Is your productivity costing you more than you realise?

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When I was young we went on a family holiday to Disney World Florida and my Dad, in the obligatory ‘documentor’ role carted his (huge) camcorder around wherever we went, capturing the ‘magic’ for posterity.


“We become so consumed with organising or optimising our lives that we overlook the opportunities just to ‘live’.”


After we came home he reflected that he’d spent so much time behind the viewfinder (no 4” swivel displays in those days) that he didn’t recall half the parades/shows/events that he’d videoed. He’d spent so much time trying to capture the moment that he’d missed the opportunity to experience it.

I often think about that holiday and how it can be that we become so consumed with organising or optimising our lives that we overlook the opportunities just to ‘live’.

As a father of two young boys I find that ‘me time’ is practically non-existent and that I have a stack of long- and short-term goals piled up that rarely seem to progress. At times like these it’s easy to find yourself looking for ways to be more productive, to ‘squeeze in’ tasks or – even worse – multitask – during those moments when you should (in my opinion) simply be enjoying the opportunity to spend time with your children.


“A snowy weekend, with little opportunity to get out of the house, filled with pooey nappies, tantrums, book-reading and endless jigsaws.”


This weekend has been one of those periods. A snowy weekend, with little opportunity to get out of the house, filled with pooey nappies, tantrums, book-reading and endless jigsaws. Despite my inner productivity demons clamouring for me to clear some ‘next actions’ I took the time to simply enjoy family time; to live this weekend and accept that nothing on my many lists is more important than being a good dad to my kids.

Clearly this isn’t going to work 100% of the time – after all, the necessities of life soon mount up and the world isn’t going to stop piling on the work just because you’re having a lazy weekend. I’ve found the key to embracing these moments and keeping them in sync with your overall goals is by focusing on a disciplined capture and defer process.


“the key to embracing these moments and keeping them in sync with your overall goals is by focusing on a disciplined capture and defer process.”


What do I mean by disciplined capture and defer? I mean that although you should be focused on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ in these moments, it’s important to have an ‘express capture’ process to ensure the things that crop up in that period can be filed away and addressed at an appropriate point.

Let’s say for example that on Saturday morning, whilst lounging around with the family in your pyjamas, that credit card bill drops through the letterbox (the postman doesn’t know you’re taking the weekend off). Your natural inclination might be to open it, scan it, tag it and schedule a task to pay it as per your existing workflow. Alternatively you might just ignore it altogether and stick it in the pile of other bits and pieces you haven’t got round to processing yet.

STOP!

Disciplined capture and defer is about dealing with the event as quickly and efficiently as possible, ensuring that you take a minimum amount of time yet ensuring that you will address the task effectively at an allocated point.

To achieve this you need a physical ‘inbox’ or ‘staging area’ where you can file the things that you haven’t processed. This is Getting Things Done (GTD) 101 but the difference here is that you’re not looking for your “Next Action” in this process; you are simply capturing and returning to your ‘inactive state’.


“The trick is for the capture to be as quick and efficient as possible and for the defer to be absolutely embedded and undeferrable.”


It’s up to you whether your Inbox is a physical tray/folder or if it is digital; You could whip your credit card statement through a handy scanner (resist the urge to process it) or simply transfer it to your designated ‘inbox’. The key here is that you need to have an established habit of processing that inbox when you return to your ‘productive’ state.

There are many tools out there to help you with this process; In my personal workflow my Doxie app serves as a ‘staging area’ between my paper and Evernote; Pocket (now that I have got my head around it) does the same for any digital content that comes my way through the weekend. If I think of something I need to do I’ll stick a quick task into Nozbe on my phone and finesse it (details, contexts, projects etc) later.

The trick is for the capture to be as quick and efficient as possible and for the defer to be absolutely embedded and undeferrable once you return to your ‘productive’ state (as I will be tomorrow morning.

Do you have ‘unproductive’ periods? What tools or techniques do you find useful to avoid a productivity hangover?

Footnote: Since reading Mike Vardy’s post on Sketchnotes I decided to try it out for myself. This is my sketchnote for this post (proof that you don’t have to be an artist to do it!)

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