A LIFE OF FIRE FIGHTING AND WHAC-A-MOLE
NOT A GREAT LIFE!
THE FOUR QUADRANTS OF PRODUCTIVITY MANAGEMENT
Success in life and any area of life lies in Quadrant II (upper right). In this quadrant are all of those things that contribute positively to your physical health and energy and to your peace of mind and happiness. This means that a strategic nap, seemingly a luxury, would be of high value (as it permits a person to be have more capability of producing high value as opposed to the lesser value produced when a person is tired). This also means that learning the life capability to produce those things named above is of the very highest value, as it is what produces value over and over and over in life. A hard, stress-filled life lies in Quadrant I. It is measured in "emergencies" and "pressure on you". And the results are poor. This is where people live who do not solve the source of their problems, so they get to experience them over and over and to have to feel the pain and put in the effort to offset them. (See Why Is Life So Difficult, So Hard?)
Quadrant III is full of meaningless stress, with poor results. This is hurrying without any real benefits, and going nowhere in life - kind of like "killing time" quickly.
Quadrant IV is "low stress" with poor results. (But there may be stress from self judgment, unless the person is oblivious.) This is the quadrant of the biggest failures in life.
(The more detailed discussions are at The Four Quadrants, and the supporting links on that page.)
TO WHAT DEGREE ARE YOU IN EACH QUADRANT?
Since you don't just live in one quadrant, the question is to what degree are you producing high or low value for yourself, on average, and causing yourself stress.
The final measure is in terms of total lasting life value produced (and, of course, that includes the measure of happiness, peace of mind, personal satisfaction, and positive world view).
The awake time I spend in these quadrants is currently estimated to be (fill in the "now" column; we'll come back later to the other one:
Quadrant II - High Value Activities ___% ___%
Quadrant I - Firekilling, urgent ___% ___%
Quadrant III - Urgent, Low/no Value ___% ___%
Quadrant IV - Low/no Value ___% ___%
The key to a higher value, happier life is fairly close to obvious. First of all, good, solid, thorough enough planning will have one doing those things that prevent "fires" and reduce urgencies down to almost nothing. The planning also is what has a person identify what is the most important to do, including physical energy and psychological balance. It is also what has one identify which capabilities to increase and what to learn - with sufficient time allocated to finish off what is important.
There is an interesting little trick in Quadrant II that multiplies the ability to produce life value by 10 to 100 times more than just doing what is considered to be of high value.
An example of what can be done is as follows.
The executive, on average, who makes more than, say, $3,000,000 a year, is not only spending more time in Quadrant II, but also focusing his time in the upper right quadrant of the upper right Quadrant II. He is first identifying the most productive 20% of the activities he could do to produce 80% of the total results in life/business, but he is also identifying and doing the upper 20% of the 20%, which multiplies his value produced by at least 25 times that of someone with otherwise equal (and good) skills. He produces value and is compensated on the estimation that he will produce alot of value for the business. (He religiously follows The 80/20 Principle. One of the highest productivity things you can do is learn this principle, for it affects all of your life!)
BUT IT MUST BE BALANCED, NOT UNBALANCED!
Now, of course, we all know the story of the "successful person" in any area who fails to invest in important relationships, maintaining his health, and/or maintaining emotional health. They are sacrificing those in order to put more resources into the area which they want the success. But inevitably the chicken comes home to roost, as they fail in the personal areas and, virtually always, their effectiveness is diminishing even in their best area. (I was one of those people who was over-achievement oriented such that I incurred some costs that I would not have if I had known what is on this site. See also The Overachiever Is Not The Truly Productive, Happy Person!) Though people don't seem to "get" how this can be done, the person who truly operates on high life value productivity principles will have a great, high value life while he is also producing high value in any one area. He is essentially "balancing" his life area by first making sure they work AND then also succeeding elsewhere due to his high productivity capability. In other words, he is highly "life capable" plus being highly productivity-capable in an area or areas of his choice - but he never, ever allows his personal life and happiness to take a back seat. (Of course, there can be unanticipated times where things may have to go out of balance, but he/she assures that the long term balance and value are produced.)
THE LIFE VALUE SUCCESS PERSON DOES THIS
Though all but one of the areas he puts effort into may vary in terms of effort and targeting, there is one "area" that stands strong and solid and is consistently so. He fortifies that area as first and foremost in priority.
That area is the personal life capability area and the application of that capability.
He plans out what is most impactful in his life and then allocates time to that.
He recognizes that the highest life value activities are those that assure one's ability to produce life value. What I mean by that is that he learns about how to produce, say, happiness "so that" he can do that which directly produces happiness. He learns that more money may not necessarily produce more value, after a certain point, than say investing more time in his relationship (or peace of mind or...). But the operant key word here is that he "learns" - he learns how things work and how to work them effectively to get the results he want. He realizes that, in the physical universe, results are produced only through the use of time and effort - and that there is no "magic" that will intervene. He recognizes what is likely to happen again and he does all he can to assure that any negative of importance will be prevented. (This latter item is what so many people fail to do in their lives, to their great detriment!)
He stops doing that which does not produce the desired value/result at the level that he wants it. He notices what doesn't work and he installs what does. He sees a problem and he not only solves the symptoms/effects of the problem but he figures out how to prevent the problem - as he knows that preventing a high negative adds just as much value to the net cumulative total value as adding a high positive! (He is, basically, Living Life As A Life Champion, the "sport" being life itself.)
DON'T STOP SHORT DUE TO BEING "KINDA OK"
Many people stop short of "preventing the problems" and just try to do positive value activities, many of which do not have a positive value that is even close to the negative value of the problem. If the objective in life is to have the highest value life, one cannot achieve that if there are large subtractions.
