I think a lot of people approach productivity the wrong way.
They look for all-inclusive systems. They tout this author’s method or this group’s philosophies. It’s like a martial artist debating over whether karate, kung fu, or judo is the superior system.
In reality, productivity is highly individualized. Everyone assembles the random tips and tricks that work for them – a productivity utility belt that is unique to them. These vary from person to person, situation to situation.
To be sure, there are certain core principles which drive productivity, but they aren’t numerous or difficult to understand. Most of the time we don’t need more theory. We need to work on practical ways to implement the theory.
That’s the tough part – and this is exactly what each person’s unique utility belt does.
The key word here is unique.
The Individual Nature of Life and Art
It’s impossible for me to piece together a utility belt that will work for you. I’d do it if I could – but life doesn’t work that way.
Being productive is an art. Life is complicated and messy, and managing it well isn’t something that you can accomplish with a neat little checklist approach.
Seth Godin’s words in Linchpin are applicable here:
“When the situation gets too complex, it’s impossible to follow the manual, because there is no manual. That’s why linchpins are so valuable during times of great complexity (which is most of the time).”
“Here’s the truth that you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there’d be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.”
Tips for Assembling Your Own Utility Belt
This doesn’t mean however that we must stumble through life hoping to find something that works for us by random chance.
I think one of the best approaches is to listen to what works for other people – to hear about the systems and the tips and the tricks that others employ in their utility belts. Then see what sounds fun or interesting or tension-relieving to you.
For instance, Erik Fisher has a podcast I enjoy, Beyond the To Do List. He interviews successful people to find out the tips and tricks that make them productive.
With the Life of a Steward podcast, I will soon be doing interviews – and I look forward to asking productive individuals what works for them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Your Feelings Here
Listening to others is not about following their advice, it’s about letting their advice point you in the direction that feels like it would work for you.
And don’t underestimate the value of a tactic that feels like it would work.
There’s a relationship between you and your productivity approach – and that’s important to remember. If something sounds intriguing to you, there’s a chance that trick will be something you enjoy or something that solves a real area of pain you’re feeling.
And if you enjoy it, then you’re more willing to stick to it, implement it, and benefit from it.
What are some ways that your unique style, tips, and tricks differ from those around you?
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