Why Your Productivity Hack Isn’t Working

It is nauseating. I lose track of the times each week someone sends me an article, podcast, or book recommendation with a new productivity hack. It is the new buzz topic for entrepreneurs. Somehow thrown around more often than “pitch deck,” “vertical,” or “multiple.” Wake up early? Of course. Meditate? Duh. Exercise? Peloton seven days a week, hello! Or how about the varied approaches to mapping out the week? To-do list? Todoist. Calendar? Calend.ly. Project Management? Asana (well, at least till they go public and lose their “grit”). Or how about what we put in our bodies? Beverages? White tea. Food? Intermittent fasting, err… not eating. Drugs? Not going there. 

I could go on and probably so could you. I appreciate the old souls out there committed to pen and paper. Although, even for the homely there is a wave of “productivity journals” taking over full of gratitude lists and top three this and that. It is no wonder the world is on fire. We’ve got so much junk to burn. 

(This is where I should probably admit/confess my bias. I use a 4x6 notepad that resides in my back left pocket for just about everything. To-do list, notes, reminders, etc. I have a flip phone that can talk and text and is bombproof. Stop sending me links, I cannot open them. I am still enamored with all that big bad google has been able to accomplish with G-suite so I’m reliant on gmail, gcal, docs, sheets, etc. for just about everything. I have a tablet that stays with me in my bag so if/when I get lost I can pull up google maps or check my calendar on the go. Why people with smartphones also own tablets and also own laptops is baffling to me. I haven’t cornered the market on any productivity hack, I just do what works for me and my family and I hope you do the same.)

Does it seem to anyone else that the folks who talk the most about their productivity hacks are actually the least productive, or often the most haggard? “How are you?” I’ll ask. “Buried bruh. Clocking 80 hour weeks, on the grind, just trying to keep my head above water. But I listened to this podcast by so-and-so the other day and it totally changed my life!” Just one time I would love to bump into someone who responded, “Full of energy! Loving life right now.” It feels like everyone I know is exhausted, like all of the time. For all of the technology and information we have at our fingerprints, we sure look pretty miserable, and foolish. 

I believe with every bone in my body that the ultimate productivity hack is a combination of rest and play. It took me running my life into the ground, with a quick trip to the hospital, to finally accept that we are simply not built to work without regular rest and play. I actually do not think there is a single tool or system out there that will make us more productive if we forget to rest and play. Regular, simple rhythms of rest and play are what will give us a shot at actually building something great. I’m all for hard work, and on occasion I’m guilty of putting in longer hours than I should, but if we don’t understand that “the grind” has a shelf life someday something will break. 

If you are reading this and fraying at the seams, for the sake of your loved ones and your own life, it may be time to re-evaluate your weekly rhythm. It’s not working and you know it. Minor adjustments or small pivots aren’t going to do the trick. It’s time for an overhaul and a path towards a new way of living. The only thing that would keep you from making a change is an inflated view of your own importance. I’m rooting for you. Go get ‘em.