This one’s going to be a bit rough, but bear with me.
Productivity systems inevitably add something to the things you have to do or have- whether it’s learning or unlearning a new system or habit or adding an additional notebook or application, it’s going to add something.
And that fact leads many people away from taking the time to learn a productivity system. With everything else you’ve got going on, who’s got time to deal with something else?
But here’s where the counterintuitive bit comes along: sometimes adding something to your life makes things simpler, and sometimes removing something from your life makes things more complex.
Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But add four things to the arrangement, like this:
And it makes a whole lot more sense than it did without the lines. By adding something to the picture, it’s simpler.
(This diagram was not chosen randomly. Notice how the lines give structure to the dots – a good productivity system, to stretch the analogy, gives a life a good structure.)
- Think about how you would live your life without a cell phone. The removal of a cell phone, in most people’s context, makes life more complex.
- Think about how the addition of another person to your team (sometimes) makes your job simpler. If you’re the designer, poster, CPA, and secretary, it’s a welcome relief to have someone come in and do any one of those jobs well.
- Think about how outsourcing the yardwork (just to pick one) makes your life simpler, even though it adds an additional thing to manage
- The obvious addition most of us want is money. Few people refuse additional money just because it’s adding something to their lives.
The difference, of course, is between merely adding or subtracting something to the complexity of your life and adding or subtracting something that’s value added to the complexity of your life.
Which is why it doesn’t make sense to buy that second car you don’t need. Or to take that additional obligation that doesn’t advance your personal goals. Or to work more hours for money when you have reached the level of diminishing returns.
My point here: sure, learning a new productivity habit, tip, or process is going to add something else to your already long list of things to do. But if it’s good and applicable, it adds value to your life.
Conversely, adding another hack to your long list of lifehacks that aren’t making you more productive or happy is a waste of time and thus self-defeating.
A productivity system or tip should add value to your life.
Sometimes that requires the addition of habits, processes, things, information, or obligations. Sometimes it requires the removal of those things.
Learning to assess whether something will add or subtract value from your life is the first step to becoming both more productive and through-and-through happy.