The Unknown Thief of Productivity: Maintenance

Much like the Four Thieves of Productivity we discussed in The ONE Thing, maintenance is a lingering thief that can steal your time and productivity. When we spread ourselves too thin, it’s easy to get stuck in a position where instead of making progress, we’re trapped in a perpetual state of trying to keep everything in good condition. And it’s that constant struggle of treading to stay afloat that keeps us from succeeding at a high level.

Having too many fingers in too many pots is a trap that many entrepreneurs fall into. In fact it’s become a stereotype at this point. They dive headfirst into venture after venture and appear to have boundless energy. However, a closer look often shows us that, while they may have founded five companies at once, none of them were really ever given the opportunity to take off. They constantly juggle their focus and energy between each one, never giving a single one the attention it needs to succeed.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a business founder to fall prey to a quandary like this. We’ve all spent time jumping from project to project, feeling busy and not excelling in any particular area. Avoiding the maintenance trap can be tricky, but in order for us to make progress on the things that matter most, we have to learn to tip-toe around it.

First Things First, Work from a Schedule

Whether you opt for a calendar that is electronic or spiral bound, having a way to keep track of our commitments and time blocks is an absolute must.

Scheduling does more than help keep track of what we need to do, it also helps us identify what else we can take on. If you haven’t done so already, pull up your calendar and schedule everything, including smaller, more insignificant maintenance items like email or morning coffee. That way, when a new opportunity arises that will demand your time, you’ll be informed about the sacrifices you’ll have before diving in.

Stick to Your Priority

There are activities in our day-to-day lives worth giving up, but we should never budge when it comes to our top priority. When you’ve identified the tasks that will move you to a position where you can accomplish BIG goals, understand that anything keeping you from taking on those tasks will move you in a different direction.

Sometimes the problem isn’t just a conflict of schedule — sometimes it’s a conflict of head-space. New projects have a special way of taking up more of our focus than ones we’ve been working on for a long period of time. Like we talked about recently, we are biologically wired to experience new things — our brains are rewarded when we venture into the unknown, which makes us want to do it again and again. Every time we take on a new project, we run the risk of distracting our thoughts from what’s most important.

That’s why it’s so important for us to maintain vigilance when it comes to our ONE Thing. If there’s an inkling that a side-project will keep you away from doing what matters most—resist the urge and say “no”.

Learn to Say No

Speaking of the devil, the most important weapon in our arsenal for avoiding the maintenance trap is the word “no”. A productivity thief in itself, we often think about needing to say no to others, but sometimes the person we need to say no to is staring at us in the mirror.

It can be difficult to say no to yourself, but luckily we don’t have to go at it alone. Getting tough with the decisions we make is a lot easier when we have someone in our life who holds us accountable.

As a trustworthy source of reason and reinforcement, the right accountability partner will make us feel uncomfortable with ourselves because they’ll force us to take the right path instead of the easiest path. Find someone you’re willing to invest in and ask them to challenge you by holding you accountable to your goals. Go in deep with them, share your schedule and your goal tracking sheets. The more they know about you, the more they can help guide you, and the closer you’ll be to achievement.

While maintenance sometimes requires our attention, it should never take away from our ONE thing. How do you prevent yourself from fall into the maintenance trap? Tell us on our Facebook page!