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Forget personal productivity

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY You know all those books and articles about time management and personal productivity with titles like "How to be a better procrastinator" or "999 things successful people get done before breakfast?"

I hate them.

No, wait. Let me be clear about this. It's not the books or the articles -- and certainly not their authors -- I hate. It's the implication that personal productivity should be your goal in life. That if you don't squeeze every minute of productivity out of your day, you're going to be broke and miserable.

Here's the thing. I'm not a morning person. My brain doesn't even begin to function before noon. I'm also a terrible procrastinator. I honestly can't remember ever having done something today that I could get away with putting off until tomorrow. And I'm incredibly lazy when it comes to doing things I really don't want to do.

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If that makes me unproductive, I'm fine with that. And you know what? Not only am I not miserable, I'm happy that way. And the kicker is that my unproductive ways have not stopped me from having a relatively successful career.

So how do we reconcile being unproductive and successful, two things that, if you believe what everyone writes these days, are supposed to be mutually exclusive? Here's how:

I get the job done. I work my tail off when I have to, not when I don't. If you can turn on the afterburners and be a workaholic for brief periods of time, you can sort of kick back and relax most of the time.

I work tirelessly when I like what I'm doing. If you enjoy your work, long hours come easily. Of course, then your personal chores will suffer, but, hey, you can't have everything.

I'm where I have to be when it counts. Sometimes you've got to take a red-eye flight or make a 7 a.m. meeting. That just comes with the territory. As long as you suck it up when you have to, when it counts, you should otherwise be able to waltz in at 9 a.m. or work from home.

I put my health and well being first. If you're always eating fast food, stressed out, gobbling down meals or killing yourself in the name of productivity, how effective can you really be? Burned out people are not productive.

I'm flexible and adaptive. If you say, "Sure, no problem" when people need you, they'll cut you plenty of slack when you need them to. Most people expect their management to be flexible when they themselves aren't. That's not how it works.

I mix work and life. I've been mixing business and pleasure for decades, and not just once in a while, either. I like to mix it up and make work fun and interesting. If that means working on an occasional pitch at night or on the weekend, as long as I can kick back, watch some football and have a beer while I'm doing it, that works for me.

I have a powerful work ethic. The way all this works is that I have a very strong work ethic that guides my decisions on what is and isn't OK to do. I am an effective and hard worker by nature. But my priority has always been to get the job done better than anyone else, not punching a clock or packing as much into eight hours as possible.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying my way is the right way. It's simply an example of how you can be successful doing things your own way, whatever that happens to be. And just because you don't fit some self-help guru's definition of productivity doesn't mean you can't have a great career and a productive life.

Image courtesy of Flickr user iamtheo

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