challenge to be productive with time over a hundred years ago with his thought provoking:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…

So imagine the pressure we’d feel filling a full hour? Not many of us would boldly claim to meet this epitaph, but Sir Bradley Wiggins certainly stated his case with metronomic precision as he broke the UCI world hour cycling record last week.

So what would you do? What if you really put your mind to achieving something memorable in an hour? There’s certainly a myriad of options out there from penning a song, doodling an invention or baking a prize winning cake but unless they break records or revolutionise the world, none of them ever seem to quite match up to Kipling’s ideal.

Todays’ world is highly pressured and stressed, even more so for busy entrepreneurs, and task overload is the norm. We count the minutes and seconds in a race, and we measure our productivity by months and quarters. The clock speeds when you’re enjoying an activity and drags when someone is droning on in a meeting, so despite our attempts to tame time, our ability to control it is non-existent.

We are bombarded with so much media from so many different angles that it’s easy to get in a spin over what we should actually do next. Our idea of productivity 30 years ago is probably seen as positively sedate today and yet it never seems quite enough. Smart phones and new technologies mean we’re inundated with communication options from email, texts and social media, let alone the ‘to do’ lists we set ourselves, but never complete. It’s no wonder it’s near impossible to stay focused and productive. However much we achieve, it’s never enough. The pressure to get more done in less time constantly weighs on our minds. How stellar entrepreneurs like Elon Musk do it all is beyond the comprehension of most. Working harder might sound like the answer, but often it’s not.

In our pursuit for ever more productivity, maybe we should remind ourselves of the Yin and Yang of life, just like Dr. Seuss’ adage:

Remember that life’s a great balancing act”

We need to pull back as much as we push’give as much as we take’, and most importantly take time out as much as we put in’. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that highly productive entrepreneurs’ most effective habits are reported to be; consume less, walk more, and turn off your phone and inner perfectionist.

So try this: Instead of stressing over what we could ‘DO’ to be worthy of that hour, just ‘BE’. Take that step back we rarely take and harbour the 5000 year old lesson from a chapter of the Tao Te Ching –  ‘Living an Unhurried Life’ and consider these words:

But the muddiest water clears as it is stilled; and out of that stillness, life arises”.

Instead of trying to be productive in the sense of doing, give yourself with the luxury of one hour and try the paradox of the Tao:

  • Find a place of peace or inspiration in nature such as a lakeside, mountain view or woodland
  • Be mindfully aware and contemplate one of your life’s challenges or dilemmas
  • Asking yourself an incisive question and then do nothing, just be

No doubt, the luxury of that peaceful hour will be more productive and memorable than any task you’ve set yourself recently as you allow the muddied waters to clear for the first time in a long time as you let clarity emerge.


Have you ever tried this? I’d love to hear the results. Share below:

Matt Guiver (MAC, IDI®QA) is a coach, trainer and speaker and founder ofJumpstone International. A consultancy based service offering innovative, interactive and intercultural coaching and retreats (St. Gilgen, Austria). He helps clients discover clarity and perspective in their international business and personal development dilemmas.

Share This Article
img 2767
matt guiver
img 2763 (1)
Jumpstone keynote speaking
Most leaders lose direction with complex business challenges, struggling to find the right path and action to move them and their business forwards.

Jumpstone's proven methodology looks at the whole picture while zeroing in on what needs focused attention. You'll learn how to clarify your vision, lead with your authentic leadership and how to swiftly navigate to reach your objectives.

Copyright © 2024. Jumpstone International Ltd. All rights reserved.

UK Registration Number: 13474320
UK Registered Address: Bishops Waltham, Southampton, England, SO32 1SE

How Close are you to your True North?

Receive a Free Chapter of 'Inner Compass' to successfully navigate your leadership.

Inner Compass Book

By claiming your free Inner Compass chapter, you will be added to the Jumpstone mailing list. You can unsubscribe at any time. Your information is protected as per our privacy policy.

Schedule an exploratory call with Matt now

Book your free exploratory call with Matt now

Book your free exploratory call with Matt now