To get real work done, you have to stop wasting time “planning productivity”

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Optimisation begets optimisation.

There is value in learning how to better use your time and resources to achieve more, get more done and get closer to those goals, but when it becomes a loop, it gets in the way of actual work.


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Most of us desire the best tools that work better than what we have. We are under tremendous pressure to do more to keep up.

But in the process of finding even better options, we tend to waste a lot of time we are desperately trying to save. We put the work off by trying to get everything just right.

Those life and work optimization tools you spend time looking for are actually consuming the time and effort you are trying to save in the pursuit of efficiency.

When you get to the point of looking for even more time-efficient ways tackle your to-do list, you are probably over-optimizing.

Most people spend even more time learning about new productivity processes and tools than they spend doing more productive tasks.

They want to fiddle with every productivity system. They take to new systems and structures easily and derive some kind of aesthetic pleasure from seeing their work presented in a new way.

The real question is, does every new system make work better?

Most tools won’t work for your specific needs. They will only slow you down, especially if you have to keep switching between them to get even simple things done.

If you must use that new framework you just found, make sure you can easily integrate it into your current personal system of work. Too many things can clutter your day-to-day and make things much worse for you overall.

Instead of spending a lot of time researching, learning, using and adjusting to the many ways to get more work done, you can make the most of those minutes by knocking something small off of your to-do list.

Systems and tools alone don’t make you more productive, it’s how you use them for specific tasks that count.

Sometimes it’s important to be realistic about what you can practically achieve with any process, principle or system you want to adapt.

You can easily get caught up in the research phase of finding the right tools for optimising your work process or solving your problems.

App fatigue, that feeling when your phone or work screen is clogged with tools you don’t even use could be a hindrance to your mental clarity and productivity.

Instead of making life (and work) easier, finding and holding on to too many tools can actually make finding information more difficult and thus waste time you complain you don’t have.

While finding and using the right tools, and productivity systems can save you a lot of time, it’s the ability to filter and focus on the right information at the right time that saves time.

“A quick glance at the productivity section of any app store reveals thousands of options for various email, to-do, calendar, notes, workflow, and everything else apps. Cutting through the cruft isn’t easy, but the real trick is knowing when to stop looking for the perfect app and just be happy with what you have,” writes Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker.

The urge to find something else that fits your needs a little better won’t go away, but you can control it. Be intentional about how you spend your time finding better work processes.

The ultimate aim is always to use what works for you, and get things done. So focus on the few that practically get you close to the big picture.

Productivity is more about your mindset, and no matter the number of tools, if you’re not intentional about your priorities, you’re not going to get anything done. Get rid of that clutter, instead of looking for more, clear your mind, and focus on what needs to be done.

Simplicity is the most important factor in a productive life. The simpler the better. All the optimization tools won’t solve all your productivity needs. They will only really put out what you put in.

“You get you organized. You get you productive. A tool doesn’t “get” you productive or “make” you more productive. A tool doesn’t create productivity. A set of tools augments and enhances your productivity, arguesCM Smith. All the “tweaks” and “hacks” won’t help you if you are in control of yourself, and priorities.

You can spend scheduled time to find out how the “supposed better tool” can work for you structurally but you should spend more time doing actual work.

There’s nothing wrong with using the simplest of methods if they work. Many people still swear by pen and paper to prioritize their tasks.

Closing thoughts

Productivity system experiments take time.

Time you cannot afford to waste. Do more of what works for you.

Every new attempt to upgrade how you work will disrupt your routine, rituals and delay actual work. Choose productivity systems prudently.

Choose to do the work.

That’s what productivity is about — getting things done.

This article first appeared on Medium