What is the Key to Productivity?

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:

Actually do what you need to do

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.

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10 Comments

  1. I think that also ‘Preparation’ is an important factor in being ‘productive’, and although your story does sound logical, I don’t think that only ‘doing’ is alway’s the best way to go for being ‘productive’. Think about the ‘wage slave’ that’s trading ‘Hours for dollars’ working real hard, hardly making a living, and the smart Business Man that’s earning millions with just a few phone calls and a ‘handshake’.

    All the Best,
    HP

    P.S. I did finish my (lttle) eBook, you can find a FREE Preview via my Blog ūüôā

  2. Thanks for the thought, HP! I agree, there are other things we need in order to become productive.

    I think there has to be a balance between knowing what to do (which is being smart) and actually doing it. When most people just do without knowing what to do (which is not working smart), the emphasis should be on “being smart”. When most people know what to do but not actually do it, the emphasis should be on doing.

    I guess nowadays the second case is more dominant. Thanks to the abundance of knowledge and information, many people already know what to do. The problem is actually doing it.

    I like this kind of discussion. Thanks, and good luck for your ebook!

  3. I like the idea of the 50 minutes. I seem to compile a list in my head and then work through the list. I always end up with the hardest one last and put it off. I might try your idea and throw the list out.

  4. Yes, I think the 50 minutes rule is worth a try. It doesn’t have to be 50 minutes though, you can modify the duration according to your need.

  5. […] Actually do what you need to do The key to productivity is actually do what you need to do. I wrote about it in my post What is the Key to Productivity?. For example, if you are a writer, you need to actually do the writing. Be careful not to get trapped by secondary activities. The most ironic thing is spending your time to maintain your productivity system instead of actually do what you need to do. One trick I like to get myself actually do is the 50 minutes rule. […]

  6. […] There is only one thing you need to do to get things done, either today or tomorrow. DO it. As it was so aptly put over at Life Optimizer (in What is the Key to Productivity?), “Actually do what you need to do.” […]

  7. […] Use timer to help you actually do what you need to do. Actually doing is the key to productivity. […]

  8. […] Use timer to help you actually do what you need to do. Actually doing is the key to productivity. […]

  9. […] uniqueness of ZTD is its emphasis on doing. I completely agree with this since I believe the key to productivity is actually doing. ZTD encourages us to use the simplest possible system so that we can focus on […]

  10. […] Faire ce que vous avez √ɬ† faire La cl√© est de faire ce que vous avez besoin de faire. Si vous √ɬ™tes √©crivain, √©crivez, si vous √ɬ™tes programmeur, codez…etc. Faites attention √ɬ† ne pas perdre de temps dans des activit√©s secondaires. Le pire est de passer plus de temps √ɬ† maintenir son syst√ɬ®me de productivit√© qu’√ɬ† r√©ellement faire les choses que vous avez √ɬ† faire. Vous trouverez plus d’infos dans le billet What is the Key to Productivity?. […]

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