Confessions of a disorganised mind…
Barely a day passes without a newspaper article or a well-meaning Linkedin post haranguing me to adopt a new ‘productivity’ technique, process or app. ‘Work better, faster, smarter..!’, the world hollers at me, ever more insistently. “How can I…?” I answer, “I’m too busy reading all these productivity tips…”
I am not – I am the first to admit – an organised person. It is also true that there is much of value, and a great deal I have learned (albeit late in life), from the likes of David Allen’s concise ‘Getting Things Done‘, as well as more recent titles like Graham Allcott’s encyclopaedic and excellent ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja‘ – even though I’m not sure if it’s seemly for a man of my age to even consider donning black and squeezing into the role of ‘ninja’.
‘Do difficult tasks first’; break big projects down into little 20 minute ones’, the intriguingly named Pomodorro Technique whispers from its cheeky red tomato registered imagery; work away from your desk, switch off email alerts, hide your phone… Heaven knows, I have friends who don’t even do that at dinner or drinks out, any more (you know who you are…!). So all good stuff.
Yet, it sometimes feels all this is less advice than a demand to conform. A sort of boot camp mentality around ‘great’ performance, in which we must all be our own sergeant major forever bellowing “…now you ‘orrible people, drop everything and — wait for it, wait for it — by the right, be mindful…NOW!”
We hear all the time about new techniques, another model, another process or heuristic for apparently Nirvana-like work-life balance. Indeed, there’s probably a lifetime’s toil in just documenting all this advice, however useful and sensible some of it may be.
Clearly, there are certainly many times during a day (a career or even life) when identifying issues like prioritisation, procrastination, and using the appropriate time-management tools and techniques can be invaluable.
I, for example, multi-task less rather than more than I used to. No, not because I am a man, but because I’ve come to believe it’s simply less efficient to juggle too much, if and when I can avoid it. Not least in a world where managing distractions — because of digital, and the nature of distributed projects — means our ‘focus’ is forever being pecked at:
“No, I don’t want to update Adobe Acrobat”, I think as I try and remember what it was I was about to Google, between completing a scintillating document in my Word file and taking a sneaky peak on Facebook…
No, ‘multi-tasking’ isn’t always helpful. I also try to make use of diaries, to-do lists — and to take breaks — much more than I used to, too.
However, there may also be times when ‘productivity techniques’ simply miss the point. Some people are simply doing too much. In which case, it’s not just a case of individuals ‘prioritising’ or working ‘smarter’, but of them recognising the impossibility of what faces them, and then working out how they need to address this. This goes beyond productivity, into issues like influence, delegation, planning and strategy.
For others, they may be doing the ‘wrong thing’ in a greater sense. The wrong job, or be on the wrong track for them, but they are simply too busy to realise it. If so, then this is not an issue of productivity ‘task management’. It is about our self-awareness and relationship with our own jobs. We are more than pieces of ‘clip art’ pulling frustrated faces at the office, looking for a immediate fixes for our work headaches.
Productivity ‘yes’ but, as they say ‘other [career] choices are available…’
At its best ‘productivity’ allows us to do more in terms of things we need to do, enjoy or even love. Short-term you may want — and need — to do something about being ‘overwhelmed’ or needing to be more ‘efficient’ in terms of where you currently are. You may even want to read some good productivity books.
But if you’re not doing the right thing, or not doing what you want in your career — or perhaps in life itself — ‘productivity’ will never be a sufficient on its own. If so, what is the solution, for you?
It’s the kind of question that coaching can and should help you ask. It’s what coaching offers — above and beyond pure ‘productivity techniques; an opportunity for you to raise your own awareness of where are, and what you want to achieve beyond ‘tasks’. To check-in with yourself and make sure you’re doing the right thing with your life. If you’re not, then does it really matter whether you’re doing it productively (or not!)?
Interested in finding out more about coaching and what’s next for you? Then call me or drop me a line, here.