How the Quest for Productivity is Like Dieting
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I don’t know about everyone else, but I have a this great productivity fantasy: I have a single, slick, easy, clean interface that is fast, portable and platform agnostic that allows me to update everything from my blog to my to do list to project plans and email in any format that makes sense (voice, typing, hand-written, etc.). In this fantasy, I can share piece with people as makes sense, and I can collaborate with others on things we are working on together.
It’s a nice fantasy. Unfortunately, the reality always falls short.
Yesterday, while reading yet another new list from Mashable about Online Productivity Tools for Business, I was struck by how much time I spend reading things like this. And it occured to me: productivity advice is like dieting.
Discipline, discipline and a little more discipline
Like dieting, being more productive is a matter of discipline. It’s refusing to get sucked into distractions, and it’s understanding how your energy levels throughout the day impact your ability to accomplish different kinds of tasks either more quickly or more slowly. You can’t lose weight if have donuts for breakfast every day and never exercise. We all know that. The only solution is eliminating bad habits — even the ones that seemed to make sense at one time, but which are time wasters today.
We distract ourselves with tools
What’s hardest of all, though, is that truly becoming more productive requires that we give up the hope that a gadget is going to make all the difference. It’s like buying a piece of gym equipment. If you use it to hang your clothes on, then it’s not going to be a valuable weight-loss tool. It’s not about the tools. Unfortunately, the market can focus on the tools because it’s a better business model.
We usually know what we are doing wrong
The part that I always find the most interesting, is that when you talk to people about their desire to become more productive (or more organized, or to lose weight, etc.), in almost all cases, they know what they need to do. But, for some reason, they just aren’t doing it. Whether it is starting the day with a workout, or closing down TweetDeck while trying to work, more often than not, the source of the problem is usually pretty clear.
We want cheats
The problem is that we want a magic wand that is going to allow us to keep our bad habits, and help us accomplish our goals anyway. Like dieting, we know that we are our own worst enemy and that in order to make a true and lasting difference, we have to change. We want to be able to lose weight, but we don’t want to have to give up cheeseburgers and ice cream to do it. Change is hard, and it rarely seems fun, and it’s a hit to the ego to know that we are what is in our own way. So it’s less distrubing to spend time and money shopping for gadgets and gizmos that will allow us to see results without having to change.
So, while Mashable’s list has some really good tools on it — many of which I do use and often recommend — the bottom line is that I have signed up for a lot of tools that are designed to help my productivity. Out of hundreds that I’ve sampled, I use three or four.
Next time you start to lament your productivity (or anything else), stop yourself and do a check: do you know what the solution is already? And, if you do, what’s stopping you from implementing it? I’d be willing to bet, it has almost nothing to do with a tool.
Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, blogger, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade. She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas.