An essay on The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
4 min read
By Amy Shah
Many people struggle with setting and working on more challenging goals. It always feels good to achieve a goal, but the goal should be important and not be too easy. It should be somewhat difficult. Checking off easy-to-accomplish items from your to-do list might feel good, but it may not help you accomplish the difficult tasks you need to do. In fact, picking off the easy items on your to-do list – the low hanging fruit – may prevent you from focusing on the harder tasks that will bring real rewards.
I came to this realization while reading and discussing The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. Bailey writes about his experiences becoming an efficiency expert in this book. There are many helpful ideas in the book, but one of the most applicable to goal setting is his Rule of Three. The idea is to wake up early enough each day to ponder the daily work and come up with three things you want to make sure to accomplish that day. These should be three things that are in line with your values or are important to helping you accomplish your goals. You choose only three things because it’s easy to remember that many without referring to a list or writing it down. Bailey even suggests setting an alarm in the middle of the day to remind you about the goals and to make sure you are making progress on them. If you can accomplish 3 goals to further your work everyday and you can also establish three personal goals for the week. This may help you stay balanced both with your work and personal life. These might be to remember to call relatives to check in on them or exercise 2-3 times per week.
I have a favorite picture on my wall that says, “Dream Big.” Difficult goals are worth achieving, but setting these can seem monumentous. An idea might be to write down the goal at the top of a page of paper. Then, one might break the goal into many smaller steps and write each one of these down. Each day you might take three small steps to work on as part of the Rule of Three. It is important to visualize yourself succeeding at these tasks.
As Bailey mentions in his book, we are not hardwired to think of the future. We do not think about how our current actions will affect us. When our ancestors were running away from the saber-toothed tiger, they were certainly more concerned with surviving that day. Imagine your future self and your future life being improved by the actions you are taking when you accomplish your daily goals. This might help you find the activities you are doing to improve your life more interesting.
In his book, Bailey also writes about time management. He states that using the time of day when you are at your peak energy and attention for the tasks that are the hardest will help you improve your productivity. He writes that creating deadlines and limiting the time you work on a task will help you get it done more efficiently. Bailey has found the time of day he feels the most energetic through tracking his energy and attention levels daily. This has helped him find the best time to accomplish important tasks. He suggests that readers of his book find their most productive time of the day and mark off that time on their calendars. Then, readers should set an alarm to remind themselves to tackle the most difficult tasks of the day during that time.
There are many small tasks that take valuable time throughout the day like doing laundry and running errands. Bailey suggests “shrinking and removing the unimportant” for these tasks. By lumping many of these tasks into one day, the reader will be able to reduce the time impact of many small but necessary maintenance tasks. You can also seek the help of a virtual assistant (VA) if needed. Bailey writes of his experiences working with a VA. He found the idea helped his productivity considerably.
In the section entitled “Emptying the brain”, there is a quote from David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done. This quote states “Your head is not for holding ideas—it’s for having ideas.” This was compelling because it encourages one to write down all the ideas floating in one’s brain. The author prioritizes any ideas or tasks that come from this “brain dump” and it helps him keep on track.
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey was a very interesting read which helps one focus their goal setting. Goal setting can be personally rewarding, rather than boring. Using visualization and imagination to entice yourself to work harder might help you accomplish more difficult and rewarding goals.