The productivity industry is huge. Companies spend billions of dollars training employees to be more productive, tips and tactics are common cocktail party chatter, and even universities are teaching productivity tools as a way to differentiate themselves.

What’s surprising, though, is that no one teaches productivity to children. In school we teach kids to be efficient factory workers: get some assignment done the way we tell you to get it done. If the class spends twenty minutes to get something done, each student spends 20 minutes to get it done. The reward for efficiency is boredom, waiting on everyone else.

In the real world, it’s a different productivity that determine our own success: Personal productivity: deciding what we want from our time and then developing productivity strategies to meet those goals. In adult life, understanding one’s own priorities is a prerequisite for being productive—productivity is about focusing on what’s important.

Jessica wrote a great comment about this topic:

I have a theory that successful self-directed learners have a better handle on time management. You look at successful people and they know how to manage their time, who to ignore, who to listen to, what to pursue, what to prioritize and what to build upon.

As far as I’m aware we all found what we loved or were interested in or passionate about regardless of if we were schooled or not. Not being in the confines of a schooling system is about being able to use our immediate resources to our advantage, such as income and time which compounds growth.

Jessica’s comment reminded me of when I first took my kids out of school. It seemed like we had huge amounts of time. The day seemed almost endless while the boys tried to figure out what to do with themselves and I tried to keep them from fighting with each other.

I sent them on walks to go visit my in-laws. Their house is a little less than a mile away, across hay fields and corn fields, and it was a perfect journey for my seven and ten year old sons. Our neighbors on the other side of our farm are the same distance away, and the kids walked there when the neighbors got home from work.

In the winter I dressed the boys up warmly for the walk.

In the spring they walked with baby kittens snuggled on their shoulders or tucked into their pockets.

Today if I told the boys to go take a walk, they’d say they have no time. Their days are filled with farm chores and music practice and all the things that interest them. One son is learning 3D graphics, one son is learning biology and algebra. Both like playing video games and schedule their days to leave enough time to do that.

Today the issues we face are about priorities. My son spends all day on 3D graphics and then he’s disappointed that he missed one of his three cello practices. Or he went on a disc golf tournament and he is all stressed out that he is “missing a day of work”.

Teaching the kids to fill their own days with high priority activities is the first step. Teaching the kids they have to give up some of those activities in order to really go after what they decide is most important: that’ s what adult life is all about.