Want to Be More Successful in 2020? Be Less Productive
Written by Brian Beckcom
For most of my adult life, I have been obsessed with productivity and efficiency. How can I get more things done? How can I be more efficient in my day-to-day tasks? What productivity apps can I put on my iPhone to help me get more done every day? What if I didn’t look at my phone to track apps, but instead used pen and notebook, would that increase my productivity?
I’ve thought a lot about productivity and efficiency for almost 30 years now. Not to brag, but generally speaking, I’m one of the most productive and efficient people you will ever meet. I’m a task management expert. Give me a list of things to organize and then execute and I will do it with such lightening speed and efficiency your head will spin.
I’ve now realized, however, that my focus on productivity and efficiency is holding me back and making me anxious. My intense focus on productivity and efficiency makes my output worse.
And that’s all because, for 30 years, I’ve been asking the wrong questions.
“How Can I Get More Done?” or “How Can I Be More Efficient?” is the wrong question to ask.
Here’s why: The more productive and efficient you get, the more stuff you’ll have to do. The more tasks you complete, the more projects you turn in, the more tasks and projects you’ll have waiting for you.
It’s a never-ending cycle. You’re a gerbil running on a treadmill eating lettuce and looking all cute and cuddly and never making any progress at all.
Questions are powerful things, and if you want to change your life for the better, start asking yourself better questions.
This year, instead of asking “How Do I Get More Done?,” I’m asking myself different questions. Here they are:
“What are the most important things to do?”
“Who should get the work done?”
Instead of plowing through emails all day, thinking I’m working when all I’m really doing is answering stupid emails from people who are distracting me, I can ignore most emails most of the time and focus on the really important tasks and projects.
Instead of figuring out how many tasks I can check off my list, each day I ask myself “What are the 1 or 2 most important things I can do today?,” then I focus on those things and essentially forget everything else.
If you work in a team (or even if you work solo), you should also ask yourself routinely “Who should do this task/project?” That question is just as important, if not more important, than “How” the task should be done or “When” the project should be completed.
This applies to you even if you work alone, because nowadays, there are all sorts of ways to automate or outsource work, even for solo entrepreneurs.
Bottom line: Productivity is a fools’ game. Chasing efficiency is chasing stress and anxiety, and efficiency and productivity are treadmills you’ll never get off, even if you look cute nibbling on that carrot running in circles thinking your going somewhere when you’re not.
Focus your attention instead on getting the most important stuff done and making sure the best person is getting it done.
I want to encourage you to be less productive and less efficient in 2020. Don’t worry about answering every email or text, and stop worrying about the total number of tasks or projects you complete.
Instead pay attention to the most important things, and who should be doing them, and forget everything else.