Feeling Unproductive

I’ve been swamped with projects, both personal and work-related. I also have been having to rebuild my blog and personal email system, so if you have sent me a comment via the contact form I haven’t had a chance to respond to it. Things are very good right now, but I’m very backlogged and trying to figure out how to swim my way back on top.

I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where so many possibilities have been open to me. Off the top of my head, there’s the printed ETP (they’re now shrinkwrapped individually, and I just have to write up a “how to” sheet to go with them and see if there’s a way to reduce the shipping cost for 2-3 pad orders), project 2010 (the goal to be completely mobile so I can work anywhere in the world and yet still feel “at home”), printable CEO updates and books, the freelance network, a year-long full-time museum interactive exhibit project that I just started this week, and various household improvements because Dad will be visiting for 6 weeks next week. And then on top of that are overall themes of building community, maintaining relationships, and perhaps even finding romance, all which take time and energy. And I also want to redo the website and transition to Expression Engine, which has been sitting on my plate forever and ever.

Just Doing It

Yeah yeah, I know:

  • Start small!
  • Great journeys begin with but a single step!
  • Do One Thing at a Time
  • Discipline!
  • Focus!

My automatic response: MEH.

My intellectual response: I know that if I work at something every day consistently, I will end up with something pretty awesome. However, I’m just not feeling it.

The problem (and this is the general problem from which all the various Printable CEO and related tools address) is seeing the big picture against which the piddling amount of progress you make every day can be seen, in a way that is both meaningful and realistic. When you have so many things you want to do, the amount of progress made daily versus The Mountain of Tasks is pretty darn demoralizing. This is where a system like David Allen’s GTD comes into handy, because when followed properly it enforces daily review and provides feedback through inbox shrinkage, and this contributes mightily to that feeling of, er, getting things done.

I think the reason that GTD doesn’t work for me is because I’m oriented not toward “getting things done”; instead, I want to “do things for the future”. I have dreams and schemes that I want to make happen; the last place my mind wants to be is on the tedium of what I want to get out of my way. The rational and responsible side knows that getting things done is a necessary chore, but I don’t like it. The system that would work for me is the one that focuses on making things and watching things grow, and this is perhaps the main philosophical distinction between the “Printable CEO” tools and GTD. GTD is not a vision clarification tool. It is a methodology that can be applied to a wide variety of different productivity challenges. I would rather learn to outsource the productivity challenge as much as possible.

Qualitative Measurements

In the meantime, I could use the blinders of productivity approach to focus on the stuff I want to do. I also feel like I should be creating a master map of my vision; if you can see it, it’s a lot easier to know what to do. This could be as simple as using a Mind Mapping tool, but I have never liked this format because it does not show progress in a directly-intuitive manner. Secondly, I think the metric that works for measuring this kind of productivity isn’t time spent or tasks accomplished, but energy invested into the system, and return on energy investment. This is a far more qualitative measure, but I think it might actually be doable if you track positive and negative feelings before and after you do a task. For example, I know I have to get off my ass and install the new multisite manager for Expression Engine to consolidate my websites. Feeling before: not looking forward to it, will be very tedious and irking. Feeling afterwards: I know it will be tremendous relief. I think that after tracking a whole bunch of these kinds of “I should but I haven’t” tasks, the pattern of seeing “dread” followed by “happy” will provide some reinforcement that “you know, I always feel better after getting those dumb things done”. I have no idea, but it might be a good alternate approach to creating a To Do list that lets you blow off some steam; it’s the power of whining harnessed for productive purposes.

I reckon that’s what I’ll do. I’d like to take the time to put out a new form based on this, but I am feeling so pulled in multiple directions that I can’t even focus on it. I need to remember that I don’t need to do everything simultaneously if I ensure that my business model can operate on its own timetable. Slow down, it’s OK not to be as fast as everyone else if you can make the numbers work in your favor.