38:7 Productivity is not about doing more
Productivity is addictive and too much of a good thing can be bad for you. This week I share how I became addicted to productivity and lost sight of my why. In a refreshingly honest look at myself, I call out my ego, share changes in my life and the amazing impact it’s had on the business.
Lee Matthew Jackson
Join us in the comments below as we disucss:
- What is your relationship with productivity?
- What are your goals in life?
- Could you put some time aside for contemplation?
Welcome to The Agency Trailblazer podcast, this is your host Lee and today we have a guest host. He may not be saying much, but right now, strapped to my chest is Little Edison, who is currently five months old and we think he may be teething. So I’m currently baby wearing and I’m in my element. He’s fast asleep, but every now and again he’ll stir and snuggle and my heart absolutely melts.
So I figured, hey, why not join us? Whilst we’re on the subject of family, this episode is kindly sponsored by Cloudways. They are a managed cloud hosting provider and they are the company that we choose for all of our large projects that we cannot afford to go wrong.
All right, let’s get into this. Let’s talk about productivity and I think over the years, people have often considered me to be an extremely productive guy and that’s fine. I’ll wear that badge with pride. Sure, I’ve had multiple podcasts. I’ve got multiple YouTube channels. I have multiple businesses. I have multiple children. I mean, what’s not productive about Lee Jackson? And he will wear that badge with pride. And there’s a little bit of ego in there, isn’t there, where I’ve been bopping around thinking I’m the bee’s knees because I can do all of this stuff. So I then kind of set myself up saying, hey, you can be productive like me, too. You can do as much as I do and here are all the hacks and the incredible ways that you can do more.
People think that productivity is about doing more and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But perhaps what we should do is stop a little bit and ask some really important questions. What is it that’s driving us to do more and what are the outcomes that we’re expecting? You see, for me, I’ve been doing so much over the last few years and I’ve honestly kind of lost sight of the why. I’ve honestly lost sight of what’s important to me. And by doing more, I’ve gotten busier. Sure, I’ve done more in less time. But then the kind of self-feeding beast of productivity has meant I’ve continued to want to do more than just more.
I actually hit a time just a few months ago where I had taken on three podcasts. I was live streaming every single day of the week. That’s five days a week, not seven days. But still, you know, I was even considering doing a Saturday Twitch stream for some insane reason. Hey, buddy, that was a little grumble there from Edison. He did not like the idea of me doing a Saturday Twitch stream. What the heck was I thinking? But anyway, yeah, I hit that point. I guess it was kind of like a productivity mid-life crisis. I’d gotten to a stage where I was hooked and addicted to the idea of productivity. I was hooked to things like AppSumo, where I could find products that would really help me again, do more, improve my workflows and be even more productive.
It’s a really, really addictive cycle and what people tend to not realize and what I didn’t realize to my detriment, that I wasn’t actually doing more in the end. I wasn’t actually being more productive. I was actually adding more to my day to day, which was starting to creep into the personal time. It was starting to make life a lot more complicated. I wasn’t able to focus and be present with family because actually at the back of my mind, I was thinking about the businesses, about up and coming content that I had to create.
I was thinking about a whole week ahead of me that I was going to need to continue to output and almost become a bit proud of myself, thinking, yeah, I’ve got to beat last week. I’m going to put out more content. Maybe I’ll get maybe I’m going to put out content for this and the following week. So it’s already lined up and then I can tell people how amazing I am at being productive and all the wonderful batching processes that I have.
You know what fed all that? A lot of Lee Matthew Jackson ego. I’ve got to admit it was a lot of ego and a lot of pride. I needed to keep going. I needed to keep pushing because I decided that that’s what people expected of me. And I cared more about what all of those people were expecting from me rather than perhaps how my family felt about me not being so present with them on the day to day, or perhaps how my wife might feel when I was too exhausted to support her with our newborn child, who is now five months old and strapped to my chest as we record this episode. Guys he is so freaking cute, I just keep looking down at him and again, my heart is melting. He definitely looks like his mother, he’s gorgeous.
So this is like a confession. You know, I’ve been Mr. Lee Matthew Jackson trying to create this personal brand alongside multiple businesses, and they weren’t for the wrong reasons. You know, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought by pushing and pushing, I would grow the brand and thus be able to help more people. But actually, in reality, a lot of it was driven by that kind of pride, by that ego, by comparing myself to what other people were doing and thinking, holy moly, I need to do more. I need to stand out. In fact, I think a few months ago I’d spoken on a podcast episode, either mine or someone else’s, and I’d even said that I wanted to be like considered the Chris Doo of the web design space. And I don’t. I thought about that after I said it and I really don’t. And this episode is going to be a little bit rambling, but it’s going to be a bit of the journey I’ve gone on over the last few months of me really unpacking what is driving me, what is motivating me, what is important, and what does productivity really look like for somebody who does want to remain sane and does want to remain married.
