The new year seems to be an excellent time to think about your time management. It seemed to be for mine, and around new year I was chatting with Marc. Marc said “I’m reading a new book on personal productivity”. That made me think. Marc is one of the most productive people I know, so why would he bother reading yet another book like that. He has many, and I knew him since before he had any of those or was into, say methodology. Then, just like now, he is one of the most productive people I know.
“So, why bother?” I asked him.
“I’m productive, but I would like to do it with less stress”. I can understand that. And then I thought that by thinking about more productivity and less stress, you might achieve they opposite. I’ve met some very relaxed people. Were they thinking about stress? Probably not. Not thinking about stress may be like not thinking about a banana. You’ve probably read about research where they ask people to not think about something a banana, for instance, and it turns out they think more about it when you ask them not to…
Take Getting Things Done, for instance. The book has as subtitle “the art of stress-free productivity”. I have the book, and have tried it a couple of times. To me, it seems to have too many moving parts. Even if you take just one part, it might cause you stress. For instance, Johanna Rothman just wrote how Inbox zero is hard for her. GTD states that you should end every day with an empty inbox.
I tried that a couple of times, and after a while I could not get it to work either. In the mean time, I was stressing about it, worrying that I was not working to the norm I had set myself… Thus achieving the opposite of what I set out to do.
So, before Marc got around to explaining that The art of getting everything done by putting it off to tomorrow, and the main principles are of his shiny new tool, I came to the conclusion that it might be best for me to eat my own dogfood, and apply to myself what I tend to advise to teams these days:
Reflect, find out what works for you and do more of it (and do some experiments every once in a while to see if something else would work even better).
Trying out another methodology would not work for me at the moment, because, I might be worrying if I was ‘doing it right’. Asking if you’re doing it right is often the wrong questions to ask… And following a methodology to a T might give you more stress, and thus less productivity, instead of the other way around.
So don’t think about stress, I wish you a relaxed day!