Eliminating fake productive work
A different perspective on productivity
Over the years, I’ve tried a thousand and one ways to increase my productivity. This often leads to packed schedules where friends and even family have to book up to 2 weeks in advance to get a little piece of my time.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across a YouTube video where Warren Buffett pulled out his little (and mostly empty) pocket schedule book that I realized I was trying too hard all these years.
More = More equation in productivity
There is a popular misconception about what real productivity is as preached by many productivity gurus. They often write about the importance of lists, taking breaks and waking at 5am to get more done. The end and often repetitive message are usually if you’re able to fit more into your day, then you’re being productive.
But over the past few months, I’ve come to realize that no one really talks about the type of work you end up doing. Sure, I can clear my entire inbox and get the paperwork down to zero before 8am if I tried — but at the end of the day, I still haven’t really done anything in particular.
No one really talks about the empty ‘productive’ work that we do. We delude ourselves into thinking that we’re doing something of great importance when in reality, it all means nothing at all.
The need for empty space
Back at my old day job as a Team Lead developer, there was a lot of noise, not enough focus and a lot of stuff to do. I say stuff because that’s exactly what it was— stuff.
I had no space to think, to dream and to create. Every moment in the office was go, go, go. It was a constant flow of ‘work’ that required putting out fires, answering questions and endless meetings that made no concrete decisions. Yet, I was expected to create something at the same time.
Sometimes all it takes it the experience of chaos and constant empty work for you to truly appreciate simplicity and silence.
That’s what happened to me.
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. — Coco Chanel
During the first 4 months after the company shut its doors, I found myself in the same toxic patterns. I overloaded my schedule due to the need to be busy all the time. I neglected myself. I neglected my passions. I neglected everything that was truly important.
Being busy equated to being productive. It was the only life and modes of operation I ever knew.
Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing — Warren Buffett
A lot of us jump into productivity without actually knowing what we want to achieve from it — except perhaps to get more done.
But more of what? Why exactly do we need to do more? What is it all for? When we have no goal to work towards, it’s like driving to an unknown destination. You’ll never know if you’re going to get there, wherever there is. It’s like giving yourself a directive to walk in a straight line. When there an obstacle obstructs our path, we get stuck. But when we have direction and clarity, we know how to adjust our course to reach our destination. That’s what real productivity is — the ability to help you consistently get you from point A to B.
Learning to be productive is like learning to paint. When you have too many colors and with no clear idea of what you’re doing — you often end up with one big dark gloop.
You probably don’t need it
The thing with true focus is that it eliminates everything else that is unnecessary. Only then can you look back and realize how unproductive you’ve been all this time.
If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done — Bruce Lee
I’m not talking about the wasted hours scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds. I’m talking about the productivity apps you spend time looking up, downloading, configuring and forcing yourself to you.
I’m talking about the money spent on that pretty notebook and multi-colored inking pens so you can do your beautifully crafted and five hours spent on the little details bullet journal.
I’m talking about the latest productivity tool and gadgetry, the things you make excuses for why you’re not doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing. It’s the things you blame your lack of progress on, the reasons why you haven’t really achieved anything concrete in a week or moved any closer towards your goal in a month.
Protect your time
When Warren Buffett pulled out his little pocket schedule book, I knew I had to change the way I worked. But most importantly, I had to change the way I think about work.
Time is a commodity that is often split in a hundred different directions in order to satisfy the needs of others.
When we start protecting our time, we create spaces in which we can do meaningful work. When we start protecting our time, we are doing more than just trying to survive — we’re creating an environment that nurtures growth and creative thinking — we are creating spaces to do the things that we truly need to do.
When we start protecting our time, we don’t simply accept life as is but as something we can influence and control its direction. We start to become little gods writing our own destiny.
We need to figure out what we want first before we can even entertain the idea of being productive. If we try to do it the other way around, then whatever it is you’re doing does not contribute to anything. It’s all just empty work to fill in time and space.
The ability to identify your focus is the foundation for true productivity. Without it, you’re just walking without direction. Protecting your time gives you the mental and physical spaces you need to work towards your goal because being truly productive is not about doing more — but doing more of the things that truly matter.