The Silent Productivity Killer Nobody Talks About

The solution is not a hack

Barry Davret
Feb 8 · 5 min read
Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

The “Getting Ready” plague

In my first sales job, my manager tasked me with cold calling one-hundred leads each morning. The fastest guys finished in an hour. It took me three to four hours.

“Salespeople spend too much time getting ready. The act of getting ready is nothing more than a subconscious attempt to put off doing something that pains us.”

At that moment I had thought about my lead organizing ritual and realized the truth. He was right. My getting ready activities only served to distract me from my real responsibility. I feared and despised cold-calling, so I invented warmup tasks to delay the inevitable pain for as long as possible.

What’s really important?

Some of the extraneous tasks we do to distract ourselves are relatively harmless. I hate washing dishes by hand, so I jam and configure my dishwasher to fit every last item in the sink. I end up wasting more time rearranging than I would if I had just washed the damn bowl.


Here’s an exercise I want you to try. I do this once every three months. It keeps me honest and aware of how I use my time.


Critical activities consist of the work that matters most to you. It could be your daily writing, art, or critical tasks at your day job like sales calls. You shouldn’t have more than two or three of these activities. If everything you do is critical, then nothing is critical. If you have too many, re-examine your priorities.


Preferable tasks are things you want to do but are not critical. I prefer to spend a half hour a day reading fiction, but it is not critical. I’ll skip the preferable tasks if they interfere with something more important.


Necessary tasks are activities that enable your critical functions. Most of us need to commute to our day job. Commuting isn’t an essential activity, but it’s necessary.


I do a thirty-minute walk every day. It’s a sacred activity. I don’t feel whole when I skip it. These are non-negotiables you do for your health and well-being. Allow yourself two or three sacred activities.


Everything left on your list is unnecessary. This bucket includes things such as: browsing social media, checking the news, email, texts, organizing your desk for efficiency, and most getting ready tasks. If you’re unsure, ask yourself what useful benefit you get out of the activity and then label it appropriately.

Time management is not the answer

If you ask someone why they don’t spend time on meaningful work, they’ll throw out the time management excuse.

Time management won’t help you overcome fear, the reason you put off meaningful work.

Take the first step

The second call feels easier than the first. The second sentence feels more natural than the first. These first steps are hard because it seems like we have such a long road ahead of us.

Taking the first step is as simple as adjusting your self-talk. Think of a single act instead of the overall objective.

“I’m going to make one call.” “I’m going to write one sentence.”

Barry Davret

Written by

Writer. Ghost writer. Experimenter in life, productivity and creativity. Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.