Being productive means identifying unnecessary tasks

Having studied what it takes to be productive all these years, I have realised that productivity is more about what not to do than what to do. And sadly, this isn’t something our productivity gurus, websites, or YouTube productivity geniuses address.

There’s a crapton of apps, strategies, and routines to follow. None of which are guaranteed to work. Yet, we continue to obsess over those shallow tactics, hoping it will give us a productivity jolt equivalent to 5 hours every day.

Yeah, dream on.

To save time, we need to take a top-down approach, which might mean we have to chuck away all the nonessential tasks and projects that clutter our calendars and to-do lists. This might seem strange, given that we’ve been conditioned to believe that productivity is about doing more in less time. It’s not, my friend.

Being productive is about focusing on the absolute essentials that are key to your wellbeing. The challenge is to approach the elimination process when everything feels super important. I’ve been there, and I think I have discovered the best way to tackle this dilemma (thanks to the book The Myth of Multitasking) is by assessing your passion and proficiency for each task.

Let me define what passion and proficiency mean in this context:

  • Passion refers to the high level of motivation that you bring to specific tasks.
  • Proficiency means that you’re skilled at the task, and it has a significant contribution to your work.

The idea is to evaluate if you’re passionate or proficient in each task in your life. I use a scorecard system to strike things off my list. And the scoring system is simple — either a zero or one. Here’s a how a typical set of tasks will look like:

Recruiting a senior creative designer11I will handle this myself
Filling paperwork for the candidates to be staffed00Handover, the responsibility of the office administrator
Resolving billing disputes with the client’s procurement team01Schedule a call on Thursday for a resolution
Search for the new project management tool10Delegate it to one of the project managers
Resolving internal conflicts between team members01Delegate it to the project managers to handle this
Get the new website ready10Delegate this to an external agency soon.

I hope you noticed the pattern there:

  1. I will be focusing on the tasks that I’m both passionate and proficient in as I will enjoy doing them, and it’s the best way to stay focused on the high-value activities that have a significant impact on my goals.
  2. I chuck out or delegate anything that I’m neither passionate about nor proficient in; spending time on these activities is a waste of time.
  3. There always will be tasks that I’m proficient in but not passionate about — I can either handle them myself or delegate them to a trusted colleague, depending on my business or life’s priorities.
  4. The tasks I’m passionate about are not proficient in need to be dealt with carefully as they are distractions. And since you’re not talented, there’s a high likelihood that you might not add any value to the conversations.

If the above sounds prominent or easy, let me assure you, it’s not. It’s a system that I’ve struggled to follow myself over the years, partly because I know it works and partly because I know it won’t allow me to clutter my mind and to-do lists with tasks that aren’t worth my time, attention, and energy. And those are scarce resources that deserve to be protected at all costs.

How far would you go to protect your time, attention, and energy?


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