I used to obsess about productivity. A lot. Spent a crapton of time, money, energy to find THE app that will make the tasks on our to-do list disappear like magic!
I surely wished these productivity apps/books/courses/systems would make my life easier. And they did. Only for a couple of days before all hell broke loose on me. Unfortunately, I failed to learn from my experience and kept on trying new stuff, new tactics and hacks to make it all work.
Eventually, I had a revelation. And here’s what everything boils down to (at least for me): the best system is the one that works for YOU and the one you have right NOW!
After shelling close to a $1,000 (probably more, just being conservative) on apps/books/systems/whatever… I’m back to using a page-a-day planner to create a list of highly focused to-dos. And I use Evernote (just Notes or Notebook would do too!) to create a weekly list of priorities I need to focus on.
My biggest learning so far is that the most productive people out there are always amidst chaos. And they don’t strive to eliminate it but work around it. Yes, I’m aware of exceptional people who’ve managed to be productive by reducing clutter, owning less stuff or even by meditating.
But that’s just not for me. I tried reducing the clutter on my desk… only have it all come back (in different colors, form, shapes, and sizes) a week later. Maybe I’m just not uber-disciplined like these gurus… but maybe I don’t want to be like them. I’m me. And that’s good enough.
Each day can be a struggle. And trying to eliminate obstacles can be a massive waste of time. Working around it, however, is more effective… because the obstacles (whatever they may be) don’t really go away. You have to work hard to make them go away… and that’s time-consuming.
We can’t just wait for things to get better. We need results right now! What do we do?
Here’s what I think can be an effective strategy: prepare for distractions. Learn to manage them. Notice I said “manage” and not “eliminate” because that’s impossible to do. Just think how many times have you worked hard to eliminate a major distraction or an obstacle in your life. Only have it replaced by something else. Within days. (I once had it replaced in a matter of minutes!)
What a waste of time?
Accepting that I cannot eliminate distractions but can manage them effectively has been a lifesaver, really. It takes less brainpower to manage things and allows you to get creative with your work and how you manage time. I’m more at peace with myself.
Essentially, managing distractions has become one of the cornerstones of my proprietary productivity method*.
*Which includes a page-a-day planner and Evernote.