Productivity, remember, is not a bad thing. But remember, it is what drives us and it’s the outcomes that are important. The outcomes for me were burnout; a lack of satisfaction, exhaustion, messiness. I was doing so much, but it was getting messy. I was getting unreliable in my personal life because I was being so organized in my business life, making sure that I nailed X, Y and Z and got more and more done. I was addicted and hooked to productivity and I felt like I was doing a good thing, but it was actually impacting so much more.
Most importantly, it was impacting my mental health to a real significant degree. Right now I’m chilled out. You know, I’ve mentioned it several times, but I’ve got Edison on my chest here. We’re chilled, I’ve got a coffee in my hand and we’re having a relaxed conversation about something that I really care about, which hopefully may have some impact in your life. And that’s something that I want to do, something that I’m really satisfied to do, something I’m really enjoying doing. But I was getting to that point where everything was kind of a push. I had to force what I was doing, I had to find the next business angle to help people do more with their business.
Again, it wasn’t for the wrong motives. I absolutely want to help people fall in love with their business again and have an amazing work life balance. But by doing that, I was making that goal and that prize so much more important than anything that I was pushing myself to be more and more and more productive and I was losing all of that joy and all of that excitement and I wasn’t present in the personal time. That’s not quite true. You know, I was present. I’ve had a wonderful life. You know, I’ve not turned into a dick or anything. But in the grand scheme of things, when there were important times for conversations or watching a movie with my wife or going for a walk, I’d be thinking about work. I wouldn’t be 100 percent there. I wouldn’t be 100 percent listening because I had that overwhelming sense of anxiety and stress because there was another week coming and there was more that I had to do.
So I think I’ve labored for like nine minutes now productivity and our relationships with productivity. I want to tell you what’s happened over the last few months and a lot of you will recognize that my style of podcasts has changed. The amount of content I put out is completely reduced. My time on social media has practically disappeared and there’s even a whole podcast on why and what I’m doing nowadays.
So let me kind of share what’s been going on, how my relationship with productivity has changed, and I want to kind of end with some call to actions. I’m not going to give you any answers today. I just want to give you some questions for you to think about and for you to ponder upon, to see where you’re at, with your relationship with productivity and how you might want to change things.
I’d eventually come to that point where I recognized my relationship with productivity was unhealthy and though I had good motives, I really needed to change what I was doing so that I could be more effective. I could do less, but be more effective in the business with the podcast, with my companies and most importantly, with my personal life and family.
So I decided to slow down. The first thing I knew I could do was just something as simple as meditation and I’ve actually done meditation for a very long time. I’ve sat for a couple of minutes, maybe five minutes, ten minutes and listened to somebody through my breathing and all of that sort of stuff, cleared my head and relaxed and that’s been nice. But I decided I was going to really go after meditation. Kind of contemplate and whilst meditating, actually thinking upon life and thinking upon what’s going on and thinking on the things that were around me.
Hear me out, I know this sounds real woo right now, but what kind of happened for the first few days of this contemplation was just an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. I started to recognize how freaking lucky I was to have such a beautiful wife, to have such wonderful children, to have such wonderful friends. Hey Larissa, you’re awesome. Now, I started to recognize that I already have such a blessed life. Again, that sort of word sounds woo, I know, but just in the silence, in the reflection, I started to feel really grateful for what I already had and what I had already accomplished and it led to a psychological slowdown, as it were.
In my mind, I started to recognize that I was chasing around trying to do so much so that I could help so many people. But I had not stopped to recognize that I’ve already helped so many people and it’s been wonderful. I started to remember stories of people who’ve told me how their agencies have changed, how they’ve won great projects or they’ve decided to completely change direction, or they’ve spent more time with family as a result of the stuff that I’ve shared. And I started to feel really grateful and thankful for those stories.
I started to recognize how much I really value time with my family and not being interrupted by work and how much I value having Edison strapped to my chest. But joking apart, I was just overcome with thankfulness. That thankfulness kind of led to a desire for digital minimalism, which I now know it’s called, but I didn’t know it was called that at the time. I started to desire to enjoy what was already around me more.
So instead of me being productive to achieve more the reflection, the contemplation, the slowing down, the stopping, the meditation kind of led me to a point where I recognized that I wanted time back to appreciate and enjoy what there already is. I want to enjoy and be present when I’m tickling Edison, I want to enjoy and be present when my wife is telling me something that’s really important to her and I want to be fully engaged. I want to enjoy and be present when my teenage daughter shares things with me instead of me giving her catty, impatient or sarcastic responses of which I really regret the times I’ve done that.
So much from slowing down and stopping changed for my personal outlook on life, but also my business outlook. That desire for digital minimalism became really quite extreme to the point where I’ve got a new phone, I’ve got a new email address that people don’t know, I’ve come off social media at a personal level. I’ve put lots of patent interrupts or blockers in between me and social media especially in the business sense. So I can still show up online and I can represent those brands but I’m keeping a real close guard on my personal time and on my mental health.
