Productivity improvement advice is everywhere. But recently, author and consultant Seth Godin offered one theory on why it doesn’t work. I disagree.
Seth’s post has a fantastic title: “The reason productivity improvements don’t work (as well as they could).” That makes you think he’s going to have some kind of insight about the difference between an idle suggestion and a useful productivity tip. But instead, he just offers a harebrained hypothesis:
The reason is simple: you don’t want to get more done.
You’re afraid. Getting more done would mean exposing yourself to considerable risk, to crossing bridges, to putting things into the world. Which means failure.
Come on, Seth. You really think that people are afraid of being more productive? That’s silly.
Of course people aren’t fearful of getting more done. In fact, people are constantly looking for ways to increase productivity. They try to hire assistants, they buy more technology, they cut things out of their life, and they are endlessly buying into new programs to increase productivity.
If anything, the success of the productivity improvement industry is proof that people are not fearful of being more productive!
So why don’t these tools work all that well? Why is that you read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or go to a motivational seminar, and nothing really changes?
It turns out that there is a simple reason why most productivity improvement techniques don’t work very well: Lack of ownership. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is a fantastic method for David Allen, but unless you invent your own systems you are not going to internalize them.
Productivity improvement requires personal engagement. If we believe in our capacity to do more and we take ownership over our own systems and patterns, we can get more done.
That’s it. You don’t fail to improve your productivity because you’re afraid. You fail because you haven’t been truly empowered with the authority and responsibility to get more done.