You are the Key to your System

I haven’t posted in a while I know. I’ve not been well. There will be more on this in some upcoming posts that I am working on. To give you a hint of what’s been going on, without the full details yet these posts will comprise a stand alone post, currently title “Productivity — My confession” and a 3-part mini-series with the parts currently titles “Toxic Productivity”, “The cost of Toxic Productivity”, and “Toxic Productivity — A Better Way”.

But they are not yet ready. In the midst of all this, a few weeks ago, I had a revelation.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

David Allen is well known for saying “Your head is great place for having ideas and a terrible place for holding them”. That’s probably not an exact quotation but my copy of GTD is buried in a moving box somewhere and it’s close enough that I don’t think I’ll get sued. This statement is true. But it got me thinking. I have applied this wrongly. I wonder if a lot of us do this as well and a lot of talk about productivity and productivity systems makes the same mistake I did. At least I think it leans that way.

That statement has two parts to it doesn’t it?

  1. Something your head is great at
  2. Something your head is bad at

Now, the original quotation, in context is more focused on the latter isn’t it? It is meant to be a challenge to the old notion of “I am sure I will remember that later”. It’s meant to point out the folly of this and push us to write it down. To capture everything. That’s one of the foundations of GTD. But, for us, I mean glass half empty types, we focus on the negatives. We hear that statement and others like it and we draw a conclusion:

When it comes to productivity — I am a liability.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

And so, our whole system becomes about dealing with that liability. About making up for it. We treat ourselves as the problem. This is a mistake. If you follow Carl Pullein at all, he makes a big deal of the need to develop your own productivity system, a system that works for you. Let me say this. If you take the glass half empty approach, if you consider yourself a liability, then as you try and develop a system for getting stuff done and keeping track of everything you need to then you are doomed to failure.

  1. Every step of the way, you are going to be working against yourself
  2. You are the one who actually has to do the work

So, let’s draw two different conclusions and run with them.

YOU are the key to your productivity system

When it comes to productivity, YOU are your greatest asset.

Photo by Edge2Edge Media on Unsplash

So let’s run with this. You have to know yourself a bit here. What are your strengths? Do you come up with your best ideas when you have ample time and space to get focused? Or maybe, your best work is done under pressure — you need that in order to focus and get creative. Tiago Forte has done some great work recently on the different type of Notes apps there are out there and how each one best suits a different type of note taker. I suggest you watch his video on this. Currently the edgy notes apps are those like Obsidian and Roam Research. They have their merits, but Tiago explains, the app needs to suit you and the way your brain will naturally seek to organise information and utilise it in the future. So stop thinking that in order to have an effective knowledge management system for maximum creativity, EVERYONE must use Roam Research. You are the one who actually has to work with the system you build. You are the one who has to do the work. So you are the one to build the system around. We all have weaknesses that we need to try and offset, and whilst some are common to all people, many are not and the specific combination and way in which those weaknesses hit you and play off each other, well that particular recipe only finds its expression in you. Same goes for strengths.

So, build a system. But remember — you are your greatest asset. You are the key. And if you work with yourself, rather than against yourself, that is the secret to growing and becoming more productive. If you do this, then two things will be true. One statement, two emphases. You will have a system that works for YOU. You will have a system that works FOR you, not against you.

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