Unlock Productive Possibilities

Iron lock with key

Productivity systems and tricks can sometimes feel restrictive. With GTD you must record every input and turn it into a next action. With Pomodoro you must stop working when the buzzer rings. With any system, there’s probably a rule to never ever procrastinate important tasks.

Many restrictions are good for you. Just as minimizing your intake of unhealthy food improves your health, minimizing the time you spend doing things in an “unregulated” way improves your productivity (writing down your GTD actions as often as you can keeps your lists up to date and useful). Staying on top of the temptation to procrastinate means you keep to your deadlines and keep clients and employers happy.

But not all restrictions are good for you, or for your productivity. Those sorts of restrictions are often the ones you don’t even realize you have because you’ve put them on yourself subconsciously. Maybe your boss made a suggestion about how to improve your work, and you’ve taken that to mean you can’t work outside the box. Maybe you do things the same way every time—not because you’ve thought it through and found it to be the best method, but because you haven’t taken the time to find a better way of doing things.

The best productivity tool you have is your own head. Its ability to think, reason, analyze, invent, and reinvent puts it miles and miles ahead of anything else you might find. If you take a step back and identify the restrictions you’ve unnecessarily put on yourself—the assumptions, the complacency, etc.—you enable yourself to find solutions that better fit your circumstances and expectations. No one knows your situation better than you do, so who could better design your solutions?

You may actually be bound by certain externally imposed restrictions—maybe your boss has very specific requirements that need to be filled—but that doesn’t inhibit your ability to work within those restrictions to design better ways of doing things. Your ability to customize your life is only restrained by your choice (active or passive) to accept restrictions.

So open up your endless productivity possibilities. Experiment with different ways of doing things. Keep what works; ditch what doesn’t. Don’t lock yourself into a system that may not work. Systems are only tools, and even an amazing hammer is no good at being a saw.

There are a lot of tools out there to help you be more productive (Power.ME, for one). But the best productivity tools are the ones that will still be standing after you have a burst of imaginative thinking. When you come up with a better way to do things, if your tools can’t adapt, they need to be realigned or replaced. (One of the benefits of Power.ME is that it doesn’t impose a system on you; it enables your own way of doing things.) Don’t create restrictions based on the tools you use. Don’t abandon a good idea because you realize you wouldn’t know how to incorporate it with your color-coded calendar. Instead, find a way to add to your color-coded calendar or create a new calendar system that can accommodate whatever spark of innovation you’ve had.

As I said earlier, some restrictions are good: they’re the ones you’ll actively choose to keep in place because they help you get things done and do things the way you want to do them. But never let a restriction creep into your life passively. Be aware of what your boundaries are: my bet is they’re a lot less restrictive than you often think.

Image by Suat Eman via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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