Productivity and GTD
Why We Love Doing Things That Don’t Matter
"I'm not afraid of failure. I'm afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter" ~ William Carey
To-do lists can be really useful when used properly. The problem is that a lot of times we use them wrong. And one of the most common mistakes is writing down simple things that we can cross out easily to make ourselves feel well.
It is, obviously, a mistake that we almost always do unconsciously. By filling our lists up with easy things that we can cross out in very little time, we encourage that satisfaction our brain feels when we finish a task. We support our need of cognitive closure.
As a result, we end up dedicating a huge amount of time to little tasks without asking ourselves if it leads to reaching our goals. We prefer spending tons of hours answering unimportant emails instead of doing a market research that is vital for our job, just because it’s much more satisfactory to empty our inbox.
This common way of deciding which next action you are going to do, depending on how easy it is to cross out (what my friend José Miguel Bolívar calls “crossing out index”) is, without doubt, one of the main causes of procrastination.
One of the great contributions GTD has made, is that it provides simple and much more objective deciding criteria, that help you decide what you should do now, and even, what you should never do. Using this methods on a regular basis will imply a great improvement in your personal productivity, although establishing this kind of habits is never easy. Clearly, I’m referring to real productivity, nothing to do with crossing out tasks.