The single best piece of productivity advice

I recently attended a Q&A with a very talented and in-demand actor/writer. I have been to several such events and found their advice very interesting and thought-provoking. There are of course many questions about their processes and how they approach or complete their work which I find problematic.

It reminds me of a story, almost certainly untrue, about Mozart:

Young Composer: “Herr Mozart, I am thinking of writing a symphony. How should I get started?”
Mozart: “A symphony is a very complex musical form and you are still young. Perhaps you should start with something simpler, like a concerto.”
Young Composer: “But Herr Mozart, you were writing symphonies when you were 8 years old.”
Mozart: “Yes, but I never asked anyone how.”

You only have to Google ‘habits of successful people’ to see the sheer amount of results it returns. This is clearly something we all want to know – how do we get things done? I have always found such questions troublesome because what works for one person, may not work for another. I also believe “success” can only be understood backwards but lived forwards.

For years I myself have searched in vain for the elusive method of how to be more productive, how to shave off seconds here and there, how to maximise time and energy. I believed there was a holy grail of productivity! There are convoluted systems such as GTD (Getting Things Done), simple ones such as the Pomodoro technique and everything in between. The overarching problem with all of these is that they focus too much on the system and not enough on the doing.

So here it is folks, the single best of productivity advice:

Do it. Just do it.

Maybe I’m being facetious but that’s really all there is too it. There are ways to motivate yourself, be more efficient and create more strategy and focus but it’s all for nothing if you don’t actually get things done.

My advice is to keep it simple.

  1. Keep a list – you can use pen and paper or your smartphone but keep only one list. It’s useful to know what you have to do and the sooner it’s out of your head the better.

  2. Prioritise – you know what is important to you. If you don’t, read here. To make an important task urgent simply give it a deadline – this works wonders for motivation.

  3. Begin – take action.

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