Why Good Productivity Advice Can be Useless to You

Jax Hudur

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I am not productive. At least not according to the many emails I receive on the subject of productivity. The advice ranges from waking up early in the morning to what side of the bed to lie on. Okay, the last part is an exaggeration, but the advice is so many, and only very few of them appeal to me.

My routine is not complicated. Wake up by 6 am, get ready by half-past seven, and be on the road by eight. That was before the lockdown. However, now, I wake up by 8 in the morning, get ready by ten, and by midday, I am done with the email responses, moving over to write reports and participate in the odd zoom meetings. I am lucky that I have a very flexible job that allows me which days of the week I want to work despite the entire workforce working from home. I am also lucky that we are informal, so no worries about bosses. But I still want to be productive. I want to make every minute count.

This is how I work around it (or not) on every productive piece of advice that I flop. If you can relate to it, I would be glad to know. If you are productive and found a formula that you think can work for most people, I would love to hear it. For now, these are my major productivity fails.

Here is what I gleaned from some of the ‘be productive’ articles.

Avoid Multi-tasking

At this age? Impossible! I would not be making a living if I were not multi-tasking, but the folks at lifehack seem convinced that it accomplishes nothing. In my job, I am expected to be an authority on multi-tasking. In one sitting, I could be on the phone, writing an email/ texting and going over my notes/ jotting down numbers whilst dealing with the missus and sometimes play with the kid at home. All in a day’s work.

Research shows that marketing professionals lose 44 million working days to multitasking. Only 4% of the same professionals said that their job did not require multi-tasking. Too bad for the 96%, my lot.

I have a system of multi-tasking. I prioritize using the simple method of first come, first serve. This is, of course, unless there is no priority urgency to the task. I have long ago come to terms that a backlog of tasks is unavoidable, so there is no point in fussing about it. So productivity gurus, the next time you dish out the avoid multi-tasking advice, please also provide an alternative to folks like me.

Wake up early

No thanks. What more can I do than I already do after waking up when the alarm rings? Exercise? No, I enjoy walking in the evenings. It is too cold and too dark in the early morning. I cannot do any thinking in the morning, too but come evening, and I am possessed. You name it, and I do it in the evening.

Journaling, writing, strategizing, and doing the finishing touches to some of the principal work I take home. Still, I wake up early enough for me to do what needs to be done, but that is how far it goes. This advice is inapplicable to me, and I am yet to find a proper workaround. So unless waking up early involves waking just for the sake of it, I see no value whatsoever in how this advice can apply to me. 4 am wake-up call is just not for me!

Plan your day

Not long ago, I decided to pick up a copy of On War by Von Clausewitz. A memorable line in the book was, “No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” I do not how true that is for military folks, but that phrase is the very definition of what happens to every plan I make for the day ahead. Take last Friday, for instance; I planned to work between 8 and 5. I ended up taking the whole day off and took my kid to the dentist instead.

At work, the story is similar. I plan to draw reports, I end up spending most of the day in meetings with clients, and my actual work goes to my colleagues if there is a time limit; otherwise, more backlog for me. Working from home is by far the biggest enemy of any plan. A workaround? No, unless you have a glass ball to predict the future. If you have found a workaround, let me know.

Read more

It is all I do. Read emails, read submitted/prepared reports, read and answer messages, read read. By the time I am done, I do not even want to look at the time. How does one who is tired of reading get to read? I read what I know I’ll enjoy reading. I enjoy reading novels, articles, short stories, poetry from the writers that I love reading their work. Then I subscribed to Medium.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Twitter took a back seat. As a result, 99% percent of my off-work reading comes from there. Why? Because it is inspiring, and every read is educational. I also love interacting with writers. It provides me with a community in a nutshell, but the downside is that it can take a huge chunk of your time if you are not careful. The intrigue is real!

Final Thoughts

It is not all doom and gloom; you must find what works for you. You are a unique individual, and what works for everybody may not necessarily work for you.

  • If you know your limitations, you are halfway there. If circumstances allow, circumvent and find loopholes or find a system that can work for you.
  • Do not be discouraged if you cannot commit. Commit when you can.
  • It is not a failure if one productivity advice does not work for you. You just have not found the right one for you.
  • Do not subscribe to the productivity definition of someone; your definition might be completely the opposite of theirs. It is all about what works for you, not them.
  • The desire to improve can be too strong. Step back and take baby steps. This goes a long way than wholesale consumption, only to end up burnt-out.
  • The keyword is Productivity; make it your goal. The how are details you will learn through trial and error even if all else fails.
  • Rome was not built in one day; gradually build yourself.
  • Don’t bite more than you can chew. It’s not worth the stress. Take care of your mental health.

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

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