PRODUCTIVITY

The Best Productivity Advice You'll Ever Get

Believe it or not, lots of successful and happy people are hopelessly disorganized, in a fog until noon, and haven't cleaned up their inboxes in years.
Advertisement

Our culture is obsessed with personal productivity and self-improvement--how to be better, more efficient, more effective. Our quest for continuous self-improvement knows no bounds.

Well, I've got the easiest way for you to be more effective, hands down. Quit being neurotic about personal productivity and self-improvement. It's all just a giant waste of time, which is more than a little ironic.

I'll let you in on a secret. In the corporate world, we carve out specific time for strategy and process improvement. Why? Because if we didn't, it would be way too disruptive. Everyone would be distracted and nobody would get any work done.

It's the same with you, your business, even your personal life. There's a time and a place for everything, and being constantly on the lookout for ways to be more productive and effective will only ensure that you're neither. Here are five reasons why.

They're not very smart goals. Productivity and self-improvement are simply too amorphous and subjective to be goals. How do you know you've achieved either one? That's right, you don't. And considering the shear amount of useless content that's generated, posted, and retweeted every day on the subject, it's guaranteed to be a huge time sink as well as an endless pursuit.

Continuous improvement is disruptive. Granted, there is a Japanese concept called Kaizen that essentially means continuous improvement. But in that context, "continuous" doesn't mean "all the time." Continuous change is inefficient. It's distracting. It's disruptive. Continuous anything is disruptive, even if it is for the better.

Prioritize. Too much to do and not enough time to do it all? Stressed out over it? Join the club. The best and maybe the only way to deal with that has always been to prioritize. I guarantee that whatever's at the bottom of the priority list and doesn't get done didn't need to get done. The Earth will still turn and the sun will still rise in the morning. Besides, there is virtue to doing less. In many cases, less is more.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That phrase has stood the test of time for one very good reason. It's almost always true. If you've got real issues or problems, by all means, figure them out, deal with them, fix them. If not, then get back to work, finding work, enjoying life, or whatever it is you should be doing. Stay focused.

Forget "everything in moderation." Yes, that's an old phrase too, but it doesn't apply here. I know it's tempting to think that somewhere between "continuous change" and "if it ain't broke don't fix it" is a sweet spot. Well, it doesn't work that way. Once you have a strategy and a plan, you need to focus and execute. If it's not working, then figure out why and do something different.

Don't get me wrong. There is such a thing as being too rigid and inflexible, especially in this fast-paced world. You should always be on the lookout for competitive threats and open to new ideas and opportunities. I just don't happen to think that personal productivity or self-improvement qualifies as such.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is this. Just because you're hopelessly disorganized, not a morning person, have an office that looks like it was hit by a tornado, and haven't cleaned up your inbox in years, that doesn't mean you're going to be broke and miserable.

It just means you’re like a lot of successful and innovative people. It also means you're human.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: Jun 24, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: