Productivity: Keep the Wheat, Kill the Chaff

Traditionally, when a farmer gleans a field, he or she is interested in keeping the wheat and getting rid of (“killing”) the chaff; the wheat is useful, the chaff isn’t.

If you glean the “field” of your daily schedule and review all the activities you perform in the course of your day (a week, a month, …), you’ll notice that your day-to-day is filled with “wheat” and “chaff” activities.

Wheat activities are high-value activities, which propel you forward in the direction of your goal. These activities help you and serve the ultimate direction of your life.

Chaff activities are distractions, which waste your time and steal you away from high-value activities; they don’t help you make progress toward your goal. These are often very interesting activities but they add no value to your life and don’t help you produce the result you want.

To increase your productivity, you must separate the wheat from the chaff and keep the wheat but kill the chaff. This is an important step because you can be very busy but not very productive. This happens because your schedule is filled with chaff activities, and you must eliminate these (or at least limit them) so that you can focus on wheat activities.

Let me make this clear. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have leisure activities on your schedule. You should; there’s a time for work and there’s time for rest and leisure. You must find the proper balance for you. Well-chosen leisure activities add great value to your life. As a general rule, though, when it’s time to be productive, you want to focus your efforts on wheat activities, not chaff activities.

The challenge is that distractions are plenty and high-value activities are few. It’s easy to get bug down in meaningless activities that give you little to no return on your efforts.

Bear in mind that someone’s chaff is someone else’s wheat. For example, for many, Facebook (and other social media platforms) can be a major source of distraction (a chaff activity). However, if you’re a social media expert, spending time on Facebook can actually be one of your primary wheat activities; it brings you a high return on your efforts. You have to know what is wheat and what is chaff for yourself.

All activities aren’t equal. Some are worth your time and energy (high-value ones); others aren’t (distractions). And when you make the distinction between the two categories and focus your efforts on high-value activities, you increase your productivity.