Is it better to complete a lot of tasks or just a few, truly high-impact ones?
Focusing solely on productivity is a dead-end. You should work on tasks that truly matter. Today’s market-leading to-do list apps only provide lists and don’t help us to judge what’s worth doing and what’s simply a waste of our time. If your goal is to tick as many tasks as you can, you are speeding in the wrong direction.
We make 35000 decisions on a daily basis, but very few of them are made consciously. This can come in handy when you tie your shoe, but not so much when you’re planning your day. 95% of the people think that they are living consciously – that they are clear about what they want and there is purposeful intent behind their decisions -, but only 5% of them have ever taken the time to think through what they want in their lives and steer their actions accordingly. We also have to make a distinction between general and at-the-moment consciousness. You have a bucket list? Great! But are you fully aware of it when you have to decide what you are going to spend your time with on any given day?
Bad news is, the technology surrounding us is making things even worse, as constant information bombardment, and the attention-derailing mechanisms of the platforms we use on a daily basis will lower our barely existent present consciousness. This will lead to bad decisions, which can leave their mark on our lives.
In an ideal world, we would have full consciousness at the time of every decision (deciding what we will act on) and would be able to perfectly judge the effect of our actions before even starting to carry out tasks. I call this zeroing out the context-decision gap. Imagine it like having the book with all the answers open during a school exam.
Unfortunately, most of the task management apps we use these days are missing either the context, or the usable feedback or, in the worst case, both.
What are the 3 main things that a truly great productivity app should help with?
- Providing context
What is the most important to you? How happy are you with the things you do on a daily basis? Without knowing your priorities, you can’t prioritize tasks. You can tick as many tasks as you can but if they are taking you in the wrong direction it is all pointless. You need to do the groundwork to identify your values, so you can match them against your current roles and see if those are really where you want to spend your time. If the answer is yes, go ahead at full speed. If it is a no, then it’s time for a change.
- Framework for prioritization
It’s great if you have identified your values and set your goals but the whirlwind of daily tasks can easily make you drift away from the chosen path. By categorizing each task depending on whether they bring you closer to how you truly want to live, keep you in your current situation or even set you back, you will be able to see if you even have a chance to make some progress. Also, every task has a time-need and an impact on your life without you consciously thinking about it. But if you do so, you can prioritize tasks accordingly.
- Feedback on progress
The main reason why we lose our motivation is that it is hard to measure progress. Based on the vector, time-need and impact of the task, we can calculate what the task means in terms of advancement in your life. It is even possible to forecast your impact before you even execute the tasks so you can adjust your plan to get more out of your day. Ideally you should also get immediate feedback on the task currently completed, to keep motivation high, or in case you are not progressing as fast as you wish to re-focus on tasks that really matter.
All in all, we should be using a system which provides a framework to step out of the constant operative mode, especially when planning our workweek/day and provides insightful feedback on where we are heading.
Measure your impact, forecast your future.