Beyond Productivity: Living From the Inside Out (Introduction)

The conceptual landscape of productivity and personal development is in dire need of some revisioning. This has been apparent to many of the bloggers, writers, and coaches in the field, and many of us, individually, started questioning the state of the art. But more is needed – rather than discussing these ideas in our own separate space, we need to start discussing them in the same space.

During the latter part of last November, I asked some of the bloggers that were pushing me to rethink productivity and personal development to be on a panel of sorts to talk to each other about the issues. To be honest, I didn’t know where it would go and how it would turn out, but I just knew it needed to happen.

The conversations that followed exceeded all of our expectations. They have really crystallized and changed the way I think about productivity and personal development, and you can see the same ideas played out on Lifehack in Dustin’s “Toward a New Vision of Productivity” series.

The goal has always been to share these conversations and ideas, and for next few weeks, parts of the conversations will be hosted here. Where it goes after that, we’re not sure – but we hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.

The Panel

For something like this to work, it’s key to have a group of smart, reflective people interested in the topic. Additionally, there has to be enough diversity so that it’s an actual conversation rather than people expressing the same ideas in the same way. What has made the conversations so illuminating, interesting, and fun is the quality of the people on the call – I’m just glad they put up with me!

Andre Kibbe from Tools-For-ThoughtAndre Kibbe is the author of Tools for Thought, a blog that explores productivity, creativity and thinking, with an emphasis on the infamous Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. By day, Andre works as a freelance technology writer based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at akibbe02 AT gmail DOT com.

Duff McDuffee of Precision ChangeDuff McDuffee is the author of Precision Change, a blog that deconstructs personal development and features a podcast interview of David Allen. Duff coaches people and helps them dissolve internal “resistance” with a gentle, powerful process called Core Transformation. Follow him on Twitter: duffmcduffee.

Jonathan Mead from Illuminated MindJonathan Mead is a graphic designer, idea pusher, the author of Illuminated Mind, and a regular writer for Zen Habits. He writes about uncommon and counter-intuitive ways to improve your life and follow your dreams. He will be releasing an ebook in the next few weeks that helps people start living their dreams rather than just dreaming.

Sara from On Simplicity

Sara Pemberton is the author of On Simplicity, a blog about creating a happier, easier, more enjoyable life for yourself by focusing on simplicity. She has a background in writing and education; she approaches personal development from a deconstructionist perspective. She can be reached at sara AT onsimplicity DOT net.

Dustin Wax from Writer's Technology Companion

Dustin Wax is the project manager at Stepcase Lifehack. He is also the creator of The Writer’s Technology Companion, a site devoted to the tools of the writing trade. When he’s not writing, he teaches anthropology and gender studies in Las Vegas, NV. He is the author of Don’t Be Stupid: A Guide to Learning, Studying, and Succeeding at College.

profile-pic-2Then there’s me – Charlie Gilkey. I write here about productivity, personal development, and creativity – especially as it relates to creative professionals; I’m also a project and creativity coach. I’m really interested in helping creatives become consistently creative and productive in ways that suit who they want to be.

What’s Wrong With “Productivity”?

The topic of the first (unrecorded) call was, loosely, “What’s wrong with productivity, and what’s the fix?” The topic became salient as most of us commented on how we were tired of “productivity” and the way it’s normally presented or understood.

While the call was not recorded, I was able to recreate most of the ideas and the flow of the conversation. What follows is a sample of what you’ll hear in the upcoming weeks:

  • The office paradigm that Getting Things Done is written from doesn’t fit a lot of people because a lot of the people that are really interested in productivity don’t work in offices. The principles of GTD, though, can be applied to any type of work – even that for creatives.
  • When people are doing things that they genuinely love to do, they really don’t need a productivity system to help them do it. It’s all the other stuff that people need the most help with.
  • Meaning doesn’t come from repeatedly doing as many presentations of GTD make it seem. We can become more and more efficient and can crank more and more widgets without addressing how that relates to our own goals and meaning. Many people focus on the efficiency brought about by following GTD, but efficiency is not effectiveness.
  • The problem with finding and following meaningful goals isn’t a problem with any given productivity system. It’s a problem with us – many people are just not ready or equipped to deal with questions of meaning and purpose. The weekly review is supposed to help here, but so few people are equipped to deal with the questions that need to be asked and answered that it doesn’t help.
  • It’s fascinating that many of the people who are so interested in personal development (i.e. meaning and purpose) are so disinterested in productivity, and many people who are interested in productivity aren’t interested so much in personal development.
  • Productivity systems have a way of trying to algorithm-ize goals and life choices that just don’t fit into that type of pattern. The idea of a weekly review is a perfect example of this – you can’t program a time to effectively review your life.
  • There comes a point with lifehacks of diminishing returns. The first ones adopted may help increase productivity, but later adoptions don’t yield similar increases. We should shift into thinking about how to improve our core competencies rather than new things to add to the list of skills we already have.
  • Many people confuse the placebo effect from trying a new productivity tool or tip from the tip itself. It’s often the reviewing your work processes that increase your productivity more than the actual tip itself.
  • What’s missing from discussion of productivity is the inclusion of how people’s personality affects how they’ll approach productivity.
  • There is no productivity system that works for everyone. There are bits and pieces of productivity systems that work for certain people based on what type of work they do and what type of personalities they have.

And that was just the first call!

Our next call was (loosely) about the relationship between personal development and productivity. On Thursday, we’ll share Part 1 of that call – it’ll be about 20 minutes. I’ll post the other two parts next week.

If you’re interested in productivity, personal development, lifestyle redesign, and creativity, then you’ll be interested in these calls. We look forward to seeing your comments and contributions!

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  1. says

    Very interesting. We shall watch your career with great interest, young Skywalker.

    This is good stuff your putting up here. The non-office model for GTD has been a need for some time. Glad to see someone(s) finally tackling it.

  2. says

    PS. I also don’t think I have yet told you how much I like the very visual time-mapper (heatmap?) that you’ve produced. I instantly looked at it and it made sense to my very right-brained thinking. It was like finding a new toy. Thanks for what you are doing here.

    Seans last blog post..Updates to transition.

  3. says

    Hi Charlie,

    This is a great idea and I look forward to more discussions. Dustin has already inspired me to write a great deal about meaning in life as it relates to productivity. I am writing a series on education right now that deals with these same issues as well. Can’t wait to delve into this topic further!


    Jeremy Days last blog post..Education: What’s the point?

  4. says

    A great intro into an interesting collaboration – I look forward to your insights and applying them to my area of interest … leadership (and its outcome – productivity!) from a “rurban” community development / community building perspective.

    Jennifer Brooks
    The Rurban Fringe

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