Why Productivity is Procrastination
I have a love hate relationship with “Productivity”.
On one hand, actual productivity is one of the greatest feelings in this life - getting closer to the goals that you have set for yourself, achieving, overcoming obstacles.
The days on which I am truly productive are some of my most satisfying and fulfilling days - I seem to generate energy from the momentum that inevitably comes from conquering the things I have set out to do. This snowball of productivity continues throughout the day, pushing me to get more done, gain more confidence, and becomes the positive feedback loop that brings me closer to where I want to go.
However, “Productivity” has also become a buzz word that drives the sales of products and gets you to sit for hours watching Youtube content, reading Medium articles, and doing anything but being actually productive. I have wasted tons of hours trying to optimise my schedule, my routines, and systems to the point that it’s masturbatory.
With this article, there is a reason that I place “Productivity” within quotation marks - because ’Productivity’ in the modern Youtube and blogger form is just another form of procrastination. Let’s discuss.
Most “Productivity” videos, systems, books, and courses are simply procrastination by another name.
The underlying reason that there is so much content about ’productivity’ is simply because there is a market for it.. If you can get someone to buy your course for $995 or your ebook for $9.95, you can distract them for a little while as they “feel” productive - They believe that learning your systems will take them to levels of creation. But, what you are truly doing is taking that person away from getting where they want to go in their life. You are wasting valuable time that he or she could be actually producing, studying, creating, working, selling, whatever.
As a customer you feel like you’re making steps in the right direction, and then 6 months later, you realise that you’re in the same spot that you were when you started.
You think “if only I can get this system into place, then I will be productive - a force of nature!”
This feeling never comes. It only does if you take action.
The issue with ’productivity’ is simple: we are waiting for a level of (actual) productivity to come to us before we can do anything. How many videos have you watched about making videos, and how many videos have you made? How many books and articles have you read about coding, or internet marketing, or getting in shape, or cooking, or being more social - and yet you are no closer to building that startup, that body you have dreamt of, or that relationship you’ve always wanted.
In programming, there is something called “tutorial hell” where many aspiring coders get themselves into a rabbit hole of tutorials, but don’t really learn anything. They go from one video, one course, to the next, and they still haven’t built anything 3 years later.
I know how it is, because I personally have been there. I’ve been there with creating videos, and playing chess, and cooking, and playing guitar, and working out, and sales, and building businesses. I end up consuming a bunch of “productivity” content that promises to change my life - but the only thing that changes is the number of view of the video or article I just watched or read.
It’s a trap - it gets you to think that you’re doing something - that you’ll be ready after this next video. But, you never are.
Nobody is ever “ready”.
That is the biggest lie that we are told. You acquire a baseline of skill, but then to get anywhere, you have to execute. You have to put the rubber to the road and do something.
You have to DO.
When building a website for example, you can take tutorial after tutorial about how to make a thing look or work a certain way. Or, you could just build it, and make it work. The skills learned are the same, one actually gets you going somewhere, while the other just has you spinning your wheels for 6 months.
When you want to start a youtube channel, you’ve just got to record some videos, and talk to a camera. Otherwise, you will never get the ball rolling. You’ll sit on your heels as you watch the time pass you by, and all you had to do was point your phone at yourself and start talking about something.
I don’t truly believe any human can simply listen and then acquire a skill. Maybe the savants out there, but for someone like me, and probably someone like you, I have to get to get my hands dirty. I have to do. That’s the only way I get anywhere.
That is the issue for someone like me who is a procrastinator - I could watch tutorial after tutorial, I could listen to podcast after podcast, but only when I put my nose to the grindstone is when things change.
There is No End
There is a book entitled Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman that I recently finished. In the book, Burkeman’s thesis is that there is a point where you must understand that life is a constant revolving door of things to do. You’ll never actually reach the end of things until you exist no more. To me, this changed my outlook on much of my work and day to day. I began to stress out far less - because I now know that tomorrow there is always something else, something new to do - I will never be finished
Think about laundry, or cleaning, or cooking, or whatever you do for work - there will always be more for you to do. It is a never ending cycle, and that is life in a nutshell.
You can get upset about the never ending sink of dishes, or you can find peace in the metaphorical life lesson that those dishes embody.
So, stop thinking that you will ever be “done” - you won’t be. And, for the people that love creating things and doing things - being “done” wouldn’t be at all enjoyable, anyway.
Elon Musk hates vacations. In finding this truth for yourself, you’ll understand that everyday is both hard work and a vacation in and of itself.
The Rise of Productive Procrastination
I have been the king of this. I should be doing something high impact - like sales calls or marketing stuff - only to do something else that needs to get done but doesn’t yield the same result as a successful call would. I know we are all guilty of this. Some of us moreso than others.
It is an inability to prioritise.
The danger in this is that you will get things done, without question. But, the impact of the things that you do accomplish will be minor compared to the high impact, high return tasks that you could have done.
Prioritisation is incredibly important in this regard - Generally, these lower impact activities are something that can be delegated to someone else, where your time will be better spent on the “bread winning” and on the largest and most mountain moving tasks.
Time vs. Money
The most monumental mental shift you can make has to do with your time vs. your money.
Only one of these is a renewable resource. And it isn’t your time.
Before you do any task, you need to ask yourself “should I be doing this?”
If it is a task that you and only you can accomplish, or must be present for, then continue. But, if it is something that can be done by another party for a reasonable cost, then you probably should hand it off. This is one of the most challenging things for business owners to come to grips with:
Many small businesses are simply a business owner that has bought himself a job - said another way: If you are a business owner and you are unable to delegate, you don’t have a business. You have a job.
A business is a collection of systems that run regardless of you being alive and present, or dead and gone. You can sell a business for multiples of the annual income. You cannot sell a job for much more than the book of clientele.
The differentiation is leverage. More people means more can get done. You have to be able to let those people do a worse job than you would have alone - because combined, their impact is far greater than your own.
There’s a reason that I contract out much of my development work to designers and programmers - because together, we can create something much better than I can alone. I can leverage talent across a multitude of projects, and all it costs is money to do so.
That means that I can build a business while I sleep. That means that I can also get paid while I sleep. If you cannot, then you again, have a job.
If it is one thing that I have personally had to learn to do, it is to forgo the urge to ’learn’ how to be productive, and to actually BE Productive.
The second you push yourself to write the code, or the book, or to do the work is the second you move yourself closer to the end goals you have set for yourself. Every video you watch, every tutorial you complete, every minute you waste is a minute you could be using to get where you truly want to end up.
Stop being “productive” and start being productive.
Until next time,