Some people come up with a few good thoughts or a not-so-well-thought-out strategy that makes them feel a little better, and since things are better, they just stop there, leaving most of the problem still intact!
NO REPEATING PROBLEMS
All problems must be solved as quickly as possible. This is "fire prevention" so that you don't spend alot of your life in the angst or the other emotional harm from a problem that repeats itself, causing you also to spend much time and effort in killing the fires. Prevent them once and for all - and then move on, to live a much better life!
The problem free person works at improving his/her procedures (ways of operating) so that they are workable and complete.
This is addressed in the quote in the piece Completion - Powerful!: "What you do not complete, you are doomed to repeat" - and that is not a very good life to live! A life champion always completes his problem solving as quickly as possible.
EXAMPLES OF WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
An example of a person who "stops short" of what is best is a person who might say "well, my life is not really unhappy. It's ok. I have plenty of friends. I can compensate for those problems." (It seems obvious to me that this is a "compromise" where one is "settling" for less than the value one could have.)
Instead, the person should dump a number of good-value activities to free up the time to solve the high negatives, which, in this case, would be a relationship that is frustrating and damaging to herself plus a self-conversation that is critical of and tough on herself. She must realize the cost of both of them and that those costs are enormous and worth offsetting to the degree possible. She is 'losing the game' in terms of something that is vital to and has the highest impact on happiness: The Extreme Cost Of A Negative Background Conversation. Another example is a person who is driven to achieve, to please his superiors, to drive himself to the highest level of contribution so that he can be worthy of the highest level of heaven after his life. He delivers value to others, but at the cost of his own life, as he gives little value to his own well-being and needs, and, as is usually the case in such situations, he fails to provide value to his loved ones (and thus deprives himself of a source of happiness). He is way out of balance, just as a scared executive who must obsessively achieve but burns himself out and diminishes his life force, living in stress and anxiety at the most extreme level. He is the quintessential "crazy busy" person, defying all the productivity principles (!). He is so busy that he has no time to improve his life's lot - acting like a lemming going into the sea to drown. (See The Busy Mindset Versus The Value Mindset - Note the title of the recommended book on that page, which includes "crazy busy".)
THE IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING MOMENTUM
Some people get too busy and they push aside the investment in Quadrant II life determinants, because they lack urgency. But this comes at a huge price.
It is essential that one continues the momentum of learning that will produce a greater life, even if one, due to short term emergency or life being very full in general for a time, feels it should be skipped. Perhaps, the time might have to be cut down to as little as 1 hour for a week. But stopping the momentum is most often fatal to the progress process. People fail because they end up "stopping short" of what it takes to get the results they want in life. (See the piece Sufficient Momentum In The Life Improvement Process and also read the principle of momentum, linked from that page.)
ALL OF THE WISDOM IN PRODUCTIVITY MANAGEMENT SAYS
Also, as soon as you can, read (or re-read) and study Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. Then, soon thereafter reinforce it and add some other key specifics to do from my Life Value Productivity book, linking through Books.
THE ITEMS OF THE MOST IMPACT AND VALUE ARE THESE:
- "Job 1": Developing life capability, spending the time to learn and implement what is necessary to live each piece of life well for a great overall life!
- Fixing current and preventing future problems (fire-prevention instead of fire-killing).
- Planning out what you will do with your time to create the most life value, including scheduling time to look at your life, evaluate what is going on and decide what to do to make it the best (and developing a learning plan).
TIME FOR READING AND LEARNING?
Although it would seem like a "successful" person would be too busy to spend alot of time reading (nonfiction), the opposite is true. They actually spend quite a bit of time reading (and also learning), with people like Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger using the majority of their time reading and thinking (all Quadrant II). All the major "life successful" people did alot of reading, as well as those who were self-made successes in business or a profession.
AFTER YOU REALLOCATE YOUR TIME...
We started off earlier with an exercise to estimate the % of awake time you spent in each quadrant. After reading the above information, fill in the %'s you choose for the future. Note that your life will be improved by a multiple of the extra percentage of time you spend in Quadrant II. If the Quadrant II time % increased by 50%, your life will likely at lead double in net value and happiness. The potential, if you do this as recommended on this site, is for you to increase your life value productivity by at least 10 times - yes, that is not a typo - it is thoroughly feasible and very doable (if you spend the time to do it!).
For instance, I know one individual who can lower his work time to 20 hours per week, yet increase the value he produces in work by 10 times - that's 10 times as much in less than 1/2 the time - it's easily achieved. But the other part of the equation for him is that the time freed up and then used for life improvement will improve the quality of his life and the value for him (and for his spouse) by a huge percentage. The percentage is incalculable mathematically because he is going from a highly negative net score in his life to an as yet undetermined new high in positive value in his life. If he follows through, he can end up being much happier than 90+% of the people in "the West", as he will have the time to do that if he follows the program.
TWEAKING YOUR "LIFE SYSTEMS" TO WORK EXCELLENTLY
Sam Carpenter, of Work The System, refers to the game that results from not anticipating and not improving things as needed, which results in lots of urgencies and emergencies popping up as playing Whac-A-Mole. He himself is a "fire preventer". His hours to work in his only business at the time have declined from over 80 hours per week to two hours. (Yes, that is not a typo.) This started happening when he got the idea of "perfecting" his key procedures in his business (as you can also do in your life) and then "tweaking" them with improvements as soon as (without delay!) they are discovered or thought of. (See the resources page I have on him: Work The System - watch some of the free videos of interest - and even download the free copy of what is his actual published book - I use both of them.)
You will have a very smooth running life, with alot less effort and virtually no stress and anxiety - and no repeating problems! You will be "in charge" of your life, not others. Circumstances will not determine your life as you will be happy and productive in life no matter what!
And you will be wise, truly wise and truly, enduringly, unconditionally happy.