Everyone wants to be productive. That’s why there are so many productivity systems and tools out there. But what is the key to productivity? Believe it or not, the key to productivity is amazingly simple:
That’s it. No more, no less. Just actually do what you need to do.
Some time ago I listened to a podcast from Blogging and Beyond about selling information products. Do you know what is the biggest obstacle for people who want to sell information products? Not the marketing, and not the quality of the products. The biggest obstacle is finishing the products themselves. Ironic, right? Many people want to sell information products but they can’t even finish the products in the first place. In this case, the key to productivity is actually doing what it takes to finish the product. If it is an e-book then they need to write the e-book. If it is an audio program then they need to do the recording. All other activities are secondary.
Unfortunately, many people (myself included) are often too busy with the secondary things until they not do the primary things.
The role of productivity systems and tools (like GTD) are just helping us do what we need to do. They help us do the right things in the right time and in the right way. Sadly, many people are more concerned with the systems and tools than actually doing what they need to do. I believe that people who don’t have systems and tools but actually do what they need to do are (much) more productive than those who have the systems and tools but are too busy with the secondary things. That’s how important doing is. The biggest irony is using the productivity system as an excuse to not do what they need to do. They spend their time to maintain and expand the systems instead of actually doing.
But why are many people reluctant to actually do? Because it is often painful to do what we need to do, especially in the beginning. We’d rather do something that gives us pleasure now like watching movies or random browsing.
The ability to consciously choose the pain now for something better in the long term is crucial for productivity. The hardest part is actually in the beginning. Once you can get through it, the rest would be easier.
To get myself to actually do, my favorite trick is the 50 minutes rule. With this rule, my mind knows that I will be doing the hard work for only a limited amount of time, so there is no reason not to focus and give my best.
Related articles in the blogosphere:
- John Wesley from Pick the Brain wrote about similar topic in Can you sacrifice temporary pleasure for longterm goals?.
- Leo from Zen Habits created a productivity system called Zen To Done (ZTD) which is a modification of GTD with more emphasis on doing.