Advertising
Advertising

What’s Missing in Productivity Today?

What’s Missing in Productivity Today?
What’s Missing in Today’s Productivity?

This month, we asked Lifehack.org contributors — and you, our readers — to think about the things that are missing in today’s productivity systems. Not only the areas where the "Big Name" systems fall short, but the gaps in our own systems, the places where we as individuals fall down.

Advertising

The Lifehack.org community rose to the challenge, offering a variety of thought-provoking posts and comments that hopefully gave us all something to mull over before we embark on yet another round of system-tweaking.

Advertising

In chronological order, here are all the posts from Lifehack.org this month that set out to answer the question, "What’s missing in today’s productivity systems?"

Advertising

  • My Redundant Productivity System (Joel Falconer)
    While "touch it once" might be a good rule for inbox processing, having multiple, redundant copies of your crucual work and reference documents is an important part of staying productive — even when (especially when) disaster strikes.
  • 10 Tips for Improving Your Appointment Setting Skills (Thursday Bram)
    Setting an appointment means more than jotting a time and name in your calendar; here’s 10 things to think about to avoid wasting time before or during scheduled appointments.
  • Why doing nothing may sometimes be the best action of all (Adrian Savage)
    Your brain is wired to act, even when the facts aren’t all in. Slow down and make sure you have all the information you need before you act — and consider whether doing nothing might be your wisest course of (in)action.
  • Personal Productivity in the 21st Century (Dustin M. Wax)
    In their attempt to reduce everything to discrete chunks of doing, today’s productivity systems don’t leave space for the kinds of work that characterize most of our jobs today. How can we open more space for creativity, reflection, and just being?
  • The Gaps in the Standard Address Book (Thursday Bram)
    7 ways to improve the off-the-shelf address book or contact management program.
  • Simplify Your Information Intake (Joel Falconer)
    Productivity starts with the things we choose not to do — and limiting how much email and web content we handle, and how we handle it — can go a long ways toward creating more productive days.
  • Audiobook Review: David Allen’s "GTD > Weekly Review" (Dustin M. Wax)
    The weekly review is far and away the red-headed stepchild of David Allen’s GTD methodology. Arguably the most important part of the system (the thing that makes it a system), the weekly review is the most likely part ot be skipped or minimized. Allen’s new 3-CD set offers help getting back on track and rethinking the role and importance of the weekly review.
  • The Real Trouble with Productivity (Lisa Gates)
    Productivity as an aim in and of itself is an empty thing, indeed. True productivity lies in the ways we make meaning in our lives, and is grounded in a vision worth pursuing. What’s yours?
  • Small Projects Generate Good Feelings (Karl Staib)
    Productivity needn’t be only about marketing campaigns and writing best-sellers; little projects give us the opportunity to plan, carry out, and finish, creating satisfaction in a job well done that will carry over into the rest of our lives.
  • There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management (Dustin M. Wax)
    Being productive doesn’t mean getting the most stuff done in the least amount of time, it means doing the necessary stuff as efficiently as possible so we can focus on the things that add meaning to our lives. Make time for the most useless thing you do!
  • Self-Discipline: The Foundation of Productive Living (Joel Falconer)
    "Self-discipline is the power to act on ideas." Learn to get yourself from thought to action — especially where all this productivity talk is concerned!
  • What are the aids for increasing GENUINE productivity? (Adrian Savage)
    There are literally hundreds of software products out there that claim to increase productivity, yet all of them do basically the same thing: categorize todo lists. What might a program that really increased productivity — that helped us do more or better in the same or less time — look like?
  • Look for the Solution within the Problem (Paul Sloane)
    Systematic Inventive Thinking is a way of thinking about problems that sees a problem as a chain of unwanted effects and seeks to break the chain. It offers inventive solutions to problems where resources are limited.
  • 10 HARD Ways to Make Your Life Better (Dustin M. Wax)
    Too many people promise an easy way to wealth, fame, and happiness. Doing something hard, even if you fail, is often far more satisfying — and truth be told, probably a lot more certain.
  • Change Your Day, Change Your Life, Change the World: A Review of “New Day Revolution” by Sam Davidson and Stephen Moseley (Dustin M. Wax)
    One way to create more meaning is to direct your actions towards changing the world. Davidson and Mosely’s book offers a few ideas to help you start bringing your day-to-day activities in line with your vision of a better world.
  • Go on a High-Information Diet (Dustin M. Wax)
    The key to productivity isn’t to minimize the information you take in — you need as much of that as you can get! Rather, the key lies in reducing the amount of superfluous junk, to go on the intellectual version of a high-fiber, low-fat diet.
  • Getting to Good Enough (Dustin M. Wax)
    Get things done by accepting less than perfection. 80% good is better than 100% nothing.
  • Productivity maybe . . . but for what purpose? (Adrian Savage)
    By every emasure, we’re more productive today than a generation ago — yet we have less leisure, less connection, and less happiness. Why? For most of us, it’s because the time we free up weighs on us, and we seek desperately to fill it with even more work. There are other choices!
  • How to Maximize Efficiency by Grouping Tasks (Joel Falconer)
    An antidote to "Cranking widgets"? Tips on thinking and working at the "big picture" level by grouping tasks.
  • Welcome Failure (Paul Sloane)
    If you want innovation, you need to learn to embrace failure.

There you have it. 20 takes on what it might mean to be productive in today’s world and what our systems fail to take into account. What do you think? What’s missing in your system?

Advertising

More by this author

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain) Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Trending in Featured

1 Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed 2 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time 3 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity 4 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 5 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

Advertising

To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

Advertising

The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

Advertising

After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Advertising

Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next