The internet is full of many wonderful things. It’s a source of education, commerce, news, entertainment, connectivity, and more. In reality, most of us use it as a timesink. The internet is full of ways to waste you time. A favorite of many is reading articles about how you can be more productive.

There’s a palpable irony to that of course. The irony of reading a blog post about articles about productivity is downright al dente. The supply of distractions that tell you how to be more productive is as endless as your inbox:

Each article in its own way tackles the same topics either directly or indirectly. Some give you an excuse to goof off. Others provide all the reasoning one needs to buy a second monitor, take more breaks, or look at cute animals. But what these articles rarely tell you is that truly productive people don’t think about their productivity. They don’t need help. If you’re reading about productivity, you’re already in trouble.

Being productive is pretty simple. At it’s most basic level, you aren’t going to be productive unless you care about what you’re doing. That could be because the work is valuable, or simply because you need a paycheck. For whatever reason, you care about doing a good job. Figure this out or you’re screwed.

But say that isn’t enough, how do you get productive then? It’s as simple as making a plan and sticking to it. Use apps, software, sticky-notes, email, whatever. But the real secret to getting anything done is to make a plan and carry it out. The worst possible thing that happens to you then is the plan fails. If that’s the case, you go back and look at what went wrong, and then start again.

In this system, you are always moving forward. There are opportunities for success and it’s clear things are getting done. In some cases the plan is simply a task list. But if you can power through the list then you’ll know you actually got something done.

Everything outside of this simple framework is merely noise. Cute animals might make you more productive, but there’s very little that can be gained from this in a practical manner. Apps for your phone or computer are merely pretty toys that might make it easier for some. Everyone will have their own thing that works for them.

I keep it pretty simple. I try to use a task list that is prioritized the night before. When someone at work needs me to do something I make it difficult for them to just fire over a task via email. We make it a little more formal and try to establish time constraints, priorities, and deliverables. This makes it clear to everyone when they can expect something and what it will look like. Then it can get added to my list.

This keeps me from using my email as a task list, which is pretty much the default most us rely on. If your work relies heavily on others and they rely on you I’d strongly recommend finding some way to not use email for a productivity mechanism. But regardless of what you do, don’t waste your time reading too much about productivity. You’ve already lost 5 minutes today…

categories: business, lists, psychology