The human desire to work more effectively pre-dates the pyramids. Entire forests have been razed in the production of roadmaps to boosting personal organisation and productivity. (The seminal book Getting Things Done (GTD), by American productivity guru Dave Allen, alone must surely have a carbon footprint to rival that of a middle-tier European nation.)
Modern technology and information overload have been good for business for the “life hacking” industry. Just ask Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, who has grown famous disseminating his seductive thesis that teaches us how to work more effectively and much, much less. (Read Valerie Khoo’s recent profile of Ferriss in Anthill.)
It’s an intriguing prospect and an eyeball-popping title. But begin implementing GTD methods and one quickly realises that, like new diets or ab crunch machines advertised on TV when viewers are at their most vulnerable, there are no shortcuts. Productivity is about focus, and focus is about casting aside all that splinters and erodes focus.
I recently stumbled on a blog post by Ferriss entitled, The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now. In it, Ferriss argues that to-do lists are important, but not as important as not-to-do lists, which isolate all the things that prevent us from getting through our to-do lists. My favourite – #2: “Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night” – is a goal that I still fail miserably to accomplish, most of the time.