Overwhelming Productivity

As of late, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with work, house, and home life; and this feeling has a negative impact to my productivity.[^1] But, has it really? I feel like I’m not getting things done, but what’s the reality?

The reality is that I am not Getting Things Done, but what I’m doing is getting things accomplished. I might not always track what I am doing, but I’m getting a lot done. Work has been extremely busy as of late, and my day is often filled with fire-drill tasks that I barely have time to even write down.[^2]

Those that know me know how much I love being productive, all my workflow tips, and how I love my task management system of choice. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that at times, it seems like more work for me to track everything and that often has more negative effects on me than it should. My task management system falls apart because I’m not stopping to enter things with start times, due dates, tags, etc. While it’s nice to have a lot of that information, sometimes I just simply need to have a task that says:

Task - Due Today

I don’t have to know where it fits or when it’s due: I need to get it done.

Whilst focusing on productivity is a very positive and beneficial thing, over-planning, over-thinking and over-complicating your productivity can be just as detrimental. If it comes down to making a list and checking off the boxes or paying attention to my sons, the choice should be very clear in the latter. But I have, for far too long, made different choices which I’m not proud of.

As an example — do I really need to track the meals I make in a task management app? Typically on Sunday, I made 2 dinners at the same time for the week. This little productivity hack will save me hours later. I don’t enter this in 2Do, but rather I just get it done. It’s part of the habit I’ve set for myself, all without entering it anywhere.

One use of the Inbox feature of 2Do (or even OmniFocus) that I’ve had is for my immediate tasks. It works well, because the Inbox is where everything goes when I’m moving tasks around in iOS. Whether I’m sending an email to 2Do via Airmail or using Drafts (with Workflow integrations) or just using the 3D Touch gesture on the icon, it all goes to the same place. I can capture things fairly quickly.

But lately, I’ve been putting simple weekend lists in Drafts because it’s easier for me;[3] it also helps keep the clutter down in my task manager. A lot of people use the taskpaper format and find it very useful. I’ve been making checklists in Drafts using a key that can both create a check box and complete it. It’s been very handy for packing lists, small grocery lists, or weekend lists. This has been working very well for me while I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, and it’s helped me to get back on track in a lot of ways.

I think where the mental anguish first starts for me is that I don’t often see the accomplishments I make because I’m not tracking them. I don’t make lists of the things that I’ve already done, only to go back and check them off right away. But not having the feeling or visualization of accomplishment makes me feel bad for not doing “enough”. And if I’m not doing enough, I get the overwhelming feeling that I’ve missed something, and I often put aside other things that are more important just to feel like I’m doing something. I start to feel awful about myself, and that’s not healthy.

So here’s what I really need to do: step back, relax, and realize all that I’ve accomplished. I may not be able to pull up my phone and look at what I’ve done, but I should be able to look around me and see all that I’ve accomplished. I don’t need to feel bad about any of it. At the end of the day, the worst critic I have of my system is me.

  1. Thankfully, a recent vacation and Twitter hiatus have fixed some of that for me.  ↩

  2. For some of it, I’ve resorted to sticky notes or small pads of scrap paper to jot things down on. And yes, I know I could get Field Notes and a nice pen for that. Back off, hipsters.  ↩

  3. I’ve seen others put checklists into Notes.app  ↩