In my brand new book Die Empty, I examine the common places where bright, sharp, talented people eventually get stuck in their life and career.
The goal, of course, is to get your best work out of you every day and to not leave it inside or take it to your grave with you like so many people do. We all have a unique contribution to make to the world through our life and work, but unless we are purposeful about getting to it, others may never experience it. There are three kinds of work that we engage in as we go about our day. (I also addressed these in a recent podcast.) They are Mapping, Making, and Meshing.
Mapping is planning your work. It is when you strategize, conceive, think, plan, and plot your course of action. It’s the “work before the work” that helps you stay aligned.
Making is actually doing the work. It is when you are creating the actual value you are being paid for, or doing the tasks you devised while mapping.
Meshing is the third kind of work, and it’s often overlooked in the hustle of daily activity. It is all of the “work between the work” that actually makes you more effective when you are working. It’s comprised of things like following your curiosity, study, developing your skills, and asking deeper questions about why you are doing your work.
Depending on how diligent you are at engaging in these three kinds of work, you will occasionally fall into one of four “productivity profiles”.
Mapping + Making – Meshing = Driver
Drivers are “heads down”. They are ploughing through their work and getting things done, and they are extremely effective in short bursts and in the short-term. However, over time they become decreasingly effective because they aren’t doing the little things that prepare them for future challenges and obstacles. They are not developing themselves or their capacity for future effectiveness.
Mapping + Meshing – Making = Dreamer
The dreamer loves to talk about ideas, and loves to develop skills and follow curiosity where it leads, but is not disciplined about getting the work done. They tend to have big ideas, but no follow-through. Of course, this is not a path to making a valuable contribution.
Meshing + Making – Mapping = Drifter
This is my achilles heel. The drifter is someone who loves to develop skills and follow curiosity, and loves to engage in the act of making, but they lack the conviction of a long-term strategic plan. Thus, they tend to leave a series of half-finished projects in their wake. They bounce from shiny new project to shiny new project, and fall prey to what Scott Belsky calls the “project plateau”, which is when they hop to a new project when the old one stalls.
Mapping + Making + Meshing = Developer
This is the most desirable of the four profiles, because it allows you to take advantage of all three kinds of work and weave them together to take advantage of opportunities. Developers are best positioned to spot and leverage opportunities because they are planning, they are being diligent about doing the work, and they are developing themselves and their skills to position them for future activity.
So which of the four profiles most reflects your tendencies? The good news is that if you see yourself in one of them, it’s easy to adjust and get back on the Developer path. Everyone has their tendencies and weak spots, but awareness of them is the first step toward more productive and contributive activity.