The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Submission

jordan_ap-01.jpg Recently, blogger Ben Yoskovitz created a meme to create a list of the 100 best productivity tips, under the title “The Ultimate Guide to Productivity.”

Over 100 people submitted their tips, and perhaps I won’t be too late in submitting my own tip to the list (which I understand is still open).

My tip is a bit different.

Francis’ Ultimate Tip: Ignore All Tips

The problem that most people have with being productive is that they spend too much time on tips, and not enough time on the fundamentals. The problem with the field of time management is that there are millions of tips flying around, but no understanding of the basic, fundamental and unalterable structure of the challenge.

It is little like trying to play basketball professionally by taking all the tips that every coach gives, and trying to make them work together. Here is an example of a basketball tip:

B.E.E.F. – Remembering the BEEF is good way to learn to become a better foul shooter. BEEF stands for…

Balance – get on the foul line and get your balance.
Eyes – see the rim.
Elbow – try to get your elbow under the basketball
Follow through – an essential part of all shooting. Make sure you follow through with a constant, relaxed release.

It just isn’t possible to become a great player by focusing on following tips like the one above. Instead, even the best basketball players know that becoming great is more a function of practicing the fundamentals over and over again until they become second nature, and third nature and fourth nature, etc.

The problem with time management as a discipline is that there are no agreed upon fundamentals. Every single person on the planet engages in the game of time management, but there are few who understand that underlying the many billion individual approaches, there exists a fundamental structure that cannot be escaped. The habits that one adopts, therefore, must address and be determined by thus structure if they are to be effective.

In basketball, there is no escaping the combination of ball, hoops, backboards, court, markings and rules. These are inalterable, and a player must contend with them regardless of technique, coach, team-mates, conditioning, shoes, uniform, temperature, etc. Each and every player must engage in certain habits to be effective. Some may include passing, shooting, dribbling, catching and moving.

Time management also has some basics such has the ways in which time works, the way the mind works in relationship to time, the fact that one cannot be in two places at the same time etc. Much more important to the everyday professional is the idea that there are 11 basic habits that are inescapable, and can be practiced over and over again until gains in productivity are realized.

The 11 basic habits are Capturing, Emptying, Tossing, Scheduling, Listing, Acting Now, Storing, Interrupting , Switching, Warning and Reviewing.

Unless these basic Habits are understood, tips don’t make sense. For example, one tip might be: “Buy a PDA.” A PDA can be a powerful tool if used to enhance one of the basic habits. Unless the habits are understood, however, a PDA will only automate a bad set of practices, and the user will be no better off than a bad basketball player who buys a pair of Air Jordans.