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Busy work - Blog of Much Holding

Busy work

I’ve been focused on personal productivity for a long time, and have continuously looked for ways to get things done quickly and well. One of the things that I have noticed, though, was I sometimes applying processes and techniques that required more time, effort and upkeep… not less.

I also noticed that I (and many others I know) often focus on the process and lose sight of the desired outcome. We build systems of checkpoints, review cycles, and tools to track our process that end up being our sole focus… and we forget what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Looking at productivity techniques and processes, after some introspection and analysis, I have decided that much of what I have done to date is a bunch of hooey. So I have simplified, streamlined, and stripped away a lot of the process I have implemented… And guess, what? I’m actually getting more things done.

I still have a process, of course… It’s a simplified version of the Getting Things Done methodology, but I use only five tools to keep up with things. Omnifocus for tracking to dos, Simplenote and Notational Velocity for note taking (they sync), Dropbox for syncing, and a color-coded directory structure. That’s it. I check on my projects once a week and update my to dos daily.

By simplifying my process, I am able to focus the two most important things that I had lost track off: importance and outcomes. What is the most important things need to do today? And what do I want to have as a desired outcome?

And because of this newfound focus, I can answer this question: if you are efficient at doing something that’s not important, what have you gained? A momentary sense of satisfaction, yes, but if you burn an hour shifting junk from one drawer into two different ones, what have you really accomplished? Have you done anything of worth? Or have you just done “busy work” that gives you a false sense of accomplishment? More often than not you may find that what you have accomplished is like what Jimi Hendrix sang about many years ago… You’ve built castles in the sand, that will not matter when the tide rolls in.

Another thing I am looking into is the increasing number of “personal concierge services” that are popping up around the country. These are services where you can pay people to basically do almost anything… From paying bills to walking your dog or cleaning out your closet. What we are seeing in these services is a reflection of the same type of self-awareness I am realizing: while all of these services cost money, the only real currency we have in life is our time, and we can choose to spend outer time doing the drudgeries of life… Or we can choose to spend our time doing things that are more worthwhile.

Spend your time wisely.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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