Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

February 2015

Productivity Vs. Presence

I read once that you can tell a lot about a person’s priorities by the way he or she walks. When I walk with friends, it seems like I’m always a few steps ahead. I am so focused on the destination that I forget to enjoy my friend’s company or the beautiful scenery around us.

At work, it’s worse. When I worked in public relations, I would speed down the hall, hurrying to get to the next meeting or task. My galloping gait earned me the moniker of “Hyper Hank” at one agency in which I worked.

And when I arrive home from several days of vacation, watch out! I have such a high sense of urgency; I feel everything—bills, return calls and emails, and unpacking—needs to be done immediately and all at once.

My hyper sense of urgency may make me more productive, but I pay a price: I am not present. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about productivity versus presence. Then today I stumbled on this wonderful quote by Maria Popova who writes the insightful blog, Brain Pickings:

“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.”

American author Annie Dillard reminds us, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’

I don’t want to come to the end of my life and realize that I wasn’t there for most of it. At the same time, I want to be efficient and productive. If I pause, if only for a few seconds, I can “reset” and become present, and by becoming present I can be even more effective and productive.

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