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Use Simple Productivity Practices to Get More of the Right Things Done

Use Simple Productivity Practices to Get More of the Right Things Done

    If you are a knowledge worker and read Lifehack then we can safely say that you are in a group savvy individuals who are looking for better and more productive ways to get life done. And with this “savvyness”, comes intelligence and a constant yearning to better yourself.

    I have delved into the productivity and lifehack realm for a number of years now, and even after reading and writing post after post about how to do ‘X’ and why you should do ‘Y’, all of the lifehacking and productivity tips come back to one base theme: Simplicity.

    In a nutshell, we have to simplify our lives (including the ways that we are productive) to make sure that we are getting the right things done on a continual basis. Here is the why and how of simplifying your productivity.

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    If it isn’t simple…

    If your productivity system and tools aren’t simple, then you probably aren’t getting things done, and more importantly, you aren’t getting the right things done. We can spend all day tweaking our systems and making sure that we have set up the right GTD contexts in our “trusted system”, but until we sit down and start getting the work done, our system isn’t worth anything at all.

    So, if your systems aren’t simple, then your ability to get more and better work done will be diminished.

    Complex jobs need simple instructions

    There is nothing easy about being a knowledge worker. We have a bunch of round pegs that need put into square holes that we have to deal with on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s up to us to define and breakdown our work. We all have to know how to take complex projects and break them down into actionable units to ensure that we are making progress on them.

    We have to simplify the complex.

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    Sometimes, simplifying your life can take some complex tools, especially if you are in certain fields, but remember, the first step to completing any project is identifying the next physical thing that you have to accomplish. Without that simple step, the most complex job can end up being impossible. It doesn’t take complex productivity tools and systems to figure out what your next step is of a project; the next physical thing you have to do to reach a desired outcome. This next steps is the beginning of your simple set of instructions to complete your complex job.

    When you know you are thinking too much

    If you are anything like me, then you are a productivity system “tweak-aholic”. That is someone who can’t get enough of tweaking their systems until they are just right so they can get more done. This state of just right doesn’t truly exist. Even if you could reach this state of just right if wouldn’t help you get more things done (unless we had some sort of artificial intelligence backed productivity system that forced us to always do the next right action not matter what).

    If you are trying a ton of different systems and always switching between them, then you are thinking way too hard about “being productive” and not actually being productive. If you are in the viscous cycle of checking out “productivity porn”, then you can be sure that you are thinking and trying too hard.

    Back to simplicity

    So, now that you know you are over-complicating your productivity systems and destroying any form of getting things done, what can you do about it?

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    Simplify.

    I’m not talking about shaving your head, joining a monastery, and retreating from the “real world”. You can still lead a complicated life and work life while utilizing effective and simple productivity tools and systems. Rather than complicate the already complicated, use tools that simplify your complex life.

    We have suggested using paper in the past to clarify your projects and next actions on those projects, but if you work digitally most of the time, it’s probably better to have a few simple digital tools that will do the trick. We have a few great posts on selecting the right tools as well as some suggested tools for different platforms.

    SEE ALSO: Productivity Made Simple: Where to Start with GTD, Productivity Made Simple: The 7 Main Elements of GTD, Productivity Made Simple: How to Keep Your Projects from Killing You

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    It isn’t about the tool that you choose, as long as it is something that you can use and aren’t repelled by. It’s all about you actually interacting and utilizing the tools that you have chosen create a make good, simple decisions on what to do next.

    (Photo credit: business cube creation via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    How to Stop Information Overload

    How to Stop Information Overload

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    How Serious Is Information Overload?

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

    This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

    We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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    The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

    Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

    But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

    Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

    Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

    When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

    How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

    1. Set Your Goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

    If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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    • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
    • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
    • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

    If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

    (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

    Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

    3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

    Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

    Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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    4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this:

    Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Summing It Up

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

    I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

    I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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