Why You Suck at Productivity (and the 5 Minute Fix)

I’m sorry I didn’t get this post to you sooner.

Are you constantly apologizing for not getting stuff done?

“Sorry for missing that meeting, I’m up to my eyeballs in work.” “Apologies for not sending that report sooner, something came up.” “Sorry I couldn’t make our gym session, I got stuck in traffic.”

This is a sign that your productivity system is either non existent or not functioning properly. If this all sounds familiar, maybe you’ll benefit from what I’m about to tell you.



The reason you’re not as productive as you should be is because you haven’t learnt the art of prioritizing.

But fear not my little apologetic ragamuffins, here is the solution: erm…learn the art of prioritizing. This isn’t some Sistine Chapel style artwork we’re talking here, this is finger painting easy.

Most people think prioritizing is arranging their to-dos in order of importance. They’re not wrong. But things start getting difficult when they try to rank their ever expanding list of to-dos. It’s nearly impossible.

But what if you broke your list into smaller, more focused lists. For example, a list for your latest side project, a list for your goals this year and a list for chores around the house. Then you went through your lists and picked whatever tasks took your fancy. And finally you reviewed these shortlisted tasks and ranked them so you knew what order to attack them the next day.


Here’s that fix again, in 4 actionable steps:

Step 1: Spew your todo(s). Write out all the things you have to do. Empty that big grey fella of yours. Get every piece of niggling nonsense out and into one list. Think your done? Think again. What about your goals? What about movies you want to watch? What about birthdays you always forget. Keep blowing your to-do load until you start to feel light headed. That feeling is the weight of a thousand irksome thoughts being lifted from your shoulders and dumped onto a page. Or maybe there’s a gas leak in your building. Either way, we’re done with step 1.

Step 2: File your pile. Nope I’m not dishing out some medieval medical advice here. You’ll need to take look at this abomination of a list in front of you, and start making smaller lists. Give these smaller lists titles and look to group tasks together under these titles. Then you’ll need to decide what would really make a difference if you managed to get a line through it in the next 24 hours. Siphon these tasks into one list for the day. Try to limit the number to single figures. Working around 9 tasks in a day is like baby bears porridge…just right!

Step 3: Tag your swag. Take a look at your chosen shortlisted tasks. Decide if the task is: 1-a must do today 2- a should do today ( if you get through your 1s) or 3-a could do today (if you manage to get through your 1s and 2s). Tag your 9 tasks with these priorities.

Step 4: Start your art. Your mission should you choose to accept it (and you better feckin accept it after all we’ve come through) is to complete all 9 tasks. Start the day with all you ‘must dos’. Once you complete them move onto your ‘should dos’ and finally your ‘could dos’.


And that’s it. That’s the fix.

Once you have your big list split into smaller lists, picking and prioritizing your tasks for the next day should take no more than 5 minutes. Then wake up the next day and get started. Rinse and repeat everyday. You’ll no longer suck at productivity and you’ll never have to apologize again.



How to get a reputation in work (before the xmas party this time)

There's a line in the Bible that goes like this:

when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Becoming a man isn't an event but it often begins with one. 

A first kiss, a first beer, a first fight. 

Similarly becoming a productive person isn't the result of a one off. It's a process that gets repeated until it becomes second nature. Pretty soon you get a reputation for being the type of person that gets shit done. Building this rep should be your number one goal in work. If you succeed it will follow you about like a fart in a phone-box.

So how do you start the process of becoming a productive rockstar in work? 

Start tomorrow morning by making your intentions clear: 

Put away everything that isn't related to the task in hand. Then bring into full view everything that is.

It's as simple as that. 

Close your email if it's not related to the task. Put your phone in your drawer or on airplane mode. Put your headphones on if it helps block out distractions. 

Likewise put everything that helps you focus on your to-do list in sight. Make your to-do list the star of the show. It should be the sole focus of your attention for however long it takes you to complete the task you're attempting. Keep it at eye level. If someone lands at your desk point to it. Tell them you're not available until you've complete task XYZ.

Then keep at it until you can strike the task off your list. Become a man (or women), put away unproductive things and build that reputation. Also, behave yourself at the xmas party.