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Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?

Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity?
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    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.

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    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 July 21, 2021

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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        No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

        Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

        Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

        A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

        Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

        In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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        From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

        A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

        For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

        This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

        The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

        That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

        Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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        The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

        Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

        But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

        The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

        The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

        A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

        For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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        But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

        If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

        For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

        These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

        For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

        How to Make a Reminder Works for You

        Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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        Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

        Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

        My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

        Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

        I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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        Reference

        [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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