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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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