The Power of Full Engagement

For as far as each of us can remember, productivity has always been associated with working hard and working longer. The idea commonly assumed is that if you want to be successful, you got to simply put in the efforts and work your butt off.

There’s certainly a lot of truth to this, and it’s certain that if you put 6 hours a day of focused effort in your project, you will accomplish far more than if you only put 1 or 2 hours.

But with all good things, humans tend to assume that more is better. Therefore, if productivity is increased by working 30 hours a week instead of 15, then it would triple if you worked 90 hours instead of 30.

The unfortunate thing that happen is usually a classic example of the farmer killing the golden egg laying goose, in order to get more golden eggs faster. But by effectively overworking yourself, you in fact reduce your productivity and in some cases completely destroy it.

In Japan, there’s even a term for people who work themselves to death. The word is “karoshi.” The word literally means “death from overwork.” Karoshi takes the lives of thousands of Japanese people every year. Not all of them are middle-age men. Many are in their twenties or thirties.

The medical causes are generally a heart attack or stroke caused by excessive stress. Usually the victim of “karoshi” will put in more and more hours in overtime, cutting back on hours they need for sleep. Eventually the body can’t handle it anymore and the result is sudden death.

I’ve never gone as far as getting close to a sudden “karoshi” attack, but I’ve noticed the effects of increased hours and stress on my productivity. Because the nature of Internet Marketing requires concentration, creativity and focus, it’s simply not possible to keep working more in order to get better results. Instead, what is required is working smarter.

There’s a great book that I highly recommend that you read called “The Power of Full Engagement”, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The sub-title is “Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to Performance and Personal Renewal.”

In this book, the authors argue that recovery is the most important factor that can help you increase your productivity.

For example, they did a lot of research in sports psychology to determine what differentiated the top 10 tennis players in the world to the other leading athletes in this sport.

Strangely enough, there wasn’t much difference in terms of technique and ability. The top 5 players did not play much differently from the top 50 players.

The big difference, they found, was the uncanny ability for these top 10 players to recover. Each of them, unconsciously, used specific routines and mental tricks to help them recover in between sets. By measuring their heart rates, they also found that after a short burst of activity, these top athletes were able to recover one heart beat per second — which is outstanding. For example, if they brought their heart rate to 150 and then rested for just 50 seconds, their heart beat was already down to 100 beats per minute.

So the solution to productivity is not increasing the time you put into your work, but work smarter by planning your recovery carefully.

In order to be fully engaged (another way of saying “productive”), you have to manage your energy and allow for sufficient recovery.

Another way of explaining this process is to say that you want to work hard but also recover hard (“play hard”). Most people are neither fully focused nor fully recovering.

They’re perpetually staying in a “grey zone” where they are not giving their best while also never quite enjoying their time off. If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you want to reap the rewards and live the “Internet Lifestyle”, you have to also put in the efforts. Most people are not serious enough about that.

Spending a lot of time in front of the computer “doing stuff” is not work. The work is the productive activities that everyone avoids, such as writing your salesletter, creating your product, outsourcing what you need to get done, building your list and sending promotions to your list.

Most people spend far too much time on non-productive activities such as checking e-mails, doing research, answering the phone, etc. In order to get things done, you have to identify your most important next actions and focus a block of time every working day on these productive activities.

By the way, my definition of a productive activity is anything that will generate income for you within the next 90 days.

It does not include the important but non-productive activities such as doing your accounting, calling your web host, solving a technical problem on your computer, installing a new piece of software, shopping for new equipment for your office, and so on and so forth.

The blood of any business is cashflow, and if you’re business is not generating it, then you either need to reorganize your work and change your focus, or get a better day job.

Do not make the mistake of turning this part-time business into a time-wasting hobby that is not going anywhere and is not making any money. This path only leads to frustration, pain and suffering for everyone involved, including the people you are trying to support.