APRIL 25, 2021
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest.”—Leo Babauta
240 characters of a tweet. 30 seconds of an Instagram Reel. 15 seconds of laughter on a video someone forwarded to you on WhatsApp. The long string of single or double character messages. And one-liner email conversations. In today’s day and age, depth and meaning have gone for a toss. We sit back, watch a funny video, forward it and send a one-liner acknowledgment email. Then, we get to do some solid work, and five minutes later, we find ourselves scouring through our mailbox to send yet another single line email. And after repeated cycles of this pattern, we wonder, “Why wasn’t I productive today?”
The problem is not in our to-do list, distraction blocker, or the latest productivity app we installed. All of these tools are helpful and help us reduce the friction between us and our productive days. But the truth is, all of these solutions are external, and the problem is internal. The problem is within us.
What Even is the Problem?
Seldom do we like to accept this, but the truth is that most of us don’t even know what the problem with our productivity is! We love to believe that we are highly intellectual know-it-alls. We love to think that we know the solution to every problem. We love to show off our intelligence and abilities. None of that is bad, but it is far from reality. Deep inside, everyone knows that they can’t know it all but still try to pretend like they do with just one aim in mind: a higher position in the societal hierarchy. Here is a little reminder to everyone who believes this: When I searched a very simple question, “How to wear a coat?” on Google, I got 572,000,000 results. That is 572 million search results. Now, there must be a reason for 572 million search results on this term, and I bet you are smart enough to figure it out.
Now that the misconception of being a know-it-all is out, we can get to the real problem: Productivity. The problem is within us; what is it?
We are moving farther and farther away from creating depth and value. We are stuck in shallow, meaningless things that eat up most of our time and leave us with very little chance to do something substantial. To phrase it better, we leave ourselves with minimal opportunity to do something significant because we choose to give our time to shallow, meaningless activities that take up a large portion of our time.
To-Do list managers, time trackers, habit trackers, productivity apps, Kanban Boards, Distraction Blockers, Pomodoro Timers, Project and Task Management Tools, Note-Taking Tools, and a lot more have become a part of our digital lives. All these apps are great, and I must say that I too use many of these tools. I use Google Calendar as my Planner and Time Blocker to know precisely what I have to do when and for how long. The intuitive design helps me visualize my day and make the best use of it. I used the old and trusty Airplane Mode on my laptop to block out distractions when doing creative work that does not require the internet, like typing this blog post on Microsoft Word. I am happy to have these tools and have tried many others too because they make productivity frictionless and easy. But they are a part of the external periphery. Until we don’t know the solution to our internal problem of depth, these apps are of no value. This situation is very similar to a car that won’t start. You can put in as much fuel as you want, but the car won’t start if there is a problem with the engine. If you keep overfilling the car’s fuel tank until it starts, you will most likely have an explosion instead of a working vehicle because there is too much fuel around, and the main problem causing agent—the engine—has not been fixed. Similarly, you can install hundreds of productivity apps and blockers but if your engine hasn’t been repaired and the internal problem has not been addressed, you will explode like a car, overwhelmed by so many apps and techniques.
How to Address the Internal Problem and be More Productive?
All you need is depth.
That’s the solution.
But, what is depth?
Depth is value. In its simplest terms, value means that when you finish doing something, you have increased your skillset/knowledge/ability. If the person you become after doing something is better than the person who entered into that activity, you add value. This does not mean that you should only do the things that add direct value to you. Even if the immediate value goes to someone else, if there is something you are learning or improving on and it is important to you on a personal level, it is valuable.
Sending a one-liner email adds no value to either you or anybody else. It just adds some kilobytes to your email storage. Sending one direct and concise email to ask for something specific or give a clear answer or advice is valuable. Starting your workday with a scroll through YouTube isn’t valuable, but focusing on a report you need to create is.
These are just a few examples, but now that you know the definition, you will be able to classify what activities are valuable and non-valuable for you. That’s your first step. You need to create this distinction and classify what is valuable to you, your purpose, and your goal.
After that, you need to see through your valuables’ list and prioritize which activity is the most important for you right now and why. Think over this question regularly and use it to create daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term priorities so that all your actions help you achieve your goals. You should set your priorities every day and align them to your weekly priorities and so on. This will help you cut the clutter and quickly address where you should be giving most of your time.
You have now reached the final step. You need to indulge in your topmost priority and start your day by working on that. Then go to the next priority and down the list. Start with whatever is the most important.
Now, this is where we bring in useful tools for assistance. You can either use the easy and simple pen and paper format to write down your daily priorities, or if you are like me, you can use a digital app. Every night, I decide my priorities for the next day and check what obligations I have, and accordingly, I create simple events in my Google Calendar. I give each activity a time-block and a specific color, and Google Calendar aligns it through my day. I can then visualize my day and work through my priorities. I have everything noted down, so I don’t need to dwell over or contemplate my productivity constantly, and I tackle my tasks as they come. Simple, easy, and colorful (if you are using Google Calendar).
You can use any app of your comfort or choice. It is the ideology and the impact that matters. If you can visualize your day and have it in a format right in front of you, it gives you much more clarity about how you will proceed. And when you are doing something in a time block, until and unless there is a major emergency, you cannot do anything else apart from the activity assigned to that time block. If you are supposed to finish an essay or a report, you should not be scrolling down Google reading articles on productivity (unless that is your topic of interest and research for the essay). And if you want to be productive and avoid distractions, you have all sorts of tools to help you with that. However, if you think over it, your vision and your goal should be sufficient to make you focus on the task at hand. That is the power of clarity.
I hope that now you will be able to bring depth to your work and increase the value you generate for yourself and others, allowing you to grow and achieve success! I also wish you all the best for your ventures and would love to know your thoughts as you bid farewell to productivity articles! All of what you read has helped you, and this being the last one you will ever actually need, it will be great if you share your final thoughts down in the comments! The spirits of productivity articles will be happy with you and won’t haunt you with the horrors of unproductivity!
Thank you so much for reading this post! I will eagerly look forward to hearing your last words for productivity articles!
Partnering in your success, happiness, productivity, and growth,