Personal Productivity

To Be Productive You Have to Stop Thinking About Productivity

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez Tags Self-Improvement Habits Organization Tools
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” ~ Bruce Lee

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Not thinking productivity

Some people make the pursuit of productivity a never-ending quest. They keep reading books and articles related to the subject to learn about new methods and techniques, learn about specific use cases and discover what is the latest trending technology in the field. They feel the need to try every app that promises to fix their life.

This is all well and good. Trying to constantly improve is in the human condition. The key is in the word never-ending. One should try to improve a system when it’s necessary; when it’s not necessary, such a quest may simply become a waste of time.

In many cases, when you have a good enough performance, continuing to strive for perfection is counterproductive. That excess, all that obsessive activity in search of infinitesimal improvement, turns the pursuit of productivity into something unproductive, a waste of time.

Let’s see if I can explain this: To be truly productive, you have to stop thinking about productivity.

If your work system forces you to be attentive to the system itself, you are spending energy on it that you should be using to do other things. As much as you like it, a system that requires a lot of work does not work. Your system should liberate you, not enslave you. Your concern should be to think, to do, to create, to devise, to work…

The less you have to think about your personal productivity system, the more effective it will be. The goal of a personal productivity system — if what we mean by it is the set of methods, techniques and tools you use to manage your stuff — should be to integrate into your life and disappear from your mind as soon as possible.

Most of your interactions with your management system should be simple and routine: reviewing what you have pending, choosing what to do, capturing a new task, etc. Only a small part of your interactions will require a little more work, things like defining pending work or reviewing the system as a whole and bringing it up to date; things necessary to keep your life and work under control.

But if you have to worry every day about moving and copying data back and forth, looking for complicated solutions to perform certain processes, adapting the tool to your method… not good. It’s hard enough building the habits needed to be an effective person; there’s no need to add more obstacles.

There are systems that work well when you have a few tasks or under certain circumstances, but fail terribly when your activity increases or circumstances change. So yes, you have to look for solutions. But before you think about whether your method or your application is failing, ask yourself honestly, isn’t it me who is failing?

It’s tempting to obsess over new methods and new tools. But your toolbox doesn’t determine your productivity. Nor your software. Nor your boss, your colleagues or your family. Not even the methodology you use. While all of the above can certainly help or hinder, your personal productivity depends primarily on you.

So, first, be obsessed with you. With knowing the best practices to be an effective person, with turning them into habits. This is the basis for any tool you use to be really useful.

When you have the necessary skills, your personal management system becomes a place where you keep reminders of all kinds, and interact with it as necessary to keep the work flowing, but no more.

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Francisco Sáez
@franciscojsaez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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