aswinmohanme

rants of someone interested in code, design and life.

07 Jan 2020

The Simplest Productivity System is the Best

Most of us are productivity gurus on the Internet nowadays. Anyone who works with a computer now has some general ideas of how to achieve productivity and most have those ideas to a fault. There are a million + one articles floating around claiming to have found the secret for eternal productivity. We watch endless motivational videos and informational videos outlining a 99 step process to plan your whole day, another 98 steps to plan your whole week for optimum productivity. We all strive to be everything and everyone at the same time.

We create audacious goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year and then follow them for like half an hour, and then quit. We then blame ourselves and our lack of information for the slip up and begin our witch hunt for the best “productivity tricks” to achieve our goals. We are always on the lookout for that one perfect system that would achieve what we want on auto-pilot. It's not a fault with ourselves for we humans are wired for growth. Our intention is in the right place but our methods are flawed.

Stop Looking, You Know What to Do

Chances are if you have spent any respectable time on the Internet reading about productivity and workflows, you know 80% of all that is needed. Most articles preach planning your day like a covert military mission, and how much ever we look we never find the perfect one. Sometimes we let the quest for productivity be our main job. It's one thing to learn from others to not repeat the same mistakes again, but it's another to never make a mistake because you never tried something yourself.

We are not as dumb as we think. The insidious thinking that Internet has caused is we look for solutions asap rather than taking 10s to think through it. We are offloading our thinking to the Internet. I'm the most guilty of it. If we pause, take a breath and think for solutions for our problems, the one that we come up with will be the best way to solve it.

Start Simple and Stay Simple

Rather than trying to implement a 14 step productivity system, try starting with a simple note or a text file that contains all the tasks that need to be done. Start doing those tasks (duh). When you find that the current system is holding you back in some way, optimize the system to remove the bottleneck. Do those tasks again and when you find another bottleneck repeat the process.

This was how I got to my current productivity system. I started with a single emacs org file, capturing my tasks and doing them one by one. But then I couldn't see where I was making progress in my life. So I started organizing the tasks under different categories like Life, Projects, Learning etc. After a while I figured I was context switching a lot because I needed to look up the notes associated with each project. So I moved my project specific todos to it's corresponding project files and used emacs to aggregate all todos everyday. Then I couldn't easily capture the fresh todos as they came along. So I created a simple capture file and would refile the tasks from the capture file every-night. This system works wonders for me and is a very well fit for my workflow, I doubt I would have found this anywhere else with any deal of looking. Since I made the system myself there is no need to dig up solutions for the problems as we can solve them as come up, since we know the ins and out of our own system.

Work Hard

This is the most untold aspect of any system. You could have the perfect system on the planet, but if you just look and stare at your Greek god like todo list you are going to stay right were you are. Productivity in Economics is the rate at which goods or services are produced. To produce something worthwhile you need to put in the work. Real hard work is the only thing that would move you closer to your goals. It's uncomfortable to do the work that's why we procrastinate by building systems to prevent procrastination (humans are weird that way).

I'm not advocating for the suffocating hard work that is making rounds on social media. That's unsustainable and kind of destroys the whole point of living your life happily. Instead I'm advocating the kind of deep focused work that yields tangible progress on your goals and produces results. The kind of work where you sit down and attack the problem for hours of uninterrupted time. That is the kind of hard work that we need to make our todo-list become hell-i-did-everything list and not stay a shit-i-need-a-new-system list. That kind of work is not easy in this engineered to distract world, but it's possible and very well rewarding both in the short-term and long-term.

TL;DR

Start with the simplest system and when you outgrow it, grow the system with you. Work hard until your brain hurts, you'll enjoy that feeling trust me, and get some work done along the way too.

May this year be the year we do the work instead of copying productivity system from random people on the internet.

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