With Productivity, It’s Always the Stupid Stuff That Works Best
I like getting stuff done. You probably do too.
The problem is, I didn’t always go out about it in the most effective ways.
I thought installing the latest tool meant I was on the cusp of doing great things.
I thought setting up the perfect Getting Things Done system was the cure for months of low productivity. If David Allen worked with celebrities to achieve great results, surely I could do the same! I’m not a celebrity, but I have their secret system now!
Here’s the wake-up call. There’s no Secret System.
I learned this the hard way.
I wasted hours and hours of my life doing stuff that just didn’t matter.
Instead of doing actual work, I dabbled in new techniques.
Instead of getting things done, I donned a snazzy getting-things-done cape and whirled around. It was not a magical affair.
What I learned about productivity is that it’s a personal process. It’s also a simple one.
Sadly, I wish I never had to go through hours of wasted time to figure out what works for me — but that’s probably what the universe expects of silly humans before they can do anything of any meaning.
What I Learned — Do the Stupid Stuff
“Stupid” is a harsh word, but it’s true.
To get things done, I had to learn to get back to basics.
I started writing one list instead of keeping 4 segmented lists based on the “perfect productivity plan” that I read about.
I then learned to look at what I actually wanted to accomplish during the day.
I put those tasks first on my list. It was revolutionary stuff. But based on the wasteful thinking that was running my life years ago, it actually was revolutionary.
They say (smart people, I presume) that you don’t understand something well until you can simplify it.
I didn’t understand productivity. I thought looking busy was the same as actually getting things done. It’s not. Never has been.
So now I do the stupid stuff.
Here’s a list to show you how much I’ve learned:
- Now I do one thing at a time instead of five things all at once.
- I do a weekly brain dump to review my progress on Sunday. I also use this time to do boring stuff like pay my bills. Amazing!
- I take some time to think about the kind of person I want to be. If I don’t know who I am, there’s a pretty good chance I’m not going to work on the stuff that matters to me.
- I write a lot. I used to think that people who are trying to be writers just write when they get a mystical jolt of inspiration. Now I know they just write a lot.
I could go on and on about stupid stuff, but you probably get the point.
When in Doubt, Simplify
I hope this short essay has encouraged you to think about things you might be overcomplicating in an effort to get more done.
If anything, I want you to know that it’s OK to slow down.
The world will wait for you.
And taking an extra moment to plan your work will ultimately make your work better.
So do the stupid stuff, the stuff that others will tell you isn’t fancy enough.
Remember bells and whistles were never meant to be the main attraction. They’re a distraction meant to entertain.
You can get away with fooling yourself for quite some time.
But after a while, if you want to make a serious dent in the universe, you need to work on your foundation underneath the glitzy facade.
Do the “stupid” stuff that your frenetic peers don’t want to do.