It’s not a particular process. It’s not using a particular tool to jot down your ideas. It’s not an app you can download or a timer you can set.
Productivity is amazingly unique to the individual.
Over the past few years, I, like pretty much everyone else, have been reading productivity tips to get things done in a quicker, more efficient manner. I’ve especially enjoyed the “How I Work” series over on LifeHacker. I check the new posts out every Wednesday when they go up and read through for the the latest tips, tricks, and apps to download.
Throughout the latest posts and digging through the archives, I’ve read a variety of approaches to saving time and knocking out tasks. I’ve heard from the individuals that swear by Evernote and the ones that can’t go a day without writing down their thoughts and ideas in a notebook by hand. I’ve checked out nearly every to-do list app on the market.
Despite all the great info, I’d argue that researching productivity tips has made me less productive.
Sure, occasionally I’ll pick up a few tips to improve workflow. But, I think more often than not, we read about productivity and actually spend more time learning new processes and researching new apps than actually getting stuff done.
Productivity is Unique
Productivity isn’t something that can be copied from person to person. It’s unique just like a fingerprint. From the way it’s measured (amount of words written in an hour or phone calls in a day) to how it’s implemented (to-do lists, mind maps, notebooks, emails), each person will have a different approach.
When I first started reading about productivity, I thought that every tip or trick I read was the next best thing that was going to end wasted time and catapult me to the highest level of success. Instead, I’ve realized that these strategies are a method rather than an end product. Jotting your ideas down on paper versus typing them out on Evernote doesn’t get you anywhere closer to the end result. Rather, it’s a preference for how you want to catalog ideas for later. I wasted many hours downloading, setting up, and experimenting with new software. Rather than simplifying my workflow, I had to relearn a new app to do the same thing my previous app did in the first place.
The Best Productivity Advice
The best advice I’ve learned and would like to pass on is to stop reading productivity advice. I’m not lost on the irony of writing about productivity only to tell you to stop reading about productivity. However, I really believe that it’s the best strategy for actually getting work done.
Productivity articles exist because people read them. They see the “Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Workflow” and immediately click looking for the next secret. In reality, there is no secret to boosting productivity. In the end, there are multiple paths, but they all finish with the exact same step: Getting to work.
To follow my own advice, I’ve been on a tear recently to simplify my workflow. The goal was to stop focusing on “productivity” and instead direct my efforts to doing work. The results have been impressive. I’ve been able to complete the same amount of tasks with less effort and leave more time for hanging out with my fiancee and relaxing. Here are some of the bigger steps I took:
- I deleted every to-do list app I had. I didn’t need them. They were taking up space. Instead, I use the default Notes application on my iPhone (boring – I know). It’s perfect because it syncs with my laptop every time without any hassle.
- I stopped using Evernote. In fact, I deleted it. It’s just not for me. I’m really not sure what everyone stores in that thing. Most of the time, I had it open trying to think of something to save. I think I have five total notes over the course of a few years.
- I still use a timer. It’s been the most effective strategy to keep me on task. I use TimeBar although several different timer variations exist. It might not work for you, but it’s been a great solution for me.
- I stopped writing to-do lists and checking items off. I’m convinced that I was happier actually crossing items off a list than I actually was with the work I was doing. Instead, I have a running list of projects on the Notes app. I haven’t forgotten anything yet so it seems to be working.
In the end, I would never push a particular system on anyone. As I’ve reiterated before, productivity is largely individual. From the specific time to structure, you need to find out what works best for you. Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with a variety of processes and platforms. In the end, I found that I work best when the workflow is as simple as possible. Above all, I urge you to remember that every change in your particular workflow should be seen as a disruption. If the change will pay off in the future, it may be worth it. However, I believe the majority of the changes we make to increase productivity end up doing just the opposite.