Several years ago, I posted a blog entry about the lies we tell ourselves about productivity.
I’m reposting them here – more convinced than ever that they ring true. I’ve also added #6. It is one I hear in coaching all the time.
Finally, the title should probably be, “6 Lies WE Tell Ourselves About Productivity”
1) Busy People Get More Done.
The fact is, people who get more done tend to be busy – but.. we know or have been busy and after a day/week/month of frantic busy-ness, have little to show for it.
Let me qualify that. Little to show other than time now used and our desired achievables, no closer.
Why? You need to have established, written goals, and schedule them as though they are important.
2) I Can Multi-task.
This is one that women tend to use more than men. It is scientifically just not true. You are only kidding yourself. Being able to remember multiple things is not multi-tasking. Even switching between things is not multi-tasking.
Focused work on a single activity is the best way to get it done as quickly as possible.
You cannot multi-tasks!
3) I Keep My List In My Head/I don’t Need To Write It Down
It doesn’t matter whether you are a memory expert or not, a written list (computerized list) of “next tasks” (see David Allen’s Getting Things Done) is both liberating (frees your mind to concentrate on the work of the current task and forget about future tasks) and restrictive (it keeps you on the current tasks and those that need doing right now).
Write it down!!!
4) I Don’t Need To Organize – My Piles Are My System
Guilty!. This was one of my lies. Thankfully, it is not anymore. I do a good job of getting rid of piles every 1 or 2 weeks. Including the dreaded filing and purging process. It takes very little time and far fewer things slip through the cracks. Also, it clears mental noise, allowing me to concentrate and perform virtually all other tasks better.
If you are telling yourself that your clutter is your system, it is simply an excuse for being lazy.
I have been asked what type of filing system is best? My answer: The one you use. It doesn’t really matter as long as you use it and purge it once or twice a year.
5) I’ll Get To It Tomorrow/Next Week/In The Future!
This is probably the single biggest hindrance to productivity and the big lie. In “Getting Things Done” and other productivity systems I’ve read, there is a rule that says, tasks that are less than 5 minutes in length should be done right then. Of course, this is not always possible – ie: I have an appointment in 5 minutes and there are ten 5 minute or fewer tasks.
However, I now schedule time each day for quick tasks. I schedule that time. I don’t say, “I’ll get to it when I have time.”
Remember, your calendar is your benevolent dictator.
6) I’m doing the best I can
I usually hear this when someone is stressed or being pressured to change some things. Unfortunately, it is pretty rare that we are doing our best. We have areas of improvement.. some that we know.. some that we need to learn through assessment.
Part of being productive is having the honesty to know what needs to improve and adding it to your to do list for the week – improving I mean.
Even when you are doing pretty good/very good.. you aren’t doing the best you can. But, in particular, if you are feeling like you are at your limit – of patience or energy – you are very likely doing far less than your best. Time to think about what you need to change.
What lies have you told yourself lately? Be honest.