We love the elusive search for that perfect productivity system.
That’s why the racks of your local bookstore are crammed with titles on time management, organization, and taking charge of your life.
Each author claims that their new method is a no-nonsense, breakthrough, revolutionary approach to accomplishing your goals and feeling at peace with the world.
It feeds right into our desires. Because that’s what we truly want – a turnkey system that we plug into our lives easily and effectively.
But we’re looking at it the wrong way.
We’re looking for that perfect system because we forget what our work is.
We want the system to do the work for us.
Instead of setting priorities, it would be convenient to have some Holy Spirit-infused, super-intelligent computer program just spit out the perfect activity for me to be working on at the moment.
But that’s not reality.
Instead, we have to do the hard work of making hard decisions.
This forces us to stare down risk. It’s uncomfortable. It’s stressful.
But part of our work is deciding what to work on.
Seth Godin puts this well in Linchpin:
In the face of an infinite sea of choices, it’s natural to put blinders on, to ask for a map, to beg for instructions, or failing to do that, to do exactly what you did last time, even if it didn’t work.
Linchipins are able to embrace the lack of structure and find a new path, one that works.
How We Work
And it doesn’t stop there.
Our work isn’t just deciding what to work on, it’s deciding how to do the work.
Acquiring the skills to perform more effectively is part of our work. Increasing our ability, endurance, organization, skills– whatever it takes to improve – that’s part of our work.
Managing our time isn’t just about adopting the first system we come across so we can hurry up and “get back to work.”
Honing our productivity is part of our work.
I’m not saying that we should be so consumed with organization and scheduling and goal-setting that we never actually act.
Instead, I’m saying that we can’t look at managing our time as an unpleasant add-on to our work.
Systems aren’t there for their own sake. They exist to serve us.
We don’t utilize them because it’s the “in” thing to do. It’s so that we can work better.
And this will be a work in progress. It will be a work that no one else can do for us.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all productivity system. Instead, I have to find the one-size-fits-me system tailored to my individual needs, strengths, weaknesses, and situations.
This requires more thought and effort than if we were to carelessly implement the first turnkey system we came across.
But that extra thought and effort leads to systems that we can actually sustain. Systems that serve us instead of burdening or enslaving us. Systems that truly make us more effective.
And getting there is part of our work.
Photo Credit: kcxd (Creative Commons)
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