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Where are the aids for increasing GENUINE personal productivity?

Where are the aids for increasing GENUINE personal productivity?

Too much of today’s personal productivity is stuck in repeating the past
To-do list

A genuine increase in productivity means getting the same, or greater, output with less effort and a smaller use of resources. Yet most personal productivity software still relies on various ways to categorize old-fashioned to-do lists.

That focuses on getting more done by improved organization; it’s working harder for longer (mostly by virtue of avoiding distractions and procrastination), not doing things better or with less effort and input. It’s not increasing genuine productivity. I suspect that, in reality, it’s sometimes even a substitute for doing much at all; spending time instead categorizing and rearranging lists of what is there to be done.

Where is the software that would help people find better ways to do things? To free up time for what matters be eliminating the unnecessary and trivial? The software that would ask tough, meaningful questions about every to-do item, such as:

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  • Do you need to do it now — or ever?
  • Is this something that you could — and should — delegate to someone else?
  • Is there a way to get the same result with less effort and input?
  • Is there a way to get a better outcome? Have you considered fresh options? What ideas could you find to improve, simplify, or — best of all — eliminate this activity?
  • Are you jumping to conclusions about what to do? Should you allow circumstances to unfold further, so you can see better what needs to be done (if anything)?
  • How can you develop your creativity, so that you can either find better ways to achieve the same, or greater, results, or find ways to stop doing things?

These are all questions it’s easy to forget in the rush to “get things done” — especially when someone is breathing down your neck and time seems to be slipping away. Software that both reminded and challenged you each time you tried to add something to your to-do list might be a boon to anyone caught up in the rat race.

Not doing things may be more productive

The Tao Te Ching suggested, more than 2200 years ago, that by doing nothing, everything would be done. What I suspect the author meant was that, if you think about things long enough and carefully enough, a great deal of your present activity can be removed altogether; if you’re patient, still more will resolve itself without any input from you; and whatever is left, you can do in half the time and with a quarter of the effort. Everything that matters gets done. The rest is irrelevant.

By following that advice, you can eliminate so much clutter — plus those actions only done because you’ve always done them that way — that you will fly through what is left. That’s true focus, not the false kind that comes from putting items into an ordered list and starting from the top. You may be working on item 1, but all the others are still there, preying on your mind and tempting you into swerving aside to deal with them too.

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What about something that actually limited your to-do list to no more than, say, six items? Something that would force you to prioritize and drop something, before you could add any more? It’s easy to build up a to-do list of almost infinite length, then feel stressed by all the things still waiting to be done.

Realistically, the chances of getting to item 27 on your list — now or ever — are so small as not to be worth considering. Software could not only help you to set sensible priorities, it could recall just how long something had sat at number 3 or 4 and tell you either to do it now — make it number 1 and get it done — or stop kidding yourself and forget it.

It could also remember how long something had been on the to-do list in any position and kick it off automatically after, say, 5 days. If you haven’t even started on it by then, you aren’t going to today. Push it into a back list of “to do sometime;” and remove altogether if it stays on there for more than two weeks.

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The real keys to increasing productivity are creativity and discipline

I know this sounds brutal, but sometimes it takes “tough love” to bring home the key point: a to-do list should only contain what you are definitely going to do within the next day or so. Everything else should go somewhere else, or it will simply clog up your list and convince you that you’re so weighed down with unfinished tasks that you don’t have time to do anything — except, of course, continually polish and re-categorize your natty software to-do list!

Productivity should be about creativity — finding new and better ways to do what me must with less effort — and discipline — to ignore anything that isn’t truly important.

For example, if your to-do list and calendar are full of meetings, you can probably double or triple your productivity instantly by taking these simple steps:

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  • Cut out all the time wasted in meetings you’re only attending as an observer. If you haven’t got anything on the agenda that is vital to you, don’t go.
  • Refuse to stay in any meeting for more than one hour. What can’t be accomplished in that time probably doesn’t need to be done.
  • If you are in charge, eliminate all the time wasted by people “updating” the group. If anyone needs to know, ask for a summary beforehand by e-mail. In a meeting, it’s wasted time.
  • Only hold meetings at all if there is genuinely no other way. About a third of meetings take place because people are too lazy to handle what needs to be done more efficiently. The other two-thirds take place to allow people to spread the blame and protect their butts.

Until you stop focusing on the mundane — organizing lists — and start considering genuine productivity — improving the ways you do essential things and dropping all the rest — you’ll stay stuck at about the place you’re in today.

Until now, nearly all software advances linked to personal productivity have been based on automating what people once did by hand. That process has reached the point of diminishing returns. The real innovations will only come when we start using software to let us do what was either impossible, or unimagined, before we had it.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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