Productivity Reboot Day 5: Recap

Productivity Reboot Day 5: Recap

I started my productivity reboot by just stating the desire to get back into the groove, and it ended up becoming a declaration of belief. Here’s the abridged version of what happened last week:

Starting with momentum and goals

At first, I started with simple process goals to maintain momentum. If I maintain momentum, so my reasoning went, I will eventually get out of the doldrums. Over the past several years I’ve experimented with a few techniques: getting up early, using my various scheduler tools, and timer-based pacing tricks. Each of these tools failed within the first two days of the reboot, leaving me to acknowledge that there were deeper issues with my work now and the work I think I should be doing.

Here’s what I want:

  • I want to achieve the financial freedom so I can meet awesome people, then write and design from the resulting inspiration.
  • In the meantime, I need to finish my current long term project commitments and not be distracted by the future.
  • I need to develop products and other services that bring me into alignment with my writing and design goals.
  • I want to be a major participant in a community of positive, self-empowered people who are of a similar mind.

On the surface, there are clear actions one can take based on principles of maintaining focus and momentum. They just take discipline to implement:

  • Productivity is a byproduct of focused momentum. Maintain focus and momentum, and the right things will get done.
  • Remove environmental distractions that rob focus. Without focus, momentum is harder to maintain.
  • Create momentum-building habits like waking up at a regular time, using planning tools that emphasize timeliness, and delivery tangible intermediate results.

Facing the internal demons

However, as the week ground on it became clear that it was the motivation-related challenges that were the real issues.

  • I was unmotivated by the future, therefore the work felt pointless.
  • I was feeling unsettled and off balance, therefore it was difficult to push forward with conviction and strength.

Diagnostically, I needed to dive deeper into myself to find the root causes undermining my dedication. After some reflection, I came to believe that these were the major underlying issues and desires that were throwing me off balance.

  • I was way too serious about being productive, and beat myself up about it. I needed to remember to laugh at it as well.
  • I needed to look deeper into myself to find the bad feelings and irrational feelings that were the source of my unease.
  • I needed to define and face those fears and uncertainties to see what I was facing.
  • I needed to rediscover what I believed, and why it was important so I could work toward the future with certainty.

An unblinking look at myself, to see the shape of my despair:

  • There is a child-like part of me that is feeling sad, scared, and alone with regards to the future.
  • It needed to be acknowledged and accepted. And so I did.

Affirming myself

Having defined what was bothering me, I was able to make a reaffirmation of what I believe about myself with regards to the future. What followed was a declaration of secular faith, reproduced here in slightly shortened form:

The boat I’m rowing toward my grand vision is empty except for me, and it’s been empty for a long time. It is lonely and filled with uncertainty, and there is no indication that the situation will change. My first response was the desire to indulge my sadness, like a frightened child. The optimistic response, however, is to recognize that even though I don’t know the future, there is no reason not to believe in something better. And unlike a child, I have the means and the experience to actually do something and change my situation. All I need is the courage to choose, for myself and my people. Even if those choices ultimately fail, even if I’m sad and demoralized, it’s of utmost importance that I choose to act. To give up, throw in the towel, escape in personal indulgences, and otherwise refuse to face these fears is to choose failure. That is not the kind of person I imagine my best self to be. The stories we are writing about ourselves should not end this way.

Since then, I’ve felt a kind of steady calmness descend upon me, because I’ve defined a role for myself. In the absence of an organizational structure, with people at my side every day, I’d become disconnected from the strengthening hand of shared destiny. I have essentially manufactured my own structure out of thin air, establishing a tribe of one. The unspoken hope is that I find others in my tribe, so that we might all prosper together. And most importantly, I need to remember to laugh about this, to maintain mirthfulness and joy.

I think with this, I can return to my regularly-scheduled productivity writing. Every once in a while, I just need to remind myself why I do it at all. If you are interested in the articles leading up to this epiphany, here are the links:


  1. Cricket 15 years ago

    Sounds like you’ve approaching the end of the re-evaluation and introspection phase and are ready for action. I’m just moving into a productive phase myself, and just love it. Everything seems fresh and positive and doable. I try to make the most of it in every way I can, both work-productivity and experiencing joy.

  2. Peter Monbailleu 15 years ago

    I just read your ‘conclusion’ and I think I’m feeling more or less the same as you were at the start of your reboot. I feel enthousiastic about but overwhelmed by the projects I’m working on. Trying to cope with all the todos… Your conclusion saves me the trouble of analysing my own situation and makes me decide to just get going and get my ‘stuff’ on a list or two… Thank you!

  3. Tkmycall 15 years ago

    Really like where you are going here.  Very inspirational.  Best of luck to you.

  4. Katrina 15 years ago

    I like how you are approaching this period.  I occasionally write about my own struggles and yeah I find listening to my committee (child, parent, etc) helpful in figuring out what is really going on with me.

    What is interesting is that I used your ETT form to help me focus today.  I had forgotten how effective it was at giving your immediate feedback.  I even used your flash ETT app to keep time.

    So your tools still work.  Keep it up David, we are all in this together.  Remember we may be in different boats, but just like flying geese, when one breaks the wave, we all get a little further ahead.


  5. Kathy Berman 15 years ago

    David, I have been reading and enjoying you for years. I started my Changemaker blog Nov. 24, 2004. I decided to not have comments nor have I commented much over the years. I was 68 years old last week and I have wanted to spend my blog time getting everything online. I am now beginning to build a blog family and I have added you. I don’t know how to do a backlink to my site yet.
    In response to this post—I use a passage from Steve Winwood:
    “When there is no one left to leave you and even you can’t quite believe you, that is when nothing can deceive you.”
    You have to go the basement for human growth. There is no elevator. Keep up the good work. Love, Kathy

  6. Duff 15 years ago

    A very moving post. Thank you for this David.

    I too have been attempting to work with deeper, underlying issues around productivity. I’ve found that GTD is wonderful on the strategic, cognitive-behavioral level, but doesn’t address more deep-seated emotional blocks to doing things—especially those big, scary, this-is-what-my-life’s-about kinds of things.

    I’ve come across a particular method of personal integration that I’ve been applying to productivity, called Core Transformation ( Very powerful stuff for accepting those sacred inner kids, unwanted feelings, etc.

    I also wanted to mention my enthusiasm for this item on your list, which was also on my mind:
    “I want to be a major participant in a community of positive, self-empowered people who are of a similar mind.”

    I hope you reach all of your goals!


  7. I *love* the term productivity reboot.
    My own productivity level fluctuates wildly and the concept of a conscious reboot when you’ve gone offline is a great one.