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The secret to being a productive person

2 min read

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My productivity journey has been a rollercoaster of discovery and learning since 2002.

I was transitioning to be a developer in my day job and doing web design on the side. I was also starting a family, newly married, with a kid on the way.

My time was consumed with the number of tasks and projects coming at me. So, I did what any rational knowledge worker would do; I read “Getting Things Done” (GTD) by David Allen.

GTD changed my world! I was organizing my tasks and projects like a master.

But I still became burnt out. Some days, I would spend more time organizing my tasks, which made me feel accomplished instead of doing the work.

I started looking for other ways to become productive. The cycle would repeat. I would find a new productivity technique that would work for a while, but then I’d not use it again.

What’s wrong with me?

Today, I have it mostly figured out.

It’s not about the productivity technique you’re using at all. It’s about understanding many techniques and systems, as well as understanding your current situation and adapting the proper techniques to the situation.

One day, I may be working from a simple index card listing the tasks I want to complete, while another day, I’m deep in Azure DevOps, planning the next sprint. I’ll time-block some more significant tasks so they don’t get overlooked by incoming “urgent” tasks. Occasionally, I use a Pomodoro timer to help me start on a frog (from the “Eat That Frog” technique) to stop procrastinating.

What works for me changes over time. It comes and goes in seasons. During a busy season, I need more reviews, stricter time blocking, and actively block distractions. During the slower seasons, I can be more flexible.

Would I do things differently if I were to start over?

I would still learn all the techniques and read all (okay, just a few) of the books I’ve read over the years. I can attribute them to building the foundation I have today.

If I could go back in time and talk to my former self, I would ask him to keep going and learning, but not dwell on things that don’t work. Move on.

Furthermore, being productive requires a healthy foundation. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and family time. These things are more critical than I realized back then. They’ve changed the way I work and help me be more productive overall.

The journey continues.


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