Confession of a Recovering Productivity Addict

Six years ago, when I was living in Spain, I was obsessed by Productivity. I tried to make my system as efficient as possible, using the best apps to help me get things done and spending hours a week listening to podcast on the topic. Of course, the irony was that I spent more time learning to be more productive than actually being productive. It’s easy to look down on that with hindsight as I now know many of the fundamental principles and ideas which help with productivity but back then I didn’t. At the same time, I don’t really care for listening about productivity advice (especially as an isolated topic) anymore, I know that the thing that would make the biggest difference for myself is applying what I already know, not learning something new.

The 20% that takes you 80% of the way

Just like everything, there are a few core productivity principles which take you a long way. Applying those will be more beneficial than spending hours trying to learn the other 80%. Unfortunately that means doing stuff rather than sitting back and listening or reading. I’m not certain on what this 20% is exactly – and it may well vary a bit for you – but the things that make the biggest difference for me include:

  • Getting a good nights sleep
  • Doing some regular exercise
  • Not eating too much bad stuff (it makes me feel tired and bloated)
  • Listing the key things I need to work on and do today
  • Writing down the steps in a project and marking the next step
  • If I don’t know what the next step is, thinking of whom I could ask to find out
  • Doing a task straight away if it will take 2 mins or less
  • Saving tasks as soon as I can

Perhaps I needed to be an addict?

I was originally going to write a bit of a rant against productivity culture where people constantly seek that extra trick (or worse app) that will help them finally be productive (spoiler, no matter how productive you are, you can always be more productive and even if you do reach 100% productivity, you will still wish you could do more.) but as I started writing I realized I was (partially) wrong. Those earlier experienced actually help me greatly today and just because I don’t need to hear that advice, doesn’t mean others don’t.

Still, I wonder if most people who are concerned about being productivity would be better served spending more time doing than consuming about productivity.

Chris J Wilson @ChrisJWilson
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