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Productivity Isn’t About Getting Things Done Anymore

It’s time to approach the personal productivity topic again. It has been too long. As you may know, I am a follower of Getting Things Done developed by David Allen and detailed in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

I also use the Nozbe app to implement GTD. I know that if your tool is too awkward to use, you won’t use it. Works in automation, works in personal productivity. (affiliate link)

So you have your goals; you have your personal vision; you have projects; it boils down to next actions.

But beyond these things, what is really important these days?

I ran across this article on Medium by David Kadavy who is asking the deeper questions—what is really going to differentiate me from my peers and keep me active in the future. He postulates that even knowledge work is threatened by technology, so productivity needs to ramp up another notch or two.

He starts, “It’s not that GTD isn’t still a powerful tool for figuring out how to, well, get things done. It’s that the criteria for what should be done is more stringent than ever. Yes, books like The 4-Hour Work Week and Essentialism have helped us recognize the power of cutting through the noise to focus on the things that will bring us the most impact with the least effort. And it’s true that the ability to prioritize Deep Work will give you an edge over peers who are playing Candy Crush and checking their email every 5.45 minutes.”

“But there’s a realm beyond all of this. As jobs become automated, what remains of “work” will move up Maslow’s hierarchy. The success of the elite worker will depend upon that person’s ability not to get things done, but to have breakthroughs — to use access to knowledge and automation to deliver explosive ideas. To do that which only a human can do. Think Zero to One — the idea that incrementalism holds us back from paradigm-shifting innovation—but for your own career.”

He is on to something. This may not be new. I remember Peter Drucker from 30 years ago talking about doing the right thing rather than doing things right. And certainly creativity is something that sets humans apart from other mammals.

So, how do we get creative? It is more of a discipline of habitually doing things rather than praying for “bolts from the blue.”

  • Try reading every day
  • Read things from disciplines far outside the one you’re working in
  • Every morning sit down with a notepad, write a question or problem, then list 20 ideas
  • Practice asking questions—developing questions is more important than having answers

One last thought—as engineers and manufacturing leaders, what are we doing to make the world a better place? What are we doing to help people’s work better rather than simply trying to replace workers?

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