Jamie Clarke is an adventurer and explorer who lives here in my home town of Calgary. He was the 9th Canadian to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, and it took him more than one try to do it. He was the first westerner in more than 40 years to cross the Empty Quarter, a mind-numbingly huge, uninhabited, inhospitable desert. He´s been to more than 40 countries to explore and seek adventure. He´s now turned his passions into a career — he´s published two books, produced three documentaries, and is a speaker who has stood on stages around the world. That´s some background information, because I read something Jamie talks about that makes a whole lot of sense.
Clarke suggests that you have to keep your real goal in mind. It would seem obvious when he was on his first Everest expedition that his goal was to reach the summit (he didn´t ultimately reach it on this attempt — he had to wait until 6 years later to stand on top of the world). That was certainly a goal of the trip, but Clarke is adamant that it was not the ultimate goal. Instead, Clarke´s ultimate goal was to come back alive. People die on Everest, more often than they probably should, so surviving the adventure was ultimately more important that anything else.
What does that have to do with personal productivity? Everything, really. It is so easy for us to get tied down in trying to get through each day without getting buried by the pressure and expectations. Most of us are probably regularly setting goals or targets or plans or whatever we want to call them to try to get what we think we need to get done done. Often, though, those goals are not the ultimate goal. Further, we don´t have our eyes on that ultimate goal as we carry on through our professional lives. There is no one who could honestly say that their ultimate goal is to have their e-mail under control and their desks well organized. Whatever your ultimate goal actually is (and you might want to ask yourself if you know what it is), the e-mails and meetings and clutter and everything else are just means to an end. They are not the real purpose. By remembering that, and enjoying the perspective that that kind of view can provide, you´ll be much more productive because you´ll actually know where you are going and why you are doing what you are doing.