I wrote recently that for a while I was kind of a “productivity geek.” Which means I was so desperate to increase my own personal productivity that it became almost an obsession.
I read about it constantly. I studied books, blogs, and articles. I listened to all the experts. I took notes, made lists, narrowed my focus. I subscribed to podcasts, purchased and tried all the recommended apps. I applied myself with single-minded commitment and fervor.
There was only one problem (Well, there were more but only one I’m copping to today): I wasn’t becoming more productive. Not even a little bit.
I quit studying productivity. Oh, I still read about it. I’ll glance through an article here and there. I’ll even listen to a podcast now and then. But productivity is no longer my singular focus.
That ended the day I wrote the following statement in my journal.
“I’m reading about and studying productivity so much, I’m not being productive.”
That was an eye-opening day for me. In all my striving to learn about and become more productive, I was actually becoming less productive.
What was I going to do? How would I get everything done? And how would I do it without getting so stressed?
I surmise those same questions occupy your consciousness from time to time. Let me share with you two lessons: 1) Where I was wrong and, 2) What I figured out.
Where I was wrong…
1. I was searching for a silver bullet. I wanted to find that one simple solution that would solve all my productivity frustrations and issues. If I could just find that one piece of advice, the right guru, the perfect app, the best routine. If I could just find something simple, outside the realm of me, that could resolve the problem, I would be all better.
The problem? There is no silver bullet. No perfect app or routine. No solution outside of me.
2. I thought I would become productive if I gained enough knowledge. If there is no silver bullet, then certainly my productivity issue will not be solved by the accumulation of knowledge.
Those who told you “Knowledge is power” were lying. First, knowledge is just knowledge. Second, you have to do something with it. I prefer to teach, “Knowledge acted upon is power.” Even then, however, there is far more to the solution than simply accumulating mass amounts of data and then tweaking what you do a little.
3. I believed productivity would happen automatically with the right combination of technological tools.
Have you ever noticed how technology has never really provided the panacea that so many promised years ago? To be clear, I LOVE technology and I am an early adopter of much of it, including some of the newest and latest apps.
But more than once in my life, adopting the latest technology has sent me down any number of rabbit holes, aka, “time-sucks.” Technology is a wonderful thing. I am much better off because I use it (or perhaps I should say, “learned to use it”).
Please know, however, that no combination of the latest tools, apps, or software solutions will automatically take you to productivity nirvana. It just won’t happen.
4. I though productivity was an event. Because I linked improvement to a silver bullet, to acquiring more knowledge, and because I thought I would get what I wanted if I just combined the right number and types of tools, what I really believed that a day would come when everything would be just right and the “productivity fairy” would strike me with her magic wand, and all of a sudden, in one gigantic colossal event, I would be declared productive.
Yeah, I’m still looking for that moment. I think the day I discovered I was reading so much about productivity that I wasn’t being productive was the day I discovered that productivity was not an event.
I still had some learning to do.
What I figured out…
1. Productivity is a process. I confess I’ve never been a big fan of the process. I know what I want and I want it now. That’s what I always prefer flying somewhere over driving.
My wife, Kathy, keeps telling me that life is a journey and that I should embrace it and enjoy it. I hate it when she’s right. Becoming more productive in life is a process and it includes small and consistent improvements.
2. Productivity is consistent incremental change, not a massive life-changing epiphany. Small, consistent, incremental change will get you there every time and sooner than you think. In other words, your read something and an idea strikes you. Try it for a while. Does it work? Good. Can you tweak it? Do it. If it helps, keep doing it.
Someone mentions a trick they learned in a podcast. “That’s a good idea,” you think. It’s not a big deal, just a minor adjustment. Over the course of time, however, make enough small incremental adjustments and you’ll look back across the months and years and no longer wonder how you got so good.
3. Productivity is not the only goal. The late Stephen Covey was fond of talking about the individual who was so busy climbing the ladder of success that he didn’t notice the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
The point? What good is productivity if you’re not productive about the right things? What I’m suggesting is I’d rather be effective than efficient.
Both are important but…
Efficiency is only at its best when it helps you be more effective.
Just a thought. What are yours? Share them with me on Twitter or Facebook.