I was a busy kid. I remember one day sitting at our kitchen table, planning my day when I let out one of my busy sighs. You know the ones. My mom, who was on the sofa platting my sister’s hair laughed. I looked up, most annoyed and asked her what was so funny. Evidently, I’ve never forgotten what she said:
“Oh Cleveland, busy people are those that fail to prioritise. Make your choices son and be done.”
I look back now and realise that set me on a path to productivity. Now, fast forward a couple of decades and my approach to productivity has three distinct parts:
Vision. You can see what needs to be done.
Passion. You want to do what needs to be done.
Tools. You have the means to do what needs to be done.
Also, each of these parts are not additive my friends. They are multipliers. If any one of the parts is zero, productivity drops off a cliff. However, when most of them are up, you fly. Let’s look at each of the parts in turn.
Vision is about having more clarity than most. Ask yourself
Where am I today?
Where do I want to be?
How do I get there?
But be honest. If you’re happy with the status quo, you will not change. Equally, if you cannot picture the new end game, again, you will not change. But even if you are unhappy where you are today and can picture a better world, you will NOT change unless there is a clear path to success. A practical, working vision needs all three before you can start to think about being productive.
Passion brings a vision to life. It makes it workable. You can be highly productive with both a vision and passion.
I wrote about passion nearly five years ago when talking about the Power of P that connects planning, productivity and progress. I still believe in all those Ps. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m interested in a lot of things but only passionate about a few. This directly impacts my ability to be productive. Why? Because it’s easy to fake productivity. True productivity comes from passion. You must really WANT it. Trying to make unproductive people do what they don’t want to do is like pushing treacle uphill. Passion is key to true productivity.
That finally brings us to the tools. There are so many productivity tools out there to help you get things done. You must find your own path through them. Tools only enable your own ways of working. They are a secondary consideration to the human elements of vision and passion, not a replacement for them. That said, here are my top five tools that I use every day to help me be more productive:
1.Things. This is my go-to tool. My to-do list is everything. It synchronises across all my iOS devices. I never forget anything with Things. I am lost with it.
2.Unroll.Me. In order to help me maintain a Zero Inbox this takes the garbage out of my inbox. It smartly manages my spam, subscriptions and only lets the email I want hit my inbox.
3.Boomerang. Again for by Zero Inbox, this enables me to pause my inbox and schedule emails at ungodly hours.
4.Evernote. Quick notes across all devices. I used to use this a lot but G-Suite is getting so much better, particularly with off-line support that I’m doing more in there than Evernote now.
5.Dropbox. Stupid good and simple. There are alternatives but I’m happy with Dropbox for sharing files as links rather than attachment in emails.
Being productive is baked into me. However, when I’m on holiday, all is lost. I rest up. Vision fades. Passion subsides. Tools go offline. Productivity stops. I love that. You can’t be productive all the time. You need to switch off. Also, holidays are not 2-3 times a year things, they are monthly or more. Being productive takes energy, so give yourself plenty of opportunities to recharge those life batteries.
So mom, I’m productive in the areas I’m passionate about and remain busy in those parts of my life where I’m less interested. But I do this consciously rather than fake it.