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10 Productivity Myths That Hold You Back

October 23, 2008 | 43,974 views

productivityWhat are the myths and mistaken beliefs that are preventing you from being more productive in both your work life and your personal life? The beliefs that you hold about productivity and organization can prevent you from doing and being everything you want to do and be in your life.

Here, then, are 10 common beliefs about productivity that may be keeping you from enjoying the success you desire.

Myth 1: Organized Equals Clean

Too many people equate “organization” with the cold, sterile, un-lived-in spaces they see in glossy magazines. But an organized space is simply one in which the things you need the most are close at hand, the things you need often are easily found, and the things you need rarely are out of the way but easily retrieved when needed.

Myth 2: I Don’t Have Time for a System

The thinking goes something like this: “If I spend all my time maintaining my list and doing weekly reviews, I’ll never get anything done.” The reality is that while most systems take some time to get set up, once you start using your system, the time you use in “maintenance” is more than made up for by the time you save not having to think about what to do.

Myth 3: Systems are Rigid and Inflexible

If your life is so chaotic and unpredictable that it seems like no system could solve it, it’s likely that it’s because you’ve resisted adopting some kind of system, rather than because no system is good enough.

Myth 4: Productivity Means More Work

Once you start down this rabbit hole, it can be really hard to turn yourself around. But productivity isn’t just about work. Being more productive in your life means you should have more time to do things like spend time with your family, take a vacation, read a book, visit a museum, or write your plan for world domination.

Getting your work done in half the time just so you can do twice as much work isn’t productive -- it’s dumb.

Myth 5: Creativity Can’t be Fit Into a System

Maybe you believe that productivity stuff is for business people, not creative people. But creative work is still work, and just as susceptible to procrastination, poor planning, and shoddy work practices as bookkeeping, house painting, and world domination. And while you may have a great grasp of the demands of your creative work, records need to be kept, clients need to be contacted, taxes need to be filed, and projects need to be invoiced.

Myth 6: I Work Best Under Pressure

There are people who believe they thrive under the pressure of an impending deadline. Nine times out of ten, they don’t. They just enjoy the excuse because it means they don’t have to take responsibility for the messes they end up in.

Keeping yourself in a high-stress, always-urgent mode isn’t good for your health, and it’s not good for your business.

Myth 7: My Lack of a System is My System

This one’s actually true, though not in the way most people intend when they say it. The mess of habits, practices, and beliefs you have right now are, in fact, a system -- and you’re working it every day. But what most people mean is that by not having a system, they’re actually being more productive than if they had a system.

They think that the mish-mash of habits they’ve cobbled together out of life experience is working for them. They don’t see any room for improvement -- but there’s always room for growth.

Myth 8: I Need Inspiration to Work

No, you don’t. Inspiration is wonderful, but rarely compatible with getting stuff done. What you need is a system to capture those flashes of inspiration so that, when inspiration is on holiday, you’ve got plenty to work with.

Myth 9: Being Organized is Boring

This myth is misguided because it places attention in the wrong place. Being organized isn’t boring -- being boring is boring. Make your own excitement and you’ll stop being boring. Then you can stop using your disorganization as a crutch for a life not fully realized.

Myth 10: There’s Something Wrong With Me No System Can Fix

Systems, no matter how good, can’t fix the fundamental problems in your life. They won’t make you smarter or more likable or better looking or more experienced. What they can do is help you make time to figure out how to solve those problems. They can help you make a space in your life for real personal growth.

And they can help you highlight the sources of those failures. In the end, your growth as a person, your success -- however you define it -- is up to you.

What else can you do to be more productive? Well, I am a major fan of David Allen‘s Getting Things Done, and credit his work for helping me achieve so many of my goals. It is one of the finest systems I am currently aware of for helping you to get organized and clear your mind.

David Allen‘s approach to managing yourself and your world may be amongst the best productivity advice you ever receive, too. It is profoundly practical, realistic, hands-on, and superbly focused with hundreds of tips, tools, and techniques for improving your personal productivity.

Getting Things Done turned out to be one of the most important books I’ve ever read in my life, and I suspect it may be one of the most important you’ll ever read as well.
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