Get Ready to Be ProductiveAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” ~ Robert H. Schuller
Everyone has things to do. At home and at work, personal and professional. And everyone has a particular way of remembering what things they have to do. Some write them down on a piece of paper, others enter them into a mobile app, others rely on their memory, and others use a combination of different methods.
Receiving a new task to perform, either externally (“remember to send me the report”, “buy milk when you get back from work”) or internally (“I’m going to wash the car this afternoon”, “I’ll call Paul to see if he has recovered from the injury”) is something so constant and common in our lives that the way we accept and manage these commitments often follows highly automated and, unfortunately, ineffective patterns.
Our brain tends to immediately evaluate the importance of that new input, even if it’s not yet evident at the time. What we don’t perceive as important, we let it go and even forget about it. What seems very important to us, we treat as urgent and leave aside other things that were also important but are not so “recent” and, therefore, are not in the first row of our memory.
If we stop to think about what new commitments we have acquired recently, we’ll probably only remember the flashy things that our brain immediately identified as “important”. The rest of the commitments are either forgotten or reduced to something so insignificant that it will be difficult to pay adequate attention to them.
If we let ourselves get carried away by this pattern of behavior and let system 1 be our primary mode of thinking, we will always be doing what stresses us the most, the seemingly urgent, instead of enjoying doing what is really most meaningful.
To overcome this way of acting you will have to use large amounts of self-discipline and willpower. The problem is that willpower is a limited resource that is quite easily depleted, and using it constantly without the necessary breaks is a source of stress and anxiety.
Research indicates that using willpower is, in the long run, an unhelpful strategy for getting things done. But we can avoid using willpower if we bother to prepare a suitable environment (you don’t need willpower not to eat chocolate if there is no chocolate in the house).
If you capture out of your head anything new that comes up in your life, regardless of its nature and its importance, and you let it cool down for a while, system 2 will be in charge of managing it, and the chances of managing it more effectively will be infinitely higher.
Personal productivity has nothing to do with relentlessly doing everything that comes up. It has to do with the ability to choose in each moment what is the best thing you could be doing. And, paradoxically, you can only do that if you ignore (initially) all the external and internal commitments that come up in your life.
Personal productivity is all about preparation. You will be more effective and live a more relaxed life the more you have captured, processed and organized actions within a structure that allows you to always have a clear idea of what to do next.
With proper preparation, every task that is well defined and meaningful will get done. That’s productivity.