Lessons in Personal Productivity

God designed our brains as an unbelievably complex tool, and yet there are still times when we ask too much of it. In our instant-feedback world, the constant flow of information and demand for immediate response can overwhelm our poor brains. Once in awhile I have a moment where I think, “I just can’t pay attention to everything at once.” My brain goes into overload and I’ve lost my ability to be effective. Or I find that by the end of the day my head hurts from having to monitor and solve so many small problems.

For me, the most obvious sign of brain overload is forgetfulness. Sometimes I’ll miss a meeting, or carry something around with me and leave it in an odd place, or walk into a room and forget why I came. That is when I know I have too much on my mind.

Our brains are just not productive when we tax them beyond reason. We think we are being efficient, but actually we are just being busy. My current signature quote is Seneca’s “Love of bustle is not industry.” In other words, looking busy and being productive are two very different things.

Over the last year or two, I’ve had to do some serious analysis of my personal productivity. It was a desperate necessity. I remember coming home from work and saying, “I just can’t work any faster!” There were always more important projects to do and more and more people seemed to need my help. My staff used to joke about taking numbers for the line at more door for help and advice.

And email! Don’t even let me get started. I think email may have been invented by the enemy of our souls. You know that feeling. You open up your inbox to 50 new messages. You finish one and hit send and two new ones have appeared. You go to click on the new top message and the person you just emailed has already responded back asking another question.

But in his typically graceful way, God sent me an intervention in the form of some reading material on personal productivity. In the next couple of posts I’ll share a few of my favorite sources with you.

One is David Allen, the productivity guru I mentioned a couple of posts back in Driving Some Else’s Porcshe. I think my introduction to his Getting Things Done system possibly saved me from doing something crazy. He helped me tame my in-box and rescue my beleaguered brain from the outrageous demands I was putting on it.

Another is Tim Ferris, renegade blogger, professional adveturer, and author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Tim challenged me to ask, “If doing what everyone else is doing isn’t working, what would happen if I did the opposite?” Tim’s work is not for all audiences, but some of his personal productivity suggestions are pure genius.

The work of these guys gave me just what I needed at the time – some mental breathing room. My productivity has definitely increased. My brain still goes into system shutdown occassionally, but much less frequently, and I have gained more control over my time and increased my sanity.

So stay tuned and I’ll share a few recommendations from my personal productivity favorites!

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