Every one of us chase productivity, myself included; no matter if it’s with tools, apps, or strategies we have at our disposal, we all want to become masters of productivity. This has led us willingly fall into the trap of implementing productivity “hacks” we learn from others and realise that it’s actually harmful to our goals instead of helpful. We end up chasing the idea of productivity rather than productivity itself.
We obediently do what productivity experts tell us to do and expect that it will work. The truth is, it’s not that simple in the least. Why? Because your formula for productivity is your own, and you need to figure out what works best for you.
The Real Problem
There’s a big difference between a day that seems productive and a day that seems not so. The difference is not in the number of tasks we get done — it’s about how we feel. The problem with chasing the feeling of productivity, is that it deceits us. We feel productive from answering emails, using productivity apps, running errands and doing some administration.
Really important work should contribute to our personal and professional accomplishments. Also, it often feels scary and frustrating when we try to achieve them. Nothing of real importance can be fully accomplished in just a few minutes and without a struggle. Therefore, working for the purpose to feel productive every day means we’re sacrificing anything worth being productive for.
“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.” — Caroline Myss
All in all, productivity is an outdated purpose and a deceptive feeling. Chasing productivity makes us unproductive toward what really matters. A better goal would be to stay near what moves slowly, resenting, and eventually changing. To do that, you need to start seeing, with seeing I mean being aware, with being aware I mean to start asking yourself whether your productivity is fake or real.
Let me share with you the three biggest fake productivity methods I saw in myself and questions I asked myself to get back on track.
1. “I Don’t Need A Vision”
As the productivity addict that I was, sometimes I still am, I know how easy it is to be all over the place by constantly wanting to do things faster and better, so I tended to forget the point of what I was doing in the first place. I used a time management tool to fill my schedules with activities and I used a system to get through my huge to-do list I created for myself.
The problem that arose when I constantly focussed on HOW to do things more efficiently is that I forgot WHY I was doing what I was doing. If what I was doing wasn’t meaningful or worthwhile, does it matter that I did do so much of it efficiently?
The question I asked myself was: Do I want to be only efficient, or efficient and effective?
Make sure you have a clear vision of what you’re doing is meaningful or worthwhile if you choose for the latter.
“Find you vision, and let it guide you in all that you do. If you lack vision, look inside yourself. Draw on your natural gifts and desires.” — Ken Blanchard
2. “I Can Multitasking”
This was definitely my most tempting fake productivity method. I kept multitasking until I stumbled upon research papers showing that the human brain actually processes one thing at a time. If you are reading a report while talking with your friends and surfing the Internet, you are actually doing each of those activities one after another and not in parallel.
At first, I didn’t believe this, so I tried to multitask and observed what my thoughts were. Believe me, if I tell you that it’s not easy to observe your own thoughts. I tried something simple as reading a book while doing anything else. I ended up reading the same sentences repeatedly.
The questions I asked myself were: Am I multitasking right now? Will I get anything done if I continue working the way I am now?
I highly recommend focussing on one task at a time. Get it done properly and move on to your next tasks. As Jeremy Clarkson said:
“Multitasking is the ability to screw everything up simultaneously.” — Jeremy Clarkson
3. “I Can Handle More Projects”
We are known for getting things done. Unfortunately, the more efficient we become, the more we try to do, until it’s too much on our plate. Maybe it’s because we like the challenge or maybe it’s our confidence that we can handle it.
In my case, what ended up happening was that I did get it done, but just not within the time frame I wanted to. Although I improved, I still make this mistake now and then. When I got excited about something, I just added it to my project list. The problem was when I started too many activities, I inevitably delayed everything else I was working on.
The questions I asked myself were: How many projects am I working on at the moment? Am I able to finish my projects by their deadlines?
It’s up to you how many projects you think you can handle, but I would recommend at most three projects or goals. You don’t want to end up multitasking through all your projects and sacrifice your sleep to make up for everything, like I did.
“You got to know your limit. Once is enough, but you got to learn. A little caution never hurt anyone. A good woodsman has only one scar on him. No more, no less.” — Haruki Murakami
Originally published at ye-chen.com on March 8, 2018.