Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?” I said, “Go, ahead!”
He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.
He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”
You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.
If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.
Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.
My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!
You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.
You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.
Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.
In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!
Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”