More and more I’m noticing bloggers asking for advice on how to be more productive. We’re operating in a space where we need to produce great content consistently, but where we’re also being bombarded with input and having demands made upon our time.
I’ve grappled with this myself over the last few years and have tried all kinds of productivity systems and tools. But recently, I had the realization that all most of them really do is make me more efficient at shoving more into my life.
Perhaps there’s another way! This video shares some of what I’m discovering about myself—and being productive.
- View this video full size (in HD) here
- Video shot on a Panasonic Lumix DMC GF1 (aff)—here’s why I use that camera to shoot my videos.
Transcription of “Productivity Systems: Do they Really Help? “
Today I’d like to talk a little bit about this idea of productivity. I’ve been Tweeting about this and so some of you have been hearing some of my thoughts today, and I thought I’d try and summarize some of them in this video.
You see, as bloggers we need to be productive. As bloggers, we are by necessity needing to create content: we need to be outputting something if we are to have blogs that people will read. To have a blog, you obviously need content. And so we need to be constantly coming up with ideas, and imaginative, creative, fresh content that will engage with people.
That by itself can be difficult, but we also need to do it in a very noisy environment—an environment where other people are creating content all the time. I sat at my computer today for just an hour or two this morning—I was trying to write this content—and I just kept getting interrupted by other people’s content.
Now I could have shut it off, but it was really interesting stuff, and stuff that I wanted to be engaging with. The blog posts that others in my niches were writing, the Tweets that people were doing, the comments that people were leaving on my post, the emails that readers were sending to me—all of this output of other people was interrupting my own output process. We’re constantly being bombarded with an avalanche of messages, but we’re also needing to produce our own in the midst of that.
As a result, over the last few years I’ve been experimenting with all these different types of tools and systems for being more productive. I’ve developed rhythms and little habits, I guess, in my own life to fit more into my day and to be able to manage my busyness more, and to be more effective in many ways.
And a lot of this has been really helpful to think about, you know, how to be more productive. But it hit me today that by having this goal of being more productive, and by developing all these systems and rhythms, all I really was doing was enabling myself to fit more into my day; I was creating a little bit more room in my day to shove more in. And whilst that’s good on some levels, and that’s been good for my business, I wonder whether I’m setting myself up for a fall. I wonder whether by shoving more and more in—even though it’s more efficiently organized—whether that’s actually a sustainable thing.
I traveled recently to the US, and my goal with this latest trip—I went over to BlogWorld to Vegas—my goal was to travel with one bag. Just one carry-on bag. And so I bought this great bag. It had three great compartments, and it was designed for carry on, and it was designed to fit a whole heap of stuff in. I bought these little packing containers that squash shirts down really small. And I got on the plane with that one bag, and I fit everything in.
The problem is that while I was in Vegas at BlogWorld, people gave me all this stuff. People were giving me books to read, people were giving me schwag. And I bought a few things: I bought some toys for my kids, a couple of gifts for my wife. And when I came to leave Vegas, I had this bag, and yet I had all this extra stuff that needed to go in. And of course as I started to put more and more in, and as I squeezed those packing containers tighter and tighter with extra stuff, there came a point where the bag reached its capacity.
And I only had a couple more things to go, and so I of course shoved them in, and there came a point where I heard this terrible ripping sound. As I was trying to pull a zip closed tooth by tooth, a seam on the bottom of the bag actually ripped. I’d filled it very efficiently, but I’d filled it to capacity and something had to give.
I wonder with all these productivity tools that enable us to fit more and more into our life, whether we’re perhaps setting ourselves up for that tearing, that ripping sound. I worry that that might actually impact us physically: perhaps that ripping sound’s our heart giving out. Or perhaps it’s an emotional ripping sound—perhaps it’s a ripping sound that’s symptomatic of a problem in a relationship, where we try and shove so much in we don’t pay enough time to our family.
I don’t know exactly what that ripping sound will feel like or what it would be, but it worries me that we seem to be obsessed by trying to fit more in. And by being more efficient with our time, we’re actually just enabling ourselves to fit more in and become busier and busier.
You see, as I look at my life, I know that the time and energy that I have to fit more in is finite. There’s a limit to it. And the busyness of life is infinite—it could continue forever, if I let it. Part of me wonders whether perhaps a better way would be to become more focused on fewer things, and rather than focusing upon fitting more in to be more productive, perhaps we should be taking things out. Perhaps we should be prioritizing those fewer things that are important and doing those things with excellence, and letting go of some of the other stuff. I’m not quite sure how it works, to be honest; I’ve got a lot of stuff in my bag at the moment, and perhaps it’s time to take a few things out.
But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Are you someone who’s trying to shove more and more in, or have you actually had that realization that perhaps it’s better to take a few things out and to do them well? I’m interested in your thoughts.