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Insights from a 10-YearĀ Productivity Journey

productivity

(image credit: Sean MacEntee)

This post is a guest post from Launchbyte fan and recovering productivity geek Adrian Koh. Here, he shares what a productive life means to him like after 10 years of GTD-ing, and how he found the answer in an unexpected place.

The Productive Me Ten Years Ago
Like most people, I blame David Allen.

His book, Getting Things Done (GTD), changed my perspective to work when I first read it in 2004. The promise was — in a sense — that it was possible to install the GTD brainware directly into my mind and become this productivity superman at work.

Ten years on, this much I know. It’s not that simple.

Go ahead. Ask the best people in personal productivity circles. If they’re honest, they’ll tell you how easy it is to fall off the bandwagon. This is spite of their best efforts to get the best apps, the best devices, and their best efforts to do/delegate/defer.

On falling off the bandwagon:
Sometimes, it’s not even your fault: I have some @waitingfor tasks that feel more like @waitingforever.

Personally, there have been times that I’ve struggled with maintaining consistent peak level performance. Some days, getting into the state of flow is impossible, no matter how much you brain dump and put everything into contextual lists. Sometimes, it’s not even your fault: I have some @waitingfor tasks that feel more like @waitingforever.

I decided last year that I would change the way I approached stuff.

My Post-GTD Realizations: The Real Crisis of Work
I realised last year that the real issue to work isn’t just that there’s a lot of it. That’s not the primary source of stress. The real issue to the crisis of work is that people have an ongoing antagonistic relationship to their jobs.

Simply put, people hate their jobs. No productivity system is going to solve that.

Let me clarify. There will inevitably be things at your jobs that you’ll hate doing, that you’ll need to do anyway. I, for example, hated the long monthly excel reports that I used to have to do. Yet, I liked my work at my company and recognized reporting as an acceptable part of the largely engaging whole.

Hating your work means you detest the essence of what you’re doing at your job, and that you are dissatisfied with what your company hopes to achieve (or sometimes, doesn’t achieve). Doing work that lacks meaning puts you in a negative state of mind. So that was my realization: I’ve found in my life that I’m the least productive when I start feeling bad about work.

On finding the root cause of a lack of productivity:
So that was my realization: I’ve found in my life that I’m the least productive when I start feeling bad about work.

And I think this negative association to work starts with saying “yes” to too many things that don’t fit with your personal value system.

So that I’m clear, I want to say that I didn’t drop GTD. On the contrary, I’ve come to rely on it a lot more. What changed, though, is that I’ve overlaid it with my personal values. This means I’m thinking over the things I do a lot more before I decide to do them. This means when I’m doing stuff, it’s stuff that I know is meaningful.

Much makes now a good time to ask: what’s stopping you from doing something with meaning? (Hint: it might just be that start up idea that you’ve been keeping in the back burner all this time…)

The result? I’m doing less stuff, but doing them better. Productivity then, is almost by accident.

TL;DR
Find meaning first, and productivity will follow.