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.
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.
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?
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.
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)