We live in a world of instant gratification. We want everything now. We don’t have time to wait. Our world has changed to accommodate our unreasonable desire get what we want immediately. Our automobile loans are approved within minutes while we are still sitting in the show room. If you can’t wait for a letter to be delivered, you can use FedEx. Better yet, use a fax machine and that letter can zip to its recipient in seconds. My bank can monitor my sons’ bank accounts while they are at college and let me know when they reach a designated trigger point, at which, I simply turn on the computer and transfer money into their accounts to make sure they have it when they need it. When are the funds available? It just takes a matter of seconds and they can withdraw the funds for their purchases. If I want to watch a movie and don’t have the time to run to Blockbuster or I don’t want to wait until the time that HBO has designated to show it, I always have pay-per-view on-demand. I can watch it now. Our progress is amazing!
Fortunately, our expectations for instant gratification don’t automatically transfer into some areas where they would be unrealistic. For example, the poor-performing subordinate who has been placed on a plan of improvement is not expected to turn their downward spiral around by end of business the following day. Instead, good managers implement benchmarks, by which to monitor and track improvement over a period of time. It’s expected that time is required when dealing with human beings. Even dealing with trivial matters take more time than one would think. As I was working my way up the ranks in my chosen profession, one of my mentors advised me to always allow extra time for meetings and conferences with subordinates and clients. “People-issues”, he would say, “always take longer than expected.”
It’s so strange, however, to note that the extra time allowance that we grant to others for improvement or change is often not extended to ourselves. We recognize that we are drowning in our own To-Do Lists and make a change, such as learning and implementing the Getting Things Done philosophy. We buy the books, CD’s, and templates, and configure Outlook to work with our new methodology. We put our Next Actions on our new @Context lists and begin doing a weekly review. However, we are routinely disappointed in our apparent lack of immediate success. One can read the archives at the various GTD blogs and find those who have implemented this philosophy and have “fallen off the wagon.” They write about climbing back on and trying to implement it one more time.
Before this happens to you, remind yourself that improvement takes time and do not expect to be successful all the time. Much like someone puts money in a savings account and doesn’t expect to double their money overnight, you need to realize that you will not double your productivity overnight as well. The person who puts money in a savings account uses the power of compounded interest and time to grow their money slowly, but surely. They may begin with a humble deposit of $100 and get 3% interest on it, compounded daily. Today, interest is earned on the initial $100. Tomorrow, however, interest is earned the initial $100 plus the interest that was earned the previous day. As this cycle continues day after day, the money grows faster over a period of time. It is possible, by starting early, earning compounded interest, and making small deposits on a regular basis, that anyone can retire a millionaire.
As we try to develop ourselves and improve our productivity, we also need to focus on small, consistent improvements. These small daily improvements are the equivalent to interest that accrues to a savings account. These improvements build on our base skills and knowledge and become the new foundation upon which future skills, philosophies, and knowledge is built. Day after day, our foundation becomes stronger and stronger. Like the savings account, personal growth is slow at first, but increases in speed as we apply time. The constants in these examples are time and consistent application of the methodology. Allow yourself enough time to improve as you consistently apply the GTD methodology. In time, you can become a productivity millionaire, where your “currency” is measured, not in dollars, pounds, or euros, but in effectiveness.