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The Myth of Productivity Advice

The Myth of Productivity Advice

I’ve got Jeffrey Gitomer on the brain, as I’m reading his LITTLE RED BOOK OF SELLING. In one part, he says that lessons on time management are pretty much a waste of time. It’s provocative, sure, but is he right?

Becoming more productive and learning to master the ways in which you spend time are skills, certainly, and can be taught by others, without question. By reading and following the practices laid out in books like GETTING THINGS DONE and reading sites like this one and the others, you are no doubt learning tips, tricks, and workflows that will improve what needs doing in a workday.

But is that the right medicine for the right sickness?

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What if the problems that keep you from achieving better success are more in the realm of human interaction? Maybe you’re very abrasive with people, but don’t realize just how badly that’s impacting your life. Perhaps you lack a broad perspective on business, fundamental misgivings about how you fit into the bigger scheme of things around you. There are plenty of other ways in which your success requires something different than productivity skills.

Time Management is a tool. It is a framework. Learning new ways to deliver more of what you’re doing in the same amount of time is useful, but isn’t entirely the end-all solution, unless you are paid for piecework. This brings me to the myth.

Productivity skills alone will not dramatically improve your life.

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Scan the last several pages of posts on this site, on Lifehacker, on 43Folders, or any other site devoted to helping you get through life with a little more ease. We are not writing about productivity a great deal of the time. Instead, we write about things we think will be helpful to your day. It might be ways to improve your computer, tricks to aid memorization, thoughts about budget vacations.  We develop all angles of what people might be able to use to improve their lives, because through this approach, everyone has the chance to find something with which they connect.

So why are there so many posts and articles and books still devoted to productivity and time management?

Because it’s an easy concept to grasp, fairly easy to implement, and we can measure the results clearly and linearly. Also, because it relates to what we say out loud when we feel exhausted and flustered by all the work still left undone before us. If only I had more time. I have no time to deal with this. If only I could manage this time better, I’d get things done.

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I believe this is one of the keys to the mystery. We say: “I need more time.” We mean:  I need stronger focus and commitment.

When questioned about how he found enough time to accomplish so much, Gandhi reportedly told people that he had as many hours in the day as any man. Again, it’s all in how we use them. I believe what need addressing more often than not are these: ways to gatekeep our time, and ways to keep our drive and focus.

Gatekeeping Tips

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  • If the real work that needs doing is offline, disable the internet for an hour at a time.
  • Turn email checks into an hourly habit, not an “as the box gets mail” habit.
  • Don’t answer your cell phone when working on something important. Call back later.
  • If you can’t work at work, negotiate finding a new place to get things done.
  • Television means: “I don’t need this time and it doesn’t matter to me.” (Almost always. Really.)
  • Bugdet your entertainment time vs. production time. Never cheat the other.
  • Examine every opportunity along the lines of time vs. projects already underway.
  • Try working part of your day in “off-hour” times, to get more done with fewer people around.

Drive and Focus Tips

  • Write your goals clearly. Post them in eyeball view of where you work most.
  • Spend time with focused people. Meet and befriend those who are where you want to be.
  • Consume as much material about your prime focus as you can budget.
  • Analyze your past experiences. Be clear. List your successes. Examine your failures.
  • Stay true to a particular vision of what you want to do.
  • Don’t give up too early.
  • Envision your success. Write about it. Then read that daily or weekly.
  • Learn how to “chunk.” Hit each milestone and move to the next. Be methodical.
  • Develop habits around success and drive.
  • Recharge your batteries with good sleep and food.
  • Develop your relationship with your family. It nourishes the other goals.

I think that the majority of folks reading post about productivity are just reaching around for new tools to add to their toolbox of ways they get things accomplished, but there’s a subset that thinks: if only… If only I could learn how to better manage my time, things would be better. If you’re of the second mindset, this article is aimed strongly in your direction.

Stop. Look at your world. Consider all the ways in which you’re using your time. Think about taking a time audit. But also, consider the fact that your needs might not be in the realm of productivity. Instead, you might need to work harder on your commitment to your goals, your habits, and the ways in which the structure of your day supports or detracts from your intentions. This might make a world of difference in your chances for being successful in whatever you set out to accomplish.

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com] . He develops creative content at GrasshopperFactory.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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