The “Do Nothing” Method of Productivity

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    Squeezing Water from a Rock

    Ask and ye shall receive. I wanted to work with the brightest, most engaged, forward-thinking and forward-acting entrepreneurs and business leaders out there…. and that’s exactly the clients I have in my practice. Hallelujah!

    Turns out that my client niche has an unexpected hitch…. The best and brightest also tend to be the people who create more work than there are hours in the day, which means they have less time and energy to embrace the potential-increasing work style and lifestyle changes they’ve hired me to support them in making.

    Like squeezing water from a rock, the best and brightest often search for the organizational system, practice management method or refinement in daily scheduling that will help them efficiently condense their current work flow in hopes of fitting in one more item on their long list of things “to do.”

    But what if “more” only means more overwhelm, more fatigue, and more angst, not more energy, productivity, and/or enjoyment?

    Lessons from a Japanese Farmer

    There is a farmer in Japan named Masanobu Fukuoka whose farm has some of the highest yields in the country, yet requires only minimal labor on his part. He has termed his method “do nothing” farming, a method that he has developed and refined by observing and mimicking nature’s own self-fertilizing and self-cultivating cycles (read more in his book, One Straw Revolution).

    “‘It took me thirty years to develop such simplicity,’ says Fukuoka. Instead of working harder, he whittled away unnecessary agriculture practice one by one, asking what he could stop doing rather than what he could do. Forsaking reliance on human cleverness, he joined in alliance with nature’s wisdom.” 1 Mimic nature’s time-tested system for productivity and sustainability? Pure genius.

    Start by observing your own work habits and beliefs. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to out-think yourself and instead to mimic nature’s own wisdom. Every place you observe wasted action, or systems consistently out of equilibrium, become aware — can you shift to a more value-producing action, habit or system? OR Eliminate that action, habit or system all together?

    One Less Thing

    Think through your day today. Has every single meeting/report/email/interaction produced value towards the success of your business or your team, increased your engagement in the outcome, and your enjoyment of the process?

    What would happen if you decided to eliminate one value-draining (and time robbing) action or engagement each day?

    Value-producing action can’t exist simultaneously with waste-producing action. Imagine the time and energy you will free up as you whittle away habitual, but wasteful, projects/interactions/engagements/meetings and shift your focus to consciously cultivating only intentional and value-producing action.

    Five minutes a day here, 10 minutes there… whoa! Looks like you just freed up an extra hour to repay that piggy-bank of potential you posses within you.

    1 Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry (p. 37). New York, HaperCollins Publishing, 2002.