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Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?

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Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?


    I’m sure a lot of Lifehack readers are also readers of Leo Baubata’s blog Zen Habits. While I’m a big fan of Leo’s and can honestly say he was my biggest inspiration to start blogging, I also disagree with some of what he has to say of late.

    A couple of months ago Leo wrote an article entitled “Toss Productivity Out” and to most productivity geeks and ninjas the initial reaction to that post would include a shriek and maybe a gasp. What would my life be like if I toss productivity out? I’m certainly not going back to the pre-productivity chaos that was my life.

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    But Leo’s concept is about letting go, not living life constantly striving to achieve more, faster, and better. And in this concept I agree. I too have been trying to simplify my life, I have been trying to value my time and not waste it working on things that don’t matter.

    But there is a time and a place for productivity, and I think in all of Leo’s wisdom that letting go too soon can have a negative effect. I think there is a time in our lives for goal setting, for productivity systems, and for letting go.

    Goal Setting

    Goal setting is probably one of the biggest personal development ideas of the past decade. Stephen Covey, Richard Branson, Robin Sharma and other successful people will tell you to set goals. If you want to achieve something, you must visualize it and then go out there and get it.

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    How to go about achieving your goals is where the next set of experts fit in. The ones who will advise you how to manage your time and make time for all the things you want to achieve in life.

    Productivity

    People like Brian Tracy, David Allen, Mike Vardy and CM Smith tell us how to get from the vision to the completion. How you can get things done — and stay calm and as stress-free as possible while doing it. At a certain point in everyone’s life we want to accomplish things and often find that we don’t have the time to do it. Productivity systems help us to manage our time and resources to enable us to get all the important stuff done. Productivity systems help us to achieve our lofty goals and dreams.

    Letting Go

    Then there is another school of thought — the one that advises us to let go, to stop striving. To live in the present and accept life for what it offers. These are the letting go advocates like Babauta, Mary Jaksch of Goodlife ZEN and many others who tell us to focus on the present and appreciate each day for what it is. I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of letting go and living in the now. But can we do this without first going through the process of goal setting and productivity?

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      I think there is a time in most people’s life when goal setting is needed, where change is required, when things are not the way you want them to be. In these times we need to focus on a better future, to project ourselves into a better state of mind, a healthier body or a calmer disposition. Leo managed to lose weight, eliminate debt and become a runner. Could he have done this by simply letting go? I don’t believe so.

      But then again there were some gaps in the evolution of man. Are these down to missing pieces of information or were they quantum leaps in development? Is this what Leo is telling us now…that we no longer need to go step by step in our personal development? Is it perhaps time for a quantum leap? Is it time for human consciousness to let go and allow the universe to let things happen and evolve how they should?

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      It’s certainly an interesting concept. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

      (Photo credit: Woman Letting go of Balloons via Shutterstock)

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        Ciara Conlon

        Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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        Last Updated on October 21, 2021

        How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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        How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

        Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

        Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

        The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

        Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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        Program Your Own Algorithms

        Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

        Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

        By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

        How to Form a Ritual

        I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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        Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

        1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
        2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
        3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
        4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

        Ways to Use a Ritual

        Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

        1. Waking Up

        Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

        2. Web Usage

        How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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        3. Reading

        How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

        4. Friendliness

        Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

        5. Working

        One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

        6. Going to the gym

        If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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        7. Exercise

        Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

        8. Sleeping

        Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

        8. Weekly Reviews

        The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

        Final Thoughts

        We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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        Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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