All of this is weirdly and really positively impacting the businesses as well. The purpose of this podcast is to challenge us all with our relationship with productivity and how we focus on the business and see how we can change our own personal lives and our own personal circumstances before we actually look at the business themselves. Actually changes in our personal lives will start to change the business. You’ve heard me say so many times that our personal financial decisions do have an impact on the financial decisions within a business. So if we can fix things on a personal level or change things really at a personal level, then perhaps that will have a good and a positive impact on the business.
If you’ve spent the last few years like I have more focused on improving the business and processes and all of that sort of stuff and actually neglected yourself, maybe we should follow the advice we hear, the advice that I’ve actually been ignoring for a long time, which is the definition of insanity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For me, the definition of my insanity has to be: ignore myself and my personal time more and actually focus more and more on trying to improve the business and scale the business and forgetting myself.
So I am sorry that this is definitely a rambling podcast, but I’m sure there are some nuggets of wisdom in here. I’ve recognized that one of the biggest important changes for myself during this kind of reflection time was that I was using the excuse that my business was my hobby and I have two businesses, so I therefore have two hobbies and that’s great. The problem is, is the business isn’t the hobby. The business is a business. Coding is my hobby.
I love to program. I love to learn new programming languages. I love to be creative. I can do that within the context of a business but there are pressures that are expectations. You have to make financial decisions. You have to do things. Your creativity can sometimes be stifled and my hobby should be something I do in my personal time. One of the things that did save me through this whole process was buying a Raspberry Pi and learning electronics and learning a new language in Python so that I could start to work out how to make lights flash on and off and the immense joy I had in picking up a new hobby that had nothing to do with work that was in my personal time was phenomenal.
That impacted on all the decisions that we’ve been making so far over the last few months in the business. We’re changing the business culture. We’re changing how we are contactable out of hours. In fact, we’re becoming non contactable out of hours. We’re changing our reliance on WhatsApp groups and people being contactable through personal means on their personal devices. We’re changing the products that we focus on. We’re actually writing a completely new product inside of Event Engine. Inside of Angled Crown we’ve taken the entire WordPress development division out completely. We’ve moved that over to Event Engine to help with the development of one of the new products that we have. Agency Trailblazer, which you’re listening to me on now, is strictly focused on content like this and on selling any courses that we think might help people in their business or in their life. And, of course, promoting great sponsors who want to sponsor us like Cloudways. Thank you guys.
Folks, if you’re listening and you want to sponsor this podcast. We would love to be sponsored because I love to be creative and I love to create content. I love to podcast. I love to show up on YouTube and do videos. So if we can be sponsored in doing that and this is all we do as Agency Trailblazer and do our events etc, then I can foresee a very satisfying and happy life for myself as the host of this brand.
Now, I’m aware this has kind of been a ramble, but I think I can kind of bullet it. I kind of do these little recaps and I do them for myself so that I can compartmentalize all my thoughts into some sort of way so that I can easily recall what I’ve learnt.
If I was going to recap this ramble, I would say that people have considered me to be super productive and I’ve worn that as a badge of honor. But also people themselves think that to be productive means you need to do more, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But what we often forget is it should be what drives us and what the outcomes are that are important. My outcomes were burnt out and I decided I was going to slow down. I started meditating. I started chasing things like digital minimalism and recognizing how grateful and thankful I was for everything that I already had and that then started to impact the decisions and the focus that I had within the business.
I wanted to create new business culture. I wanted to create a business that would actually facilitate me being able to have more time with family. That’s where productivity for us really started to change. I want to kind of wrap up this nice rambly hang out with Lee with a few call to actions. The first one is to ask you, what is your relationship with productivity? The second one is, what are your goals in life? The third question which is kind of more of a challenge, could you put some time aside for silence, see if that works for you? And the final kind of call to action is come and join me on trailblazer.fm, episode number 305. I’ve pretty much worn my heart on my sleeve in this episode and admitted to quite a lot of stuff, so come and join me so that I’m not alone.
Let’s have a conversation about this. Where are you at? What advice do you have for me? Or what questions do you have for me that I might be able to help you on, depending on where you are in your journey? Thank you so much for listening. You are awesome, Edison mate, you have been utterly fantastic. Such a great co-host. I’ve counted at least three yawns and several stirs, but thank you so much for all of your support, Edison. As we talk about support, thank you so much Cloudways again for supporting all that we do. You are a wonderful company and thank you for listening and getting 21 minutes approximately in to this old man rambling about life. You know, this is clearly an old man thing. I think, you know, I’ve hit 38 now. I’m 39 next year, and I’m getting all thoughtful and woo.
Folks, you’re absolutely amazing. I hope to see you in the comments over on trailblazer.fm. I’m not going to encourage you to join the Facebook group. I’m just going to say come on over this time to the comments. Let’s have that conversation there: trailblazer.fm episode number 305. You are awesome. If we don’t see you in the comments, we will see you in next week’s